Raonic run at Queen’s establishes Canadian serving ace as Wimbledon contender
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | June 20, 2016
For any tennis pundit outside of Britain, it is far easier to cast the recent AEGON Championships singles final at Queen’s Club as Milos Raonic throwing away a glorious advantage against Andy Murray, rather than the ATP world number two digging deep and turning things around.
One marginally missed shot from Montenegrin-born big server Raonic, who represents Canada, seemed to see momentum shift away from him and Murray seized his chance with both hands.
Return of the Mac for tilt at grass glory
Having tennis great John McEnroe as his coach is certainly a coup for 25-year-old Raonic, who was gracious in defeat (in stark contrast to his mentor) having been a set and 3-0 up on Murray.
Coral take the huge step in making Raonic more fancied for a maiden Grand Slam success at Wimbledon at 9/1 than Major winning Swiss duo Roger Federer (12/1) and Stan Wawrinka (25/1) – behind only Murray (5/2) and defending champion Novak Djokovic (8/11 favourite) in the men’s singles betting.
No disrespect is intended. Federer is 34 and missed much of the clay court campaign with a back problem. He will decline as a force, as father time catches up on us all.
Dangerous on serve
Due to his powerful and rifle-like serve, comparisons between Roanic and fellow former Yugoslavia native Ivo Karlovic of Croatia are easily made. The latter is an ATP World Tour veteran now at 37, yet has already been surpassed on tennis’ biggest stages by this young pretender.
A Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2014 when dispatched by all-time Grand Slam great Federer in straight sets 6-4 6-4 6-4, it was something of a shock not to see Raonic at the business end again at the All-England Club last year.
He bowed out of Wimbledon in the first week and third round, having taken the opener against mercurial Australian talent Nick Kyrgios. Yet 12 months earlier in the quarters, the boot had been on the other foot with Raonic coming from a set down to beat the easily agitated Aussie in four.
Unbowed, unbent, unbroken
There’s a lot to like about Raonic’s grass court season so far. Only Murray has broken that massive serve and the ace count is more than healthy as you would expect from a man just shy of 2m tall.
Should he meet Federer again, with two more years of experience under his belt, then Raonic will be better equipped than ever to eliminate the graceful Switzerland star in the autumn of his career.
Denied a first Grand Slam final appearance at the start of this season, once more by Murray at the Australian Open in a five-set thriller, Raonic is emerging as one of the men most likely to wrestle away the sheer dominance of men’s tennis Majors from ‘the big four’ that has for so long been the norm.
Big four no more?
With Rafael Nadal sidelined by a wrist injury; Federer fading, if successive semi exits to far younger legs in ATP events on grass are any indicator; and Murray seemingly unable to replicate his 2013 Wimbledon final victory over Djokovic in their duels at the biggest events since, there have been many false dawns.
This year’s Wimbledon represents an opportunity for the changing of the guard, and there are young, hungry tennis pros like Raonic among others that must seize such an opening.
Kei Nishikori, with the weight of passionate Japanese support and much of the Far East in general on his back, was another of a younger crop hoping to break through. He’s 40/1 to go all the way at SW19, but has never progressed round four of the grass Grand Slam.
Instead, it is Raonic and the dangerous Dominic Thiem (25/1 Wimbledon chance) of Austria that look best-equipped to challenge the established ATP tour elite and lay the gauntlet down to Djokovic and co.