Raonic to face Djokovic in bid for first Masters title

By Ros Satar

  • Milos Raonic [12] def. David Goffin [15] 6-3 3-6 6-3
  • Novak Djokovic [1] def. Rafael Nadal [4] 7-6(5) 6-2
  • Djokovic v Raonic – H2H: Djokovic leads 5-0

INDIAN WELLS – Milos Raonic is hoping to ride the crest of a career-best start wave (14-1) as he takes on Novak Djokovic in a bid to win his first Masters 1000 title.

 

Milos Raonic [12] def. David Goffin [15] 6-3 3-6 6-3

While much is being made of the Next Generation of ATP stars, the ‘Lost Boys’ generation started to hit back, as Raonic continued his great start to the year making his second final.

His form was impressive in the first set, blasting down a tournament record serve of 146mph and breaking Goffin early for an advantage he never looked like letting go. The Belgian finally got a sniff of a break point on the Raonic serve, but Raonic’s serve and forehand one-two combination was devastatingly accurate.

Maybe though it had all come a but easy to the big Canadian, as he started to dip, trading breaks with the Belgian before Goffin struck again at the end of the second set to serve out to take it to a decider.

Leaving the court for a break, Raonic started the brighter in the decider, breaking Goffin early and again never relinquishing the advantage, as he booked his place in a third Masters 1000 final.

After the match he said: “I sort of lost my way a little bit in the second set, and it’s important to me sort of to be able to recognise that and get the things back on the right track and play and finish off with some good tennis like I did.

“I think I just lost the aggression that I had and I didn’t mix up enough the first serve like I was earlier on. [Goffin] was able to settle things down. I didn’t put the exact same kind of pressure on his service games. I was a little too passive. I think it’s sort of you get a few more looks, you find a little more rhythm, and he definitely had better rhythm the second set returning.”

 

 

Novak Djokovic [1] def. Rafael Nadal [4] 7-6(5) 6-2

It was a blistering start by Nadal in the searing heat of the day, breaking at the start of the match, but predictably pegged straight back by Djokovic as the pair embarked on a toe-to-toe club-fest.

With the gruelling exchanges, granted it took both men some time to settle in but the level of play from Nadal was most impressive. It has been a while since Nadal has looked this competitive and the crowd were in for a treat.

This really had the feel of a de-facto final, as the pair beat each other up to a tie-break. Momentum switched from side to side as they moved each other around the court, with Djokovic edging forward for a 4-1 lead, before being gradually pegged right back. In the end the World No. 1 just managed to capitalise – a disappointing blow for Nadal whose level of play had exceeded expectations in just the first set.

The second set saw a subtle change in gear for the Serbian, making Nadal defend early in the second set to save a break point, and pressing to convert on a couple of break points for the all important lead.

It was a step too far for the Spaniard but there was a lot for him to take away as positives from the whole tournament.

 

Novak Djokovic [1] v Milos Raonic [12] – H2H: Djokovic leads 5-0

On Sunday the scene will be set for someone to try and break the dominance of the Big Four at Masters events. Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Nadal have won between them 48 of the last 52 Masters 1000 titles, going back to Nadal’s win in 2010 at Monte Carlo.

That’s not to say other players have crashed the party – Robin Soderling (2010, Paris), David Ferrer (2012, Paris), Stan Wawrinka (2014, Monte Carlo) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2014, Toronto) but on Sunday Djokovic will be aiming to defend his title, and looks to tie Nadal for 27 titles.

Standing in his way is a player who has impressed since the start of the year after a year plagued with injuries and the loss of his coach to the camp of Federer. Since bringing Carlos Moya onto his team, he has exacted some measure of revenge on former coach Ivan Ljubicic by beating Federer in the Brisbane final, and very nearly upended Murray in the Australian Open semi-final as he made his bid for his first Slam final.

A lot of the focus that had been trained on the seemingly new generation of players faded as the old guard remained largely in place, now Raonic seems to be emerging once more as the one to watch.

He admitted that he has added a body serve to the one shot he puts the most store in, and while he admitted he was stubborn when it came to changing his mind about his tactics, he showed in the semi-final that he could work things out and mix things up.

He will have to start fast against Djokovic. The Serbian has at times looked a little tardy on his own starts, but his level of play lifted massively in the semi-final, and he will be ready to fight his own corner.

Raonic assessed: “Against Novak it’s a difficult matchup. I think that I have added good things to my tennis that can help me in that aspect. It’s going to be important to control the centre of the court; obviously be the one that’s moving less. I think I’m going to have to do a better job of stepping up like I did in that third set with forehands earlier on and not being content with just putting it through. Not expecting sort of the match to be given to me.

“Novak tries to move you and not give you the same shot twice. He can go up the line and crosscourt pretty consistently. His patterns are sometimes to try to not have patterns. I think if you can stay on top of that and sort of force them to play into you, which is difficult, at the same time, you know you can have looks that way.”

Djokovic may have been modest about his performance against Nadal, saying that this is what he trains for, but had nothing but praise and respect for Raonic and knows that this is going to require the same kind of fortitude he displayed to lift his level on Saturday.

“Milos is probably playing the best tennis that he has ever played. I think looking at his performances this year, winning in Brisbane, playing semis of Australian Open, and then coming back off injury and playing already in finals here, it’s quite impressive. His serve was phenomenal before the start of this season, but this season it seems like he has improved even more, especially the second serve.

“I will try to prepare myself tactically, analyse his game with my team. We are playing finals, so I’ll try to also use the experience that I have had playing in many Masters Series finals in this tournament, as well. If I’m not mistaken, he’s going for his first. But, even though he hasn’t played too many Masters finals, he’s still very strong mentally. He’s very calm on the court. He’s very composed. He’s showing mental character virtues that are characteristic, I would say, for maybe some more experienced and older players. So that’s one of the impressive things about him.”

Djokovic and Raonic are scheduled on Stadium 1, not before 1pm.

 

 

 

 

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