By Ros Satar

  • Milos Raonic def. Roger Federer 6-4 6-4
  • First loss on the board for Federer and Ivan Ljubicic

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Roger Federer came out on the losing side in the Brisbane final rematch against Milos Raonic, in straight sets.

It has been a tough start to the year for Federer, who arrived in Brisbane but started in Thursday after suffering a bug. By the time he routed Austria’s Dominic Thiem in the semi-final he looked to be back to his old self, and admitted he was feeling the ball well, adjusting to the conditions and looked ready to ride rough-shod over the young Canadian.

There was also even an extra bit of spice to the proceedings with Raonic’s former coach Ivan Ljubicic now sitting across in Federer’s camp. But the script did not quite go that way.

Despite what looked like a spirited start to the set, with three aces in his first two service games, the intensity seemed to really drop off. Booming serving from Raonic was followed up with some handy clubbing forehands, and cut-sharp volleying.

It was the Canadian putting him under pressure on serve, and while he initially fended him off, a loose service game put Raonic in the driving seat to seal the first set.

Frustration was evident as his racquet was dropped in almost disgust after yet another error, and he would admit that both sides of his game were just not there today.

“I definitely didn’t play my best, because when you play a big sever first you focus on your own game, and then see what you can do on his game. Both sides were not really happening. I was struggling on the serve. Quite inconsistent. Kind of felt like that throughout the week.

“Still, considering the week I’ve had, I’m actually quite happy. That’s why I’m not down or anything or disappointed. If I would’ve known I would’ve made the finals five days ago I would’ve been unbelievably happy.”

This of course was as much of a test for new coach Ljubicic, so it was important to see how this week had gone for the new pairing.

He said: “The idea was to do it here at Brisbane so Melbourne wouldn’t be the first week. So I think that’s good. There was no negative surprises anyway. I think it was very comfortable, very natural first week for us.

“Severin is going to arrive on Tuesday to join the team now. Yeah, so I’m very happy how the first week went. We just discussed quickly the week. We were both thrilled that I got to play as many matches as I did here this week, because we saw how bad I was doing on Tuesday.”

For Raonic, after issues with injury over last year, and then the sudden decision by Ljubicic to leave the Raonic camp, this must be a relief and almost a vindication of sorts.

At the end he did not really have to do too much to get the break as Federer’s own racquet was deceiving him, and for Raonic it signals a great start to the year as the such for the next bunch of players to break the stranglehold at the top continues.

He said: “With the difficulties I’ve had last year, it’s maybe a good way for me to show the other guys I will face going in Melbourne, you know, I’ve got my stuff back together and I can play some good tennis again.”

In terms of whether he now sees himself as someone who can challenge the best,m both at Grand Slams and for higher honours, he feels he has regained that belief in himself.

He explained: “Being able to step up and play great for two weeks, which I believe I can definitely do. Then there is the aspect of if you want to compete to be the best player in the world, that’s about playing a good about 30 weeks. That’s maybe another step away, but I definitely feel I have it within myself to step up with play great tennis for two weeks.”

The world’s best now will head to Melbourne Park to prepare for the Australian Open, with ATP Auckland and ATP Sydney providing players a final chance to get match-sharp before it begins on 18 January.


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