|Posted on November 1, 2014 at 2:30 PM|
In his last six service games Milos Raonic dropped a total of two points. Suffice it to say that the pressure was on his semifinal opponent Tomas Berdych in the deciding set and the match ended in a most unexpected – and smashing – fashion.
The difference in the first set came with Berdych serving at 1-3 and after a 25-stroke rally it was Milos who emerged with the break. Like he did yesterday against Federer, the Canadian slammed the door shut at the slightest hint of an opening: Up 4-2, he fell behind 15-30 before thundering down three unreturnables, giving him a 5-2 lead. A few minutes later, he bagged the opening act 6-3.
The lone exception to this rule was in his first service game of the second set where Raonic didn’t get down for a slice backhand on break point, which would hold up, despite two break points at 2-4, and Berdych served out the second serve out 6-3.
After the two mirror image sets 6-3, 3-6, Raonic hit two slice backhands into the net, in the first game of the third, before four unreturnable serves bailed him out of ‘trouble’. Little did Berdych know that he would win a total of two points on the Canadian’s serve for the rest of the match. The pressure mounted as the encounter seemed ineluctably headed for a tiebreaker.
Then Berdych “totally messed up” and “played the worst game of the tournament”, by his own admission. Serving at 5-6, the Czech cracked. Failing to make a single first serve, he made two forehand errors and two double faults and slammed his racquet as he reluctantly made his way to the net to congratulate his Canadian counterpart on the win.
For the match, Raonic won 90% of points when his first serve went in. On average, he lost less than one point on serve per game (14 points lost over 15 service games). The Canadian saved 3 of 4 break points and converted 2 of 3 of the break points he had. Six of his 12 aces came in the third set.
Milos quickly pointed out that his most important performances have come in French-speaking tournaments, saying in the on-court interview: “I guess I should keep working on my French.” Indeed, his only other appearance in a Masters 1000 event came in Montreal in 2013 (loss to Nadal) and he made a surprising run to the quarterfinals across town at Roland Garros (loss to Djokovic) earlier this year.
The two dueled here last season with Berdych edging the Canadian 13-11 in the first-set tiebreaker before pulling away in the second for a 7-6(13), 6-4 victory. Milos now holds a 3-1 advantage over Berdych, with the latter saying after the match: “He’s a guy we all need to watch in the future”. And the future is now!
Their roads to the semis were dissimilar paths, with Berdych looking the shakier of the two. He had been broken twice as many times (6) as Raonic who has lost just one set thus far. The 2005 Bercy champ had been pushed to three sets in two of his three matches coming into Saturday’s semifinal, including a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 win over Kevin Anderson in the quarters. However, Raonic was very nearly ejected from the tournament practically before it began, overcoming Jack Sock in a third-set tiebreaker in the Canadian’s first match.