OK, so who really wants to play Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final Sunday? Anyone? Well, it’s down to either Andy Murray or Milos Raonic.
Murray, of course, has lost to Djokovic in the Australian final no fewer than three times. Raonic? Well, this is his first trip to the semifinals in Melbourne and it probably won’t be his last. The 25-year-old has really been playing well this year going undefeated thus far following a good title win a few weeks ago in Brisbane.
But Murray has been sharp as well, beating Bernard Tomic and then shaking off all the off-court interference to beat David Ferrer.
Milos Raonic v Andy Murray
Milos Raonic is proving he’s going to be a force in tennis for the next decade or so. With that massive serve, a decent volley, improving groundstrokes and the smarts, he’s got just about everything going for him except for movement and his attire.
The attire, he can get away with and even correct in time for Friday night. The movement, against some like Andy Murray he cannot. And that’s my concern here.
Murray’s return is so good that the big Canadian is going to find himself in too many rallies. And he’ll lose a majority of them. Plus, Murray’s variety and experience should keep Raonic off balance enough to get through.
That said, I don’t think this will be that easy. Murray has a habit of making a mess of things and I expect more of that Friday night in Melbourne.
The two have split their six meetings with Raonic winning three of their first four; Murray the last two including last year on the Madrid clay.
“Because far from where we were 14 months ago, we’re both very different and I think improved players from then,” Raonic said. “So I have certain aspects that I would like to manipulate and use my game in, and I’m sure he’s going to try to do a lot of different things, too. I think it’s going to be a race to who can get in the comfort zone of themselves first.”
I do think Raonic is a better player now than 12 months ago as evidenced by his wins already this year over Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka, and his improved return game. And he’s healthy.
“He was unfortunate last year with some injuries,” Murray said. “Had a few physical issues. I played him in Madrid and he was struggling a little bit there. Then I think he had the surgery on his foot and missed the French and maybe Wimbledon as well. He’s obviously fit and healthy now and playing well.”
So I expect this classic contrast of power vs counter-punching to drag out maybe even to five sets. In the end, Murray will have to work and work hard he will. Raonic has the firepower, but I don’t think he has the experience yet to win a big match like this and not on a court that’s treated Murray so well.
The Pick: Murray in 5
ESPN2 will have live coverage again at 3:30am ET.
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