It was always going to be a tough encounter between the two players and no one was sure about Fed’s preparation for this year’s clay court season. He skipped the Monte Carlo event and the Barcelona Open that followed it. But to be honest, the blue clay in Madrid isn’t really your ordinary Masters clay court tournament that everyone would expect. The courts seem to be a lot faster (maybe not just because of the altitude) and the players seem to need some time to adapt to them. Although it is nice to see some variety in today’s world of tennis, there have been a few complaints at the ‘ new’ surface recently. Amongst the complainers were the top seeds Djokovic and Nadal..
Federer defeated Raonic in their last meeting at this year’s Indian Wells Masters in three sets, but this time it was even closer – to the delight of the Madrid crowd.
Raonic’s big serve is well know on the tour, and today he proved it once again that he can rely on it. At some point in the match, he had won 45 consecutive points after the first serve across the last 2 matches. Considering that he had played Nalbandian in the previous round, it is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement.
The crucial moment of the first set came in the 9th game, when Raonic unexpectedly broke Federer to love to take a 5-4 lead. Until this moment, Federer had been under slightly more pressure on his serves, and the Canadian confidently served it out to take a lead in the match.
Federer held a crucial second set opening game after saving three break points. The Swiss maestro was serving and volleying a lot more than he normally does, but it wasn’t really a suprise on this fast looking surface and against a well playing Raonic. Both players held their serves until the 12th game, when the Swiss maestro struck and broke his opponent to take the set and level the match.
Raonic seemed to be a lot more consistent on his serves throughout the match, but as the third set proved, it is also about converting your break opportunities. The 21 year old Canadian had one break point in the 5th game and then two more in game 7, but couldn’t take his chances and the set was to be decided in a tiebreak. Raonic might have been a slight favourite to win it, but Federer’s experience and confidence have helped him on his way to victory in the end.
In the third round, Federer will play 14th seed Richard Gasquet, who defeated Viktor Troicki of Serbia 7-5 6-3.
Also through to the next round is 10th seed Argentine Del Potro, who eliminated Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 7-6 (1).
Del Potro broke Youzhny in the 5th game of the first set and managed to serve it out to take a 1-0 set lead.
It was the Argentine who dominated the second set as well, but couldn’t serve it out after breaking Youzhny and taking a 6-5 lead. Despite the Russian forcing a tiebreak, Del Potro recovered quickly and he stormed to a 7-1 win.
Del Potro’s next opponent will be 16th seed Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who ousted Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-7 (5) 7-6 (5) 6-3.