Milos Raonic’s name inspires much excitement and anticipation in the tennis world. He has the huge serve, a ferocious forehand and has shown dogged determination in his short career so far. Luminaries such as John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova have tipped him for the big time, and the 21-year old is gradually making his way towards the top ten after a very impressive 2012.
He is not quite at the elite level just yet, though. During Monday’s night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium (moved forward after Mardy Fish’s withdrawal from his match against Roger Federer) Raonic was given a lesson in tactics, consistency and variety by another player who knows a lot about expectations, Andy Murray. The 2008 US Open finalist cruised to a more than comfortable victory over the Canadian, prevailing 6-4 6-4 6-2.
Although the Canadian has one of the game’s fastest serves, Murray is one of the worlds’s best returners. He stood far back behind the baseline in order to give himself more time to react to Raonic’s piercing deliveries, which routinely exceeded 120mph. Before long, the Scot had the measure of Raonic, reading his game well and managing to move his 21-year-old opponent around the court. Despite Raonic showing willingness to change tactics and making many forays into the net, Murray had few problems passing him, flicking effective lobs and confounding the rising start with acute angles and deft changes of pace.
For Raonic, the wait for his first grand slam quarter-final appearance continues until at least the Australian Open 2013. He has pushed many top players to the limit this year, including Roger Federer, who he came within points of beating in Indian Wells, Madrid and Halle. Murray was too strong on Monday night, but the Canadian’s time will come.
Murray enters the last 8 feeling much happier with his form. His previous match against Feliciano Lopez was a drawn-out, lacklustre affair in which he committed an ugly 48 unforced errors. Against Raonic, he cut down the error tally to 12, and didn’t face a single break point.
The world number 4 will play Marin Cilic for a place in the semi-finals. Although the Croatian beat him in the fourth round at Flushing Meadows in 2009, Murray has improved significantly since then, and now expects to win matches against lesser-ranked opponents. Buoyed and fuelled by his Olympic Gold Medal, the British number one will be confident of picking up his first grand slam at the US Open.