Arguably no one is in better form this season than Milos Raonic. The 14th-ranked Canadian struggled with a foot injury in 2015 and thus plummeted out of the top 10, but he has recovered in a major way for 2016. Raonic boasts a 9-0 record in January, a mark that includes a 6-4, 6-4 upset of Roger Federer in the Brisbane final. So far in Melbourne he has taken out Lucas Pouille, Tommy Robredo, Viktor Troicki, and Stan Wawrinka. Not since 2012 had anyone other than Novak Djokovic defeated Wawrinka Down Under and the Swiss even won the whole thing in 2014. But he could not complete a comeback against Raonic and lost in five sets on Monday.
Up next for Raonic is a surprising quarterfinal clash on Wednesday against Gael Monfils. The head-to-head series stands at 2-0 in favor of the Frenchman, who got the job done 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-3 five years ago in Stockholm and 6-4, 6-2 on the grass courts of Halle in 2013. But Monfils’ progress has not been the same as Raonic’s since then–not even close. The world No. 25 has remained more interested in entertainment than success and a history of injuries has not helped. A favorable draw this fortnight has allowed Monfils to put on shows without having to put forth too much effort. He clobbered Yuichi Sugita, Nicolas Mahut, and Stephane Robert before dropping one set to Andrey Kuznetsov.
The competition increases tenfold in the form of Raonic, whose serve has been devastating and whose baseline game is improving dramatically. Monfils’ return is not strong enough and his serve is not consistent enough to seriously challenge a red-hot and extremely-confident Raonic.
“[He] is in good form,” the underdog said of his opponent, “coming in with a win in Brisbane. As we know, (he has) a big serve. Actually I think also he [has improved] a lot his movement, hitting big from the baseline, a good return. It’s going to be interesting to see with what [I’m] going to come up with.”
Prediction – Raonic in straight sets