Milos Raonic looks to make it three in a row over Gael Monfils as he looks to book a spot in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup on Friday. Raonic beat the Frenchman earlier this year at the Australian Open and then again at Indian Wells. Monfils rides an eight match win streak into Friday’s action.
(4) Milos Raonic vs (10) Gael Monfils
Raonic hasn’t had much to sweat about in his first two matches in Toronto. The Canadian smothered Yen-Hsun Lu 6-3, 6-3 in his opener and then crushed Jared Donaldson 6-2, 6-3 in the third round. Raonic has faced just one break point and saved it. His serve has been dominating as you would expect. His first serve has been a rock, winning 80 percent of the points so far. That helped bail him out early against Lu when he was not in rhythm with his volleys and ground strokes. He’s progressed nicely though and should feel comfortable in this match-up against Monfils. Raonic’s willingness to come to the net continues to help add a dimension to his game that few are able to match.
Monfils survived a tough third round encounter against 7th seed David Goffin 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-4. Monfils had to re-rally in the final set after he scored an early break for a 2-0 lead. Goffin would rip off three games to go ahead before Monfils took control to win four of the last five games in the finale. Monfils may be a little worse for the wear after playing his 8th match in eight days. He was broken five times against Goffin. Last week during his title run at the Citi Open, he was broken just twice all week. His first serve win rate has also dropped this week with his legs perhaps feeling a bit of mileage. He won just 70 percent of his first serve against the Belgian. Last week most of his percentages in that regard were fluttering in the high 70s or better.
This is the 5th all-time meeting for Raonic and Monfils. The Frenchman won the first two with one coming indoors in Stockholm in 2011 and the other on grass in Halle in 2013. Raonic returned the favor this year with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win at the Australian Open and then a 7-5, 6-3 win at Indian Wells. Raonic saw a whopping 21 break chances against the Monfils’ serve in those two matches, breaking him three times in each match. The Canadian as usual did a much better job with his own serve, winning a combined 81 percent of his first serve points. He would be broken once in each match on four total chances.
Certainly Monfils is in better form this time around as they meet for the third time this year, but he could also be feeling the effects of the most consecutive tennis he has played in over a year. His matches have not all been physically exhausting, but no matter how it adds up, eight matches in eight days plus travel is a lot. That definitely will play into Raonic’s strength and that is of course, the serve. That missile right arm has been on point this week through two rounds. The Canadian faced a lone break point in his opener against Yen-Hsun Lu and won 38 of 49 points on serve. Against Jared Donaldson on Thursday, the 4th seed won 36 of 46 points on serve and smashed 15 aces.
With Raonic having the serving edge, the ground stroke rallies will be the area where Monfils will probably try to take better advantage. Monfils would prefer to play mostly baseline exchanges here, but Raonic will definitely mix in some rushes to the net. That seems a prudent game plan against someone who might be feeling the effects of a lot of match play. Monfils definitely has the athleticism to get to those balls at the net from Raonic, but if the Canadian is crafty and hitting his spots – Monfils will be doing a lot of running without perhaps having a lot to show for it.
Monfils’ best chance on Friday is going to be keeping the rallies confined as close to the baseline as he can in order to control court positioning as he tries to run Raonic from side to side. If he can keep the action based there more, then he has a legitimate chance to keep his energy conserved somewhat and play more comfortably. That could also help his serve, by saving his legs.
At the end of the day, this just looks a bad spot for Monfils to be taking on Raonic. The match against Goffin was two hours plus and I think it definitely took a little bit out of him. Don’t be surprised if Monfils takes a set though and stretches this to three. He is playing well enough to do that, but if Raonic serves at a high level, I see nothing but a Canadian victory.
Raonic wins in straight sets