Milos Raonic is seeking a spot in the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the third time in the last four years as he battles Alexander Zverev for the second time. Zverev beat Raonic on clay earlier this year 7-6, 6-1 in Rome en route to his first Masters-level title. The 20-year-old German is looking to book a reservation in his first Slam quarterfinal with a win.
(6) Milos Raonic vs (10) Alexander Zverev
It’s been a fairly quiet three rounds for the sixth seeded Canadian. Raonic did drop one set to Mikhail Youzhny in round two, but had few issues with Albert Ramos-Vinolas last round. The sixth seed won in straights 7-6 (3), 6-4, 7-5. He never faced a break point in the match and has only been broken twice all tournament. Raonic smashed 21 aces against the 25th seeded Spaniard. Raonic lit up the court with 55 total winners to just 26 unforced errors. For the tournament, Raonic has racked up 169 winners and 88 unforced errors. His serve has been electric the last two rounds, winning 89 and 84 percent of the points off his first serve. Raonic has 68 aces through three rounds.
The scoreline for Zverev looked good last round as he took care of qualifier Sebastian Ofner 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. The 10th seed did fall into a troubling pattern in each set though as he broke his opponent in the opening game each set, but gave the break back in each set. Obviously Sascha was able to get another break to secure each set, but that trend is something he cannot afford to do against Raonic – IF he gets any breaks at all. Overall, Zverev had 21 winners and 18 unforced errors, fairly tame numbers on grass. It does provide insight into his tactics though as he doesn’t always swing big like Raonic. The three breaks of serve against Sascha last round were more (1) than he had the previous two rounds combined.
What Rome Yields …
It’ll be easy for people to say “it was on clay” when they look at Zverev’s victory over Raonic in Rome. Certainly grass plays better to Raonic’s strong suits of pound (serve) and ground (hit big ground strokes), but Zverev can take confidence from that win. He was able to break Raonic four times on five opportunities with the Canadian winning just 58 percent of his service points overall. Sascha was broken twice, but was steadier in winning 68 perent of the points off his serve.
When you look back at the match, Zverev was getting good depth on his returns off of Raonic which was allowing him to own the better court positioning. He also did well when Raonic came forward in hitting passing shots for winners. Sascha also did well enough on his serve to throw Raonic off balance and again own the court positioning battle consistently. That allowed him to craft the rallies to his strengths and work the Canadian around the court. The grass this week at Wimbledon has shown slower, but you’d certainly expect Raonic to hit with more authority than what was shown on the slow clay in Rome.
There is obviously no surprise that this match will center largely on the Raonic serve. He’s been giving very few opportunities to break this week and that means that Zverev will have to match on his own serve. That hasn’t always been a strength for Zverev with his serve still lacking consistency from set to set. He will need to find his best to test Raonic and have a shot to pull off the upset. As for Raonic, he’ll simply want to continue his pattern of dominance with a powerful first serve and do enough on his second to keep it from being a liability.
One thing Raonic has been consistently solid with through the first week is coming forward off of punishing serves that don’t end in aces. He has produced plenty of big serves out wide or down to the T that put the returner off balance. That is when Raonic has come forward and more often than not, finished off the point with an easy volley at the net. Zverev will need to find a way to get effective returns off Raonic’s serve. He did it on clay, but will be harder pressed for success on grass. Zverev will need to be decisive when he has the opportunity to return in order to keep Raonic from getting those easy finishers.
When Sascha is able to get Raonic into rallies, he’s going to feel like he has his best chances for success. Zverev has great extension and the ability to hit with power and precision on the run. I think he does that better than Raonic who would prefer the chance to set up and crush the ball when he’s back along the baseline. Raonic will like to keep it on his forehand as much as possible, while I think Zverev has the ability to do more damage off his backhand.
The big difference off the ground would seem to be Raonic’s willingness to be more aggressive by going for winners. Zverev possesses that ability, but he doesn’t seem to harness it consistently. I think against Raonic, he needs to look for earlier opportunities to finish points. Raonic’s style is reminiscent of what Federer likes to do on grass and Fed absolutely ate Zverev up in the Halle final when Sascha stayed back along the baseline. Fed consistently went with drop shots and soft volleys that Zverev had very little chance to run forward and get. If Zverev sticks to the baseline, Raonic would do well to make him pay much like Federer did.
The Pig’s Botton Line
I think on a hard court, this is a much more even match that would play out along the baseline. On grass with Raonic’s ability to serve big and move forward, the sixth seed should have the advantage in this match. Certainly Zverev isn’t without a shot to win in this one as he beat Federer on grass last year in Halle. In that match, he was a bit more aggressive, served at his best level and Fed’s serve wasn’t quite at peak performance level. That is kind of the feel of what he needs against Raonic to get the win.
Zverev’s kryptonite on this surface in his young career so far as been power players with better serves. His last three losses on the green stuff have come to Federer (Halle ’17), Gilles Muller (s-Hertogenbosch ’17) and Tomas Berdych (Wimbledon ’16). In all three cases, he could not do enough against their serves and he struggled to match them pound for pound with his own serve. Yes, the grass at Wimbledon this year is playing slower – but power is still power on this surface. Raonic has power and unless he becomes ineffective far more than he’s shown the last three rounds, I look for the Canadian to get to the quarterfinals.
Prediction: Raonic wins in four sets