James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE – History was not on the side of Canadian Milos Raonic. In fact when the vast majority of the tour face Federer, statistics and history are not on their side.
No Canadian, not including defectors, had ever made it to a grand slam quarter final. Federer on the other hand has reached the grand slam quarterfinals 34 consecutive times. That is 136 victories, a hefty number to shift, meaning Federer doesn’t lose unless his opponent truly deserves to be there. It also means that Federer is a perfect employee, never taking a day off.
The big Canuck is an interesting specimen, duly if Andy Roddick and Richard Krajicek had a baby, Milos Raonic would be the result, although no speculation exists for that union to ever take place.
Indeed, if you squinted your eyes and used your imagination only slightly, you might well have been watching a Federer Roddick match, and the result of those was usually fail-safe.
This was never going to resemble a clay court match, with Milos going for glory early with big serves or cracking groundstrokes, knowing full well if he tried to out rally he was doomed. Federer meanwhile relished the ball in play, bullying the Raonic backhand every chance he had.
“I think I played tactically well tonight and was able to keep the points short on my own service games, used the 1-2 punch. That was obviously also a good thing tonight.” Federer stated in his post match press conference.
Quickly Federer started to read the massive Raonic serve, although initially he could only muster a block return although instinctively returning the ball from within the baseline.
Raonic was in trouble when 2-3 down in the first set facing a few break points. Calmly he fired two Sampras style aces, causing all worry of a break to simply vanish.
At 4-5 the tension built again, giving Federer a set point. As has so often been the case the computer assistance was switched on, unfairly in Federer’s advantage, prompting Raonic to net a relatively easy volley.
Of considerable interest is Federer’s chameleon approach, feeling the need to better his opponent when it comes to their particular strength. To which Federer stated, “Important obviously was first to focus on my own serve before even thinking about how to return Milos. But I did a good job tonight. As the match went on, I started to feel better. But that’s kind of normal.”
The second set continued much like the first although Raonic held his nerve longer. This time the set wasn’t decided until 3-3 in the tiebreak. Federer took the advantage by delivering a Wawrinka inspired backhand down the line that could only make you wonder if great backhands were given away for free in Swiss cereal boxes.
Federer’s scream of joy directed towards his entourage was heard throughout the arena, whilst Raonic ambled despondently to his chair, with more on mind his than just the overwhelming score line. Raonic told reporters, “well, long story short, until probably 45 minutes to an hour before the match, I wasn’t even sure I’d play. I rushed over to get a quick MRI on my foot. I was having issues walking. I got the clear to play after that. I just had an anaesthesia injection into my foot. I was given the go to play.”
Subsequently Raonic stumbled to open the third set, and kept on stumbling. Federer meanwhile was on autopilot, treating the crowd to a level of on court purity that only a very small amount of players experience, breezing to victory 6-4, 7-6, 6-2.
“Most of the times you play good, you know. When you play very good, that’s rare. So just have to try to have as many good days or great days as you can, and that’s why I push hard in practice and keep myself in shape.”
Federer faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round marking his 35th straight quarterfinal.