Milos Raonic and Andy Murray are the two survivors from their respective halves of the Wimbledon 2016 draw. They will meet in Sunday’s final at the All England Club with the grass-court Grand Slam on the line. For Raonic the Wimbledon 2016 final marks the first time that he enters any Grand Slam final. For Murray, Sunday’s championship match marks his first Grand Slam final against a player other than Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer. Accordingly, it’s the first time Murray enters a major final as a significant favorite with the oddsmakers (source bet365, 1 to 4).
There are a whole lot more “firsts” having to do with Milos Raonic and the Wimbledon 2016 final. Firstly, he is the first Canadian to play in a Grand Slam singles final on the men’s side of things, joining Eugenie Bouchard when the women’s side is added in. There are Canadians that have won doubles titles in Grand Slams, namely Vasek Pospisil, Daniel Nestor, and Sebastien Lareau. However, none of those players have, to date, made a Grand Slam final or anything close. On the topic of Canadians in Grand Slam finals, Montreal-born Greg Rusedski could be mentioned. However by the time he made the 1997 US Open championship he was done with Tennis Canada and working on his British accent.
Another first has to do with when Raonic was born. He’s the first male player born in the 1990s to make the final of a singles major. The ‘milestone’ is a trivial one in some ways, noting that Kei Nishikori, who was born three days before the 90s started, made the US Open final in 2014. However, there has been much talk of a lost generation of men’s tennis in recent years. Raonic could quiet down such talk with a title on Sunday, one that would also send him up to 5th in the world. With a title, Raonic would then be very close to overtaking both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the rankings.
The Canadian certainly is not incapable of defeating Murray. At one point Raonic was 3-1 heads up against the Scot. That’s a series that has flipped around in recent seasons and, entering the final, on head-to-heads Raonic is now 3-6. Murray has won both of their two previous Grand Slam meetings, he has beaten Raonic in five straight, and he beat Raonic on grass in June at the Aegon Championships. The result of the latter match was a frustrating one for Raonic fans as the Canadian had a set and a break lead before losing in three. That match and the Aussie semifinal from earlier this year are very relevant in previewing the Wimbledon 2016 final in my view.
In both matches, which were both late round ones, Murray had the goods late in the match. The Scot’s energy reserves do not deplete as quickly as the Canadian’s. Accordingly, should the Wimbledon 2016 final be of significant length you have to think that it would be Murray who would have a huge advantage.
Raonic is 6’5″, he lumbers, and another first is that this will be the first time that he plays in seven matches in any tournament. Furthermore, his matches don’t feature a whole lot of service breaks – whether he’s serving or receiving. That creates common situations where, if Raonic wins a set, he wins in a tiebreaker or following a lot of games. If you know both Raonic’s career and Murray’s then I think you’d agree that Raonic winning a marathon match is hard to picture when looking ahead at the Wimbledon final. The Canadian needs to be razor sharp, he needs his body to hold up, and he needs any kind of coin-toss set to go in his favor.
Can Raonic do win? The answer is yes, but a different question should produce a more pessimistic answer. What are Raonic’s chances in the Wimbledon final?
I don’t see Raonic winning a match that lasts much longer than three hours, and I don’t exactly see the Canadian blasting the Scot off the court in two hours either. However, I do think that Raonic is a little stronger in the head than Murray, and that’s where the Canadian’s chances are redeemed somewhat.
Raonic, in my view, isn’t going to be the bundle of nerves that Murray was when he played in the 2008 US Open final and the 2010 Aussie Open final. I’m looking for Raonic to be cool, and I don’t mean cool in the hot-headed, juvenile-haircut, and Nick-Kyrgios way. What I mean is that Raonic won’t crumble in the moment here but, even if that’s the case, it doesn’t make him the better athlete. We’re at the final hurdle of a best-of-five-set tennis major and stamina is more of a Murray thing than a Raonic thing.
Prediction: Murray in four or five (match time 2 pm London time on Sunday/9am ET/6am PT).