Milos Raonic is the highest seed remaining at the 2017 Australian Open following the elimination of both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. However, an irony at the 2017 Australian Open is that even with the top-two seeds out, the players many consider to be top-two all-time are still in and Raonic still has lots to prove. The World No. 3 has clearly got the skills to make a Grand Slam final, and he has clearly got the brains. The question that will be answered in the days ahead is if Raonic’s body can hold up and I think the last player that he should want to face is the one that’s coming up next, Rafael Nadal.
Following Monday-night action at Melbourne Park, Raonic had a victory over Roberta Bautista-Agut of Spain. The match was a good one for the Canuck and not just because of the win. The match didn’t feature multiple lengthy sets as Raonic won 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The last set of the match was truly a bonus as it would have done very little to drain Raonic’s energy. In the first three rounds, he played just one match that was longer than the three-set minimum in majors. Accordingly, he has to be heading toward the quarterfinals fresh.
It was one year ago when Raonic got into the semifinals of the 2016 Australian Open and he took a two-sets-to-one lead over Murray. However, everything fell through for Raonic at that point. His movement went out the door, Murray knew it, and that was the end of Raonic’s 2016 run. Soon enough it was revealed that he had an abductor problem and he missed Canada’s Davis Cup matches.
Looking ahead, Raonic shares a draw to the final with Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov, and David Goffin. As I see it, Dimitrov will probably beat Goffin. That gives Raonic a draw to the final through the Spaniard and the Bulgarian.
The quarterfinal poses the biggest problem for Raonic as Nadal has won so many Grand Slam quarterfinals before. The Spaniard will almost certainly be the one with the energy if the match lasts much longer than three hours. Furthermore, even if Raonic gets through, he has to get through and have plenty left to beat Dimitrov and then the finalist from the top of the draw.
Raonic can certainly draw some confidence from the fact that he beat Federer on grass at Wimbledon last season. That’s a tougher thing to do than beating Nadal at Melbourne Park. He has just the one title there, and it came way back in 2009. Raonic might also ground some confidence in the fact that he beat Nadal recently. The two faced one another in the Brisbane quarters early in January, and the Canadian won.
But Nadal has looked devastating at the Aussie this season. He’s delivered three beatdowns, and he won one close match against Alexander Zverev. Nadal was the one with the legs and lungs late against Zverev, going 6-3, 6-2 after a third-set tiebreaker. The Spaniard was no worse for ware as he pounced No. 6 Gael Monfils on Monday, with just one bad patch of tennis lengthening the match.
The top-two seeds might be out of the Melbourne Park draw, and much has been made about the chance that Raonic has. However, the Canadian could have plenty of trouble against Nadal in a five setter or even a tiresome four setter. We haven’t seen the “Fedal” term mentioned in several years in the majors, but it’s quite possible that the Swiss and Spaniard will meet in the Melbourne Park final a full eight years after their 2009 match.