Raonic sends Zverev packing with straight-set win at Australian Open

Raonic sends Zverev packing with straight-set win at Australian Open

The world No. 4 was completely off his game, but the Canadian also played well when he needed to.

Monday's fourth-round match between world No. 4 Alexander Zverev and world No. 17 Milos Raonic at the Australian Open began with the German breaking for a 1-0 lead. For a big server like Raonic, that's not exactly a great sign. However, the Canadian didn't let that get to him. Instead, the 28-year-old broke right back. From there, it was all Raonic. 

After leveling things at 1-1, the Canadian won five straight games to win the opening set in 35 minutes. He then took the second set in similar fashion, winning 6-1 in only 29 minutes. 

Raonic played pretty well in those first two sets, but he really only needed to let Zverev beat himself. The 21-year-old didn't come ready to play, which is disappointing considering the way he has struggled at Grand Slams early in his career. Zverev has only made it to one quarterfinal at a major, which is something that needs to change fast. He has the talent to do some real damage at these events, but it's going to require more focus and better conditioning. 

But Raonic deserves plenty of credit for making his opponent uncomfortable. The Canadian executed his game plan to perfection, keeping his slice backhand short and low. Zverev had trouble coming in and getting down for those balls, which either led to unforced errors or a punishing Raonic forehand. As for Raonic's serve, Zverev didn't have many chances to break after the opening game. Raonic had it going with his slice serve, especially to Zverev's forehand side—where the German was struggling to even make solid contact. The 28-year-old had a first-serve percentage of 69 percent, and he won on 80 percent of his first-serve points. 

Meanwhile, Zverev's serve was a disaster from the start. The German made only 62 percent of his first serves, which wasn't a good enough number considering how poorly he was playing his second serve. Zverev won only 35 percent of his second-serve points, which is a difficult number to overcome. On top of that, the youngster also mixed in 10 double faults. 

Zverev did make things a little more interesting in the third set, making it all the way to a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the German went up an early mini-break. However, he was not able to capitalize as Raonic quickly took it back. The Canadian then came up with some big serves to close it out from there, earning a 6-1, 6-1, 7-6 (5) win. 

While Zverev is a Top 5 player right now, this result should't be too surprising. Raonic was the world No. 3 back in December of 2016, and some bad injury luck is the only reason we haven't heard from him since. But the Canadian is healthy now, and he's playing some of the best tennis of his career. Raonic had already knocked off both Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka before facing Zverev, and his confidence continues to grow. As long as he can stay healthy, he's going to be an incredibly tough out Down Under. 

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