Down 5-1 in the third-set tiebreak against Ugo Humbert, Milos Raonic somehow escaped with an improbable victory, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (6).
Sometimes, escaping the clutches of defeat like Raonic did on Friday can provide a player with a boost. They swing more freely, and play more aggressively knowing they are lucky to still be competing. Raonic will need to do just that if he is to slow down the Daniil Medvedev train that has picked up some serious steam in the past three days.
Since losing a tight first set on Thursday against Alex de Minaur, Medvedev has found his range, as well as some of his incredible 2019 form that went missing for most of 2020. After he lost the first 7-5 to the speedy Australian, the Russian rebounded to win the next two sets 6-2, 6-2. On Friday, he smoked Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-1.
Medvedev is a nightmare matchup for the diminutive Argentine, who already struggles to earn free points on serve without the 6’6” lanky beast across the net. But that doesn’t make his win any less impressive. Medvedev was never aced, but fired eight of his own. He won 27 of 28 points on his first serve, while winning 17 of 35 on Schwartzman’s first serve.
Raonic has the goods to stop Medvedev from winning this tournament, as he can render any opponent helpless with an above average serving day.
But the Canadian will need to venture out of his comfort zone if he is to defeat the Russian for the first time in his third try. According to a player who competed in this year’s Paris Masters, “the conditions are fairly quick, but the balls are extremely heavy and very low bouncing.” Raonic does a tremendous amount of damage with his world-class kick serve, which will be mitigated by the conditions. To make up for his lack of free points, he’ll need to go for his shots, and move forward often, because right now Medvedev is not missing.
According to the oddsmakers, Medvedev is a substantial favorite to make the final. The conditions suit him, and it appears he has regained his full confidence. Expect another dominant performance from the soon to be world No. 4.
The Pick: Daniil Medvedev