Fixture: Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic
Date: 29 August 2020
Tournament: Western & Southern Open 2020
Venue: Flushing Meadows, New York, USA
Category: ATP Masters 1000
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: $4,674,780
Match timing: 1 pm EDT, 10.30 pm IST
Live telecast: USA - Tennis Channel / ESPN | India - Sony Ten 2
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic preview
After first gaining widespread acclaim for a world-beating season in 2016, Milos Raonic lost his way over the next couple of years due to injuries. However, the Canadian has turned a new page in a somewhat ill-fated career this week at the 2020 Western & Southern Open, by reaching his fourth Masters 1000 final.
Raonic's results this week will give him plenty of confidence going into the 2020 US Open, as he has looked like his old self. The Canadian put in a flawless performance against World No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals, winning the match 7-6, 6-3.
Having been unmatched on serve all week before the quarterfinal stage, Milos Raonic was forced to come from a set and a break down against Filip Krajinovic two days ago. On the other hand, the in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas had revenge on his mind ahead of the rematch of the 2020 Australian Open showdown - where Raonic had won comfortably in straight sets.
The Cincinnati semifinal would follow a similar pattern as the pair's match in Melbourne, with Raonic being invincible on serve and clinical with his inside-out forehand. In the first set, Tsitsipas held a set point on the Raonic serve, but that was as far as the Greek would come to winning the match.
Raonic opened up his shoulders as the match went on while Tsitsipas went into his shell, and the Canadian will now face World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for a maiden Masters 1000 title.
Djokovic had shown worrying signs at the start of the tournament, having been bothered by a sore neck in his opener. He started played some inspiring tennis midway through the event though, as he routed Tennys Sangren and Jan-Lennard Struff to move forward.
It was in the semifinals against Roberto Bautista Agut where the Serb was really tested.
The match started off with shaky play from Djokovic, as he was broken two times in a 6-4 first set reverse. While the Spaniard seemed to be redlining his game, Novak Djokovic had a stomach problem and the recurring neck issue throughout the match.
But in the second set, Novak Djokovic's forehand came to life again as he broke Bautista Agut for a 4-1 lead. Although he gave back that advantage soon enough, he broke again at 5-4 to take the match to a decider.
Just when it seemed like the Spaniard had lost his momentum, he again started to turn the heat up. And with his first serve percentage falling, Djokovic had to resort to some super-clutch second serves to stay in the match.
The Serb eventually capitalized on a loose game from Bautista Agut to serve for the match at 5-4. But that was not the end of it, as Novak Djokovic would be broken twice in a row to give Bautista Agut the opportunity to serve out the match.
But even as Novak Djokovic looked dead and buried, he ended up playing a brilliant return game to break Bautista Agut and push the match into a tiebreaker. It was in this all-or-nothing tiebreaker that Djokovic would run away with the match, winning it by a score of 7-0 to reach the Cincinnati final.
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic head-to-head
Novak Djokovic leads Milos Raonic in their head-to-head by a whopping margin of 10-0. The has also comprehensively beaten the former World No. 3 in two Masters 1000 finals earlier - at Paris-Bercy and Indian Wells.
The pair met two years ago at this very tournament, where a resurgent Djokovic beat Raonic in three sets before he would go on to complete a Golden Set of all the ATP Masters 1000 events.
Raonic most recently ran into the World No. 1 at the 2020 Australian Open, where he was comprehensively defeated by the eight-time winner of the event in straight sets.
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic prediction
Novak Djokovic will face off against Milos Raonic in their third Masters 1000 final meeting on Saturday, but the Canadian would be coming into the match with more confidence than ever. Already famous for his imposing serve, the Canadian's ground game has also been impressive this week. The way Raonic has returned this week suggests that he is playing as though he has nothing to lose.
Djokovic, who is clearly not 100%, will have to be on his toes no matter what the head-to-head says. The key for the Serb will be to open the court, extend the rallies and not feed easy balls to the Raonic forehand.
Perhaps Novak Djokovic's down-the-line forehand could be the difference maker; it is a shot that the World No. 1 has hit with unreal precision this week. If he continues doing that, and continues keeping his fitness issues at bay, he is likely to extend his unbeaten record against Raonic even further.
Prediction: Novak Djokovic to win in three sets.Published 29 Aug 2020, 09:30 IST