Miami Open Final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs Andy Murray

Djokovic

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The Miami Open final will be contested between top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic and two time champion and fourth seed Andy Murray. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

Andy Murray has been doing a lot of things right in 2015- reaching slam finals, climbing the rankings (he started the year ranked no.6 and will be ranked no.3 next week), making another Miami final (his fourth).

There is one thing, though, that he has not been able to do right, and that is beat Novak Djokovic. It was the world No.1 who stopped him in the Australian Open final, and in the Indian Wells semi-finals, too. With not too much difficulty either.

True, Murray did push the 8 time slam champion in the first two sets of the Australian Open, but he went away in sets three and four, and at Indian Wells, the Scot had no say in matters at all, and was blasted off the court by the Serb.

It has not just been this year that Djokovic has dominated Murray, either. The world no. 1 beat him four times in 2014, dropping just one set. That makes six consecutive wins, and Djokovic now leads the head to head 17-8, a head to head that was, back in September 2012, after Murray beat Djokovic for the U.S Open title, much closer, with the Serb leading 8-7.

Murray’s chances of cutting the deficit tomorrow in Miami are slim. Djokovic has struggled in Miami, dropping sets to Klizan and Dologopolov, and coming from a break down in the first set against Ferrer, but he pulled his game together brilliantly against an in-form John Isner, edging the American in a first set tiebreak and then taking control of the match and running away with the second set 6-2.

Murray cruised past Donald Young in the second round but, like Djokovic has struggled, dropping sets to Thiem and Anderson. He did, though, break down Berdych’s game in the semi-finals, but he has the upper hand over Berdych in big matches, and the slow courts played into his hands, too.

Murray, unlike Djokovic, has not really faced an opponent who actually had a strong chance to beat him. Isner had knocked out Dimitrov, Raonic and Nishikori, and is always a handful for Djokovic, but the Serbian was mentally tough and put in one of his most dominant displays against the 22nd seed.

The Serbian is likely to do the same against Murray in the Miami final. The two may be separated by only two spots in the rankings,but they are, right now anyway, a gulf apart when it comes to confidence and mental toughness.

Murray may be no. 3 next week, but he has not won higher than an ATP 500 title the past year and has only managed top ten wins against Berdych (twice), Raonic, Tsonga, Cilic and Ferrer. Djokovic, meanwhile has two slams, the WTF and four ATP 1000 titles on his past year’s resume, and has 23 wins over top ten players, losing only 4 times, to Nadal once and Federer three times.

That gulf between them is likely to be played out on the court tomorrow. While the two are similar in that they can both play great defense, attack and defend with their backhands, have great return games, and are two of the fittest players on the ATP, Djokovic has the better game of turning defense into offense and has no weaknesses, while Murray tends to play passively when things get tough against Djokovic and his second service can be a liability against the game’s best returner.

Murray may be doing a lot right in 2015, but he still has some things to put right before he is going to notch up another win against Djokovic. He has to sort out that second serve, and sort out his mental game, too. Until he does that, and there has been nothing to show us this week in Miami that he has done so, then Djokovic is going to keep on extending that head to head lead, and, more importantly for the world No. 1, extend his lead at the top of the rankings, and expand his ever-growing collection of ATP 1000 titles.

Prediction: Djokovic to win in straight sets.

Commentary by Christian Deverille @thetennisreview

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Miami Open Semi-Finals ATP Player of the Day Novak Djokovic

BNP Paribas Open

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Novak Djokovic’s semi-final win over John Isner was a masterclass in making the most of what few opportunities come your way on the tennis court when facing one of the game’s biggest servers. ¬†The 7-6, 6-2 win earns the world No.1 player of the day.

Novak Djokovic looked to be in some danger before his Miami Open semi-final against 22nd seed John Isner. Isner had beaten Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori on his way to the last four, and was playing some of his best tennis. Isner’s best tennis had troubled Djokovic in the past, too- the American had two wins over Djokovic on American Hard courts in Indian Wells 2012 and Cincinnati 2013.

Djokovic was also not at his best coming into the last four. He had dropped sets to Klizan and Dolgopolov, and gone a break down in the first set to Ferrer.

However, against his toughest opponent, and before that opponent’s home crowd, Djokovic came up with his best tennis, like you would expect of a man on the brink of winning the Indian Wells-Miami double for the third time (2011, 2014).

The first set was close, going to a tiebreak. Djokovic got an early mini-break at 1-1 when he struck a backhand return off a second serve at Isner’s feet and the Amercian netted an awkward sliced backhand.

Djokovic got his second mini-break at 4-1. Isner was attacking him, coming in and hitting a huge forehand down the line, but Djokovic’s defense came to his rescue as he got the ball back in play and forced the American to go for too much on a short forehand down the line to the forehand side, missing the tram-line by some way.

Defense and return- those were the weapons Djokovic had in his favor against Isner, and they were what had given him a 5-1 lead in the breaker.

Djokovic earned three set points with  an ace, a sliced served out wide to the advantage court.

At 6-3, returning, Djokovic blocked a forehand into play, and then unleashed on his ground strokes, a forehand heavy on top spin pulling Isner out wide. All the American could do was get his racket on to the ball and send it right into the hitting zone of the Djokovic backhand. The Serbian, in his element, took his time, took a long back-swing and then rotated himself into the shot, hitting the ball cross-court for a winner.

Smart serving, touch on the return and depth and spin on his ground strokes had completed the hard work of edging Isner in a tiebreaker, and the Serb was now a set up.

Djokovic then ran away with the match, taking the second set 6-2. 25 winners to 8 errors, fifty percent of break points won, 76 % of second serves won, it was a formidable display of tennis from a player performing at his best against one of his most dangerous opponents.

Watch highlights of Djokovic’s win over Isner below

Commentary by Christian Deverille @thetennisreview

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Miami Open Semi-Final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs John Isner

Miami Open

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Novak Djokovic (1) takes on John Isner (22) in the semi-finals of the Miami Open tonight. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

Novak Djokovic faces John Isner for the ninth time today and though the defending champion leads Isner 6-2 in their head to head, the American always gives the Serbian a tough workout.

Isner’s two wins have come on American hard courts- at Indian Wells 2012 and Cincinnati 2013. Djokovic has won three of their meetings in the U.S, including their most¬†recent clash, a tough straight setter, in the Indian Wells last sixteen.

Isner’s big serve troubles the game’s best returner, and his aggressive first strike style, resulting in winners or errors, and few rallies, deprives Djokovic of the rhythm he needs from the baseline.

Worryingly for Djokovic, Isner’s first strike is at a high level right now. He has beaten Dimitrov, Raonic and Nishikori on his way to the final, displaying an improved return and back-court game.

Djokovic, meanwhile, has struggled on his way to the last four. The Serbian dropped a set to Klizan, another set to Dolgopolov and had to come back from an early break in the first set of his quarter-final win over Ferrer.

Isner has the momentum, is in his best form for a long time and is playing better tennis than Djokovic. The night time conditions may favor Djokovic, but Isner can play well on slow surfaces, and this surface is faster than the one they played on at Indian Wells, and benefits from that extra time on the return as well as to get to balls and to set up his forehand.

Momentum, form, the home crowd, a game that is an awkward match up for Djokovic, Isner has it all going for him in this semi-final encounter. If he perform like he did against Nishikori- hitting 33 winners (12 from the forehand) to 16 errors, winning 78% of points behind his first serves and 81% of his second serves- Isner can get a third win over the world No.1 and make his first Miami Open final.

Prediction: Isner to win in three sets.

Commentary by Christian Deverille @thetennisreview

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Miami Open Quarter-final Review John Isner Defeats Kei Nishikori

Isner

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John Isner (22) defeated his third ATP ‘young gun’ in a row when he defeated Kei Nishikori ¬†(4) 6-4, 6-3 in the ATP 1000 Miami Open quarter-finals. The win put Isner into the Miami Open semi-finals for the first time and also revealed the American was much more than just a big serve.¬†

The match took its twist at 5-4 Isner returning when the American reached 0-30 on the Nishikori serve with a forehand down the line winner. Isner then hit a backhand cross-court return on the rise, forcing Nishikori to shank his forehand, and earning break point.

Back court winners, break points, these were supposed to be Nishikori’s strengths, but not, it seemed, today.

The break point illustrated that this was meant to be Isner’s day. The American went for broke break point up, hitting an angled forehand cross-court which hit the net cord and then dropped dead on Nishikori’s side of the court. Fortune favors the brave may be a cliche, but it is also very true.

In the second set, leading 1-0 , Isner earned three break points when he hit a forehand return winner down the line. The 22nd seed then converted the break point when he rallied with Nishikori from the baseline, proving to be the more patient of the two as Nishikori broke down first, going for a forehand cross-court winner and firing it long.

Isner’s cry of ‘Yeah’ was understandable.¬†Return winners, playing the steadier tennis in baseline rallies- Isner was not reading the script, he was writing a new one.

A script starring an Isner who was more than just a serve. One featuring a location with the right conditions for the plot to unfold in – the afternoon heat helping his serve fly faster through the air, the slow surface giving him time to get to balls, time to unleash his forehand, executing in areas he was not just expected to perform, but also in aspects of the game in which he was greatly underestimated.

There were surprises more to come- the highlight being when Isner, leading 3-0, struck a backhand down the line winner, changing the direction of the ball against one of the game’s masters of that play, to end another hard hit rally to earn break-point.

No wonder Isner was smiling.

At 5-3, Isner served for the match. A forehand down the line winner, a perfect forehand volley, another forehand volley winner, and Isner had three match points.

The American took it on his second one with the weapon he is most known for doing damage with, his 12th ace, the shot he has built his career around, ending a 70 minute exhibition of all the other shots he can execute.

Isner also, in defeating Nishikori, executed his third higher seed in a row. And not just any old seeds either. In taking out Dimitrov (9), Raonic (5), and Nishikori, Isner had beaten all three of the ATP’s top-ranked ‘young guns’. Add into that mix the world Junior No. 1 Andrey Rublev the American beat in the first round, and 29 year old Isner had put paid to quite a few future world No.1s.

Next, Isner will have to take on his generation, the old guard, and all more highly accomplished than him. He would have to beat either Ferrer or Djokovic in the semi-finals, and then one of Tomas Berdych or Andy Murray for the title.

But in a week in which Isner has been tearing up the script with his return and back court game as much as he has been tearing through the court with his serve, it would not be too surprising if he continued his role of the executioner, an assassin with more than just a serve as a weapon, but a very sharp, and stacked, tool box at his disposal.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

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Kei Nishikori Vs John Isner Miami Open Quarter-Final Preview

Miami

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Kei Nishikori (4) takes on John Isner (22) in the ATP 1000 Miami Open quarter-finals. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

One of tennis’ best servers takes on one the game’s best returners in the Miami Open quarter-finals today. This will be the first meeting between the U.S’ highest ranked players and Japan’s highest ever ranked ATP tennis player.

Both men come into the last eight on the back of impressive runs. Nishikori’s has been impressive for it’s efficiency- the world no. 5 has not dropped more than 2 games in a set. Isner’s,¬† meanwhile, has been remarkable for who he has beaten- none other than Nishikori’s generational peers Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic.

Against Dimitrov, Isner faced a shot-making talent, and overwhelmned him with his serve. Playing Raonic, the American came up against another one of the game’s great serves, and edged him in a tiebreaker when Raonic took a risk, as you need to do in breakers, and came up short. Isner, meanwhile, stayed steady, held serve and made it through to his first Miami quarter-final on his eighth attempt.

Facing the Japanese, who is aiming to reach his second consecutive Miami semi-final, Isner’s serve comes up against a great return game. Isner won’t have too much coming back at him from his first delivery, but Nishikori will have something to say on the second.

Isner, though, won’t be putting in too many of those. In 2015, Isner has put in 71% of his first serves, won 84% of points behind that delivery, and saves 71% of break points. Perhaps, most ominously for his opponents, he wins 76% of his service games.

But, the 6ft9 Isner does get broken, and if anyone is going to break him, Nishikori is a likely candidate. The slow Miami hard court is good for his aggressive baseline game, and he is quite the shotmaker, too, so he will have plenty of time to take charge of points with stunning winners.

Nishikori is going to be the favorite in rallies, and he is going to have a shot when Isner does serve a second delivery, particularly of it is on break point- Nishikori wins 26 % of his return games, and converts 40 percent of his break points, too.

Nishikori also has a high chance of winning his service games, too-  Nishikori wins 86 % of his service games, and the American only wins 8% of his return games.

This match, with both men having such strong weapons, is going to come down to the smallest of margins, and possibly in tiebreakers. At some point, the two are going to engage in a rally, and Nishikori is one of the game’s best from the back of the court. That quality will be the deciding one when this match comes down to decision time.

Prediction: Nishikori in three sets

Commentary by Christian Deverille @thetennisreview

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Why We Love Tennis

World Tennis Day.

CC courtesy of Marianne Bevis on flickr.

To celebrate World Tennis Day, The Tennis Review looks at ten of the many reasons why we tennis fans love tennis. Happy World Tennis Day and Happy watching!

1. Great battles.

Ranked by many as the greatest match of all time, the Wimbledon 2008 final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal was a battle between the grass court King and the two time runner up hungry to prove he could be champion.

Watch the tiebreak below to relive the drama, intensity and quality of one of tennis’ greatest battles.

But it’s not just tennis which gets tennis players battling each other. Check out this video from last year’s Roland Garros featuring Gael Monfils and Laurent Lokoli. As if it was not enough to be great at tennis, these two had to master dancing as well.

2. Emotion

We live tennis on the court, we live through it from our armchairs, too. The big matches provide big emotions, few more tear jerking that when Roger Federer broke down in the trophy ceremony of the 2009 Australian Open.

Federer had been on the verge of tying Pete Sampras’ 14 slam record in front of Rod Laver, but Nadal proved too good for the Swiss, a fact that reduced Federer to tears.

Federer’s tears divided fans- some cried with him, some taunted him for crying like a baby- but whatever side you were on, you felt something, and tennis was why.

For those Federer fans who found the above video upsetting, here is one which will bring back happier memories- Federer’s tears of happiness when he won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon 2003.

3. Excellence

You want to see aces, volleys, lobs, perfectly timed forehands, incredible shot-making, strategic genius and all that is excellent about tennis? Then look no further than Roger Federer.

The Swiss is not just talented, he has worked hard and turned that talent into sheer excellence.

Check out this Roger Federer compilation video to see tennis at its most excellent and fall in love all over again.

4. Talent

Tennis has been blessed with some great talents – McEnroe, Becker, Nalbandian, Safin, Santoro, Rios, Federer, Wawrinka to name a few.

Grigor Dimitrov is arguably the most talented player of his generation, the one tennis fans are waiting for to make their move to the very top of the game.

Take a look at the video below to see why Dimitrov has earned himself the nickname ‘Baby Fed’ and the talent that has many believing he will be, like his tennis daddy once was, the future of tennis.

5. Shocks.

The thought of Rafael Nadal losing at the French Open in 2009 was not one many fans were entertaining at the time. Nadal was the reigning French Open, Wimbledon and Australian Champ, the world No.1 and had never lost at Roland Garros since winning his first title on his debut in 2005.

The idea of Nadal losing in the last sixteen was as crazy as the French getting rid of the clay and replacing it with grass.

Robin Soderling thought differently. He not only thought it, however- he did it. The Swedish player played the match of his life, and knocked the champion out in four sets.

Nadal has not lost since at Roland Garros while Soderling has been absent from the tennis courts for far too long, but his 2009 Roland Garros win ensures he is still very much in the memories of many a shock loving tennis fan.

6. Humor

Tennis is not just sport, it can be comedy, too, especially when Novak Djokovic is around. Impressions, funny faces, silly comments, the World No. 1 has them all in his box of comedy tricks.

7. Controversy.

Controversy is never too far away from tennis and there are few better examples than the Australian Open 2014 final. Mid-match, an injured Rafael Nadal left Stan Wawrinka on the court and the Swiss was not pleased. Neither were the crowd.

Tennis fans loved it, though – booing Nadal like they were at a pantomine and debating it for weeks after the match.

8. Diversity

Tennis has many styles of play from serve and volley to baseline aggression from counter punching to all-court to name a few.

The sport is arguably at its best when two contrasting styles clash, and the rivalry between Andre aggressive baseliner Agassi and serve and volleyer Pat Rafter, which peaked with their semi-final battles at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, was a celebration of the diversity which causes many fans to fall in love with tennis.

9. Characters

Tennis has had its fair share of characters such as Ilie Nastase, John McEnroe, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi, but few have been as smart and witty as Marat Safin.

Watch him here after his breakout U.S Open 2000 victory on the David Letterman show to see a young Safin talk not just tennis but Anna Kournikova and Vodka.

10. Amazing athleticism.

Tennis can compete with any sport going when it comes to athleticism. In 2012, at the the Australian Open, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal’ tested each others atheletic skills for over six hours to decide the men’s champion.

Six hours of tennis? Many people might wonder how you could sit in an armchair and watch tennis for six hours. Not tennis fans, though. Six of hours of tennis? Six hours of love more like.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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Who is Borna Coric?

Coric

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Borna Coric has been making all the right noises on the ATP Tour the past seven months, but who is the 18 year old Croatian getting the tennis world all excited? The Tennis Review gives you the lowdown.

Playing Style: 

Coric said early this year that at his best he was similar to Djokovic, at his worst he was like Murray. It was an observation that drew criticism from the tennis media and Coric had to do some backtracking on social media.

The comment, though, was not incorrect. Coric has both slam winner’s strengths- their defensive skills and a weapon of a double handed backhand. His footwork also means on faster courts, he can track down most balls and return them with interest. When he is on form, he can be aggressive, too, like Djokovic, and when he is a little off, he plays, like Murray at his worst, a little passively.

Junior Career:

Coric’s junior career is impressive. He won the U.S Open Boy’s Juniors title in 2013, beating Thanassi Kokkinakis in the final. That victory propelled him to No.1 in the ITF Junior rankings.

Early Pro career:

In 2013, Coric won five ITF Futures titles.  Coric started the year ranked 1,298 and finished it ranked 303. He lost his first ATP match Umag in July to 58th ranked Haracio Zeballos after winning the first set on a tiebreak.

2014 Breakthrough:

A year later at Umag, Coric, ranked 230, beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin, ranked 46, in the first round, avenged his 2013 defeat to Zeballos in the last sixteen and took 20th ranked Fabio Fognini to three sets in the last eight.

At the U.S Open, Coric, a qualifier, upset 27th ranked Lukas Rosol in the first round, dropping just seven games.

In Basel, Coric upset Gulbis, and then defeated Nadal, on the comeback from injury in straight sets, on his way to losing to Goffin in three sets in the last sixteen.

2015

Coric did not really get going in 2015 until Dubai when he took advantage of a huge stroke of luck. He was let into the main draw as a lucky loser, beat an error prone Murray (the Scot hit 55 errors in their quarter-final) and played Federer in the last four.

Coric carried over the momentum to Indian Wells where he saved match points in the final qualifying round and then won his first ATP 1000 match.

Future expectations

Coric himself has said he is the Best of his Generation, but he has strong competition from Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alexander Zverev. Those four could end up dominating the game in years to come.

Coric is most likely to win Majors at the Australian Open and is quite likely to make no. 1 with the dominant tour surface being medium paced hard courts.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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Andy Murray Player of the Day Miami Open Day 8

Murray

CC courtesy of Marianne Bevis at flickr.

Andy Murray won his 500th ATP Tour match when he beat Kevin Anderson in the fourth round of the ATP 1000 Miami Open. That milestone makes him our player of the day.

Andy Murray had to fight hard for his 500th ATP Tour career victory, beating Kevin Anderson 6-4, 3-6. 6-3. Miami was a fitting location for such a career milestone- Murray has won 2 titles there (2009, 2013), and, after his safe passage into the 2015 quarter-finals, he is now 25-7 lifetime at the tournament, one of the most prestigious on the ATP Tour.

Fighting for a win is nothing new for Murray. Of those 25 Miami Open wins, eight have been three setters, including his marathon final set tiebreaker championship match win over Ferrer in 2013.

Few players on the ATP tour are as well-equipped to go the distance as Murray whose athleticism, fitness, and defensive skills come into their own on the predominantly medium slow surfaces of the ATP Tour. The Scot is versatile, too. While he won 44 points from the baseline against Anderson, he also won 14 points at the net.

ATP 1000 events have been a rewarding hunting ground for Murray throughout his career. Murray has won 9 ATP 1o0o titles and a total of 155 of his career wins have come at those events.He entered his first one in Cincinnati 2005, and won his first match against Taylor Dent before losing to Marat Safin in the second round.

At Grand slams, Murray has won 2 titles (Wimbledon 2013, U.S Open 2012), and 140 matches.

Murray’s first ATP victory came at Queen’s Club in 2005 when as a wild card, ranked 347, he beat 110th ranked Santiago Ventura in straight sets.

Murray’s victory over Anderson was a fine example of just why he is only the 46th man in the history of the ATP Tour to reach 500 wins.¬†The world no. 4 was his consistent self- hitting 23 winners to 19 unforced errors, had a first serve percentage of 60, won 84% of points behind that delivery, and won 50% of his second serves.

The Scot also racked up impressive return statistics against one of the tour’s biggest serves. Murray’s return game is one of the ATP’s best, and he earned 11 break points and converted four of them.

Murray took the first set with his usual efficient style against players ranked below him. In the second, he did well to recover from falling 0-4 down, but could not prevent Anderson taking the set 6-3.

In the third set, Murray broke in the second game, converting his third break point when he returned a second serve right at Anderson’s feet at the baseline and forced an error. A signature shot from the Scot that he celebrated with a fist-pump and a cry of ‘come on’, another signature that has punctuated his 500 wins, and many of his 155 losses, too.

At 5-3, Murray reached break point courtesy of his fine defensive skills when he retrieved a big forehand down the line return from Anderson. The Scot’s footwork, ¬†reflexes, and touch, arguably the greatest mark of his talent, allowed him to get his racket on the ball and slice it back to the baseline. Anderson tried to generate pace, but made an error instead.

Murray’s retrieving skills, touch and, in particular his slice, a rare quality on the tour, have also been a characteristic of his game over the years, frustrating many an opponent into error.

On match point, Murray served into Anderson’s body on the forehand side, stepped into the court, and hit his ever-reliable backhand aggressively to Anderson’s backhand side, once more earning an error, and with it, his 500th career win.

Watch highlights of Murray’s win over Anderson below.

Commentary by Christian Deverille @thetennisreview

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Milos Raonic Vs John Isner Miami Open Last Sixteen Preview

Roanic

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Milos Raonic (5) and John Isner (22) go head to head in the last sixteen at the ATP 1000 Miami Open tonight. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.

Isner leads this battle of the big serves 2-0, winning both of their matches at ATP 1000 North American Hard court events (Toronto 2012, Cincinnati 2013).

That period was perhaps Isner’s career peak and one in which Raonic was still developing. This match will see them meet in very different circumstances- Isner is currently ranked 24 (he was ranked 11 when he beat Raonic in Toronto ’12) while Raonic is now a solid top ten player, ranked no. 6.

Back in 2012-2013, Raonic had his big serve, but the rest of his game was still a work in progress. Since late 2013, Raonic, with the help of coach Ivan Ljubicic, a lot of progress has been achieved and the Canadian has a better back court game, a better net game  and a much improved return game.

The hard work has paid off- a Wimbledon semi-final, a French Open last eight finish, a Washington title, wins over Federer, Nadal and Murray, a career ranking of no.5, all have been added to the Raonic resume in the last year.

Raonic showcased his improved skills in his match against Chardy in the last 32. The fifth seed was taken to the brink by the Frenchman, wobbling when serving for the match in the second set and being taken to a final set tiebreaker.

Raonic took control in that tiebreaker though as he took it 7-3 with service winners, winners at the net, and his much improved forehand helping him land safely into the fourth round after a turbulent match.

Isner, meanwhile, had a different path to the last sixteen- the American was rock solid in his straight sets defeat of Dimitrov.

It is a good thing both men have recent practice of being clutch when they need to be. Serve will rule in this match, (Isner wins 96% of his service games, Raonic is at 94) and it will most likely be decided in tiebreakers.

That is where Raonic’s better overall game should come into effect. On Miami’s slow hard courts, he will have more chances on the return and in rallies, and the Canadian is mentally tough enough to block out the pro-Isner crowd when the match gets tight, tougher than he was back in 2012/13.

A lot has changed since these two big serves last met, and that should be reflected in tonight’s result.

Prediction: Raonic to win.

Commentary by Christian Deverille @thetennisreview

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Milos Raonic Miami Open Day 7 Player of the Day

Raonic

Photo courtesy of www.cbc.ca

Milos Raonic (5) had to fight to get past giant-killer Jeremy Chardy (31) in the last 32 of the ATP 1000 Miami Open. The fifth seed’s 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (3) victory earns him our player of the day award.

Losing to Chardy would not have been the Canadian’s most shocking career defeat- only six months ago he lost a match to a player outside of the top 100. Chardy is at least a top 40 player and has a list of notable scalps- Del Potro at the Australian Open 2013, Murray at Cincinnati 2012, Federer at Italian Open 2014.

The way in which the Canadian lost his grip on the match, however, was a little surprising considering he led Chardy 5-0 in their head to head and was playing the better tennis on the day by far.

The Canadian swept through the first set 6-1, and broke to lead 3-2 in the second, and looked set to cruise to victory.

At 5-4, Raonic served out for the match, but his increasing errors and¬†Chardy’s consistency, variety and well-crafted moments of aggression allowed the world no.38 to break back and level the set at 5-5.

Raonic was unable to convert breaks point in the next game, Chardy held serve, and then took control of the match to break Raonic and take the second set 7-5.

Chardy served first in the decider and both men held serve, with Raonic two points from defeat serving at 4-5, all the way to the tiebreaker.

In the tie-break, though, Roanic showed the improvement to his game over the last eighteen months, particularly on the mental side of things. While he had looked rattled since losing his grip on the match, in the tiebreak he settled himself and took control.

The fifth seed was gifted a mini-break on the very first point of the tie-break when Chardy double-faulted. Raonic then struck a service winner and followed it up with a serve down the middle and a forehand winner off the short ball to lead 3-0.

At 3-2, Raonic served down the tee, hit a slice backhand approach shot and hit a winning forehand volley. It was a confident and calm display against a man who had pushed him all the way the previous hour. A service winner later and Raonic was 5-2 up, no longer being pushed, but, just as he had started the match, doing the pushing around.

At 5-3, Raonic unleashed his backhand on the return, hitting it deep to Chardy’s forehand, ¬†got the Frenchman on the stretch, and then, with all the time in the world, hit an inside out forehand cross-court to force an error.

On his first match point, on his serve, Raonic hit a service winner, and sealed the win.

The Canadian took a deep breathe, and for good reason. His run to the semi-final in Indian Wells had helped him get some momentum going again, and he had taken his eye off the ball against Chardy, one of the game’s most dangerous 30-40 ranked players, for a second and narrowly avoided letting the win slip from his grip.

Raonic can take great confidence, and heart, that his serve, forehand, return and volley all stood up to the Chardy test when it had mattered most, the hard work put into his game the past eighteen months paying off in the form of a hard-fought second consecutive trip to the Miami last eight.

Commentary by Christian Deverille @thetennisreview

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