Wimbledon Final Milos Raonic Vs Andy Murray Fight of Firsts for Beau and Favorite
The 2016 Men’s Wimbledon final between Milos Raonic (6) and Andy Murray (2) is one marked by differences in style, personality and experience but which will be defined by how each one handles the one thing they have in common- reaching a slam final in which both will experience something of a first.
For Raonic, the first is his first slam final, a major breakthrough for the 25 year old who has been touted as the next big thing for a few years now, a status injuries have kept out of his reach.
When it comes to firsts in slam finals, most players tend to make a mess of it. In recent history, Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt, Stan Wawrinka, and Juan Martin del Potro have been a rare breed of player who play their first slam final against a great with the authority of a Champion who has been there, done that.
Andy Murray, himself, struggled in his first slam final, losing to Roger Federer in the US Open 2008 in straight sets. Like Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic, Carlos Moya, Goran Ivanisevic, and David Nalbandian, first time nerves got the better of him.
Will those inevitable nerves get to Raonic? Is he going to channel his inner Safin and click on all his strengths or will his inner Murray mean he gets overwhelmed by the occasion?
Raonic is a cool customer, and is not likely to get too hot and bothered by the opportunity before him, but of course there are going to be some butterflies fluttering, and healthily so, too. There is something of the practical dreamer about Raonic- not only does he dream big, and talks about those dreams, but he also works hard, a topic he also talks at length of, to make it happen, and the confidence that hard work will give him should keep the nerves born of those big dreams both alive and in check.
If anything is going to get in the way of Raonic’s big serve, highly effective inside out forehand, and volleying skills, it will either be his health, which gave up on him when he had the better of Murray in their Australian Semi-final this year, or it will be Murray, whose resilience, consistency, and fighting spirit earned him a comeback from behind win over an in-form Raonic in the recent AEGON championships final.
That AEGON winning run put Murray as one of the favorites going into Wimbledon once more, a position he is used to as a former Champion and runner-up. That 2013 title was Murray’s second slam, his first coming at the US Open ’12, his fifth attempt to win a slam title.
There is a good reason Murray did not win his first slam final. As much as Murray was undone by nerves and inexperience in New York, those factors were exploited by Roger Federer, then the tour’s dominant player and at the peak of his hard court powers. No one will understand Raonic’s predicament of facing a multiple slam winner in his first final better than Murray. It is one the Scot has the experience to exploit, but he will have to adjust to his own predicament first, that of being the favorite in a slam final for the first time.
The moment Novak Djokovic was upset by Sam Querrey, Andy Murray was given the unenviable crown of favorite in a slam for the first time in his career. The pressure told in his quarter-final match when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back from 2 sets to love down, but Murray handled it with his signature expressiveness, screaming to his box at 1-1 in the fifth he was not going to lose the match, and a less typical clinical nature, winning the next five games.
How will the pressure tell on Murray in the final? Raonic will be putting plenty of it on Murray’s strengths- his big serve will challenge Murray’s return, his strokes, particularly that inside out forehand, will push Murray’s defense to the limits, and his willingness to come to the net will leave the Scot watching balls die in the service box.
There is little Murray will be able to do if Raonic’s strengths overwhelm him except ride it out and if, or when, Raonic has a letdown, let his own strengths come to the fore. The danger is though that Raonic’s strengths might eat at what is Murray’s main weakness- his mentality. If things do not go Murray’s way, he has a tendency to fall apart, and in a final he is expected to win, he may not be able to put himself together again that easily against an opponent who has proven to be very skilled at taking his chances this fortnight.
In Raonic’s quarter-final over Goffin, a come back from two sets to love down, and his semi-final over Roger Federer, in which he came back from two sets to one down and faced break points late in the fourth, the sixth seed proved that he can hang in there when not playing at his best, and find his game to come back and beat high quality opponents. This may be Raonic’s first slam final, but it will not be the first time he has come through in a high stakes match to get the win.
Whoever handles their respective first times in a slam final the better will take this match, and with both men having proven they have the games and minds to potentially handle both situations well, this first time slam final between Milos Raonic and Andy Murray, the two best grass courters in the game right now, could be one we want to see repeated in years to come.
Watch highlights of Raonic Vs Murray in the Australian Open Semi-Finals below:
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