26 August 2020 06:31
If you were working solely on statistics, you might have backed Andy Murray to beat Milos Raonic last night. Not only had Murray won his past eight official matches – a streak that extended over a 10-month period – but he had also beaten Raonic in their past eight meetings. Both those sequences were comprehensively squashed, however, as Raonic handed out a 6-2, 6-2 shellacking at the Western and Southern Open in New York. Even a torrential thunderstorm in the middle of the match did not knock him out of his punishing rhythm. Murray had been forced to dig deep into his physical reserves during a tense three-setter against Alexander Zverev on Monday night.
In all probability, that played a role in his slow start. He opened with a double-fault, and could not find any timing on his groundstrokes from the back of the court. What didn't help was that Raonic was serving absolute bombs – his first serve averaged 140mph during the opening set – while also going for maximum power on almost every groundstroke. This is the best way to play Murray. He likes to assemble rallies incrementally as if they were jigsaw puzzles. So the canny ploy is to create a staccato feel to the match, taking the racket out of his hand with a death-or-glory approach. Last night, Raonic kept coming up with glory.