In a rematch of their Indian Wells semifinal last week, Juan Martin del Potro, the world #6, takes on 20th seeded Milos Raonic for a place in the Miami Open semifinals. For del Potro, it is an opportunity to extend his winning run to fifteen matches and to continue his quest for the Sunshine Double. For Raonic reaching a second consecutive Masters 1000 semifinal would represent real progress during his comeback from injury. But who will make the last four?
Raonic and del Potro have met four times so far in their careers, including last week, and the head-to-head is tied at two wins apiece. It was Raonic who got the first, upsetting del Potro in 2013 at the Rogers Cup on his way to his first ever Masters 1000 final (lost to Nadal). The Argentine had his revenge later that year in Tokyo. They faced off in the final of the ATP 500 event with del Potro winning 7-6 7-5 in a tightly contested match.
Due to del Potro’s injuries they did not play again until 2017 in the Delray Beach semifinals. Raonic won that match against a del Potro who was not at his best with Delray Beach being the first tournament he played last year. The Canadian was forced to retire ahead of the final. In their most recent meeting del Potro was dominant, dismissing Raonic 6-2 6-3 last week on his way to the Indian Wells title.
Path to the quarterfinals
With all seeded players receiving first round byes, del Potro began his tournament against Robin Haase. The pair split the opening two sets with del Potro winning the first 6-4 and Haase taking the second 7-5. But in the decider it was all del Potro and he broke twice to win it 6-2. He then defeated former top ten rival Kei Nishikori 6-2 6-2 in a match the Japanese never got to grips with. The ‘Tower of Tandil’ was similarly dominant against his fourth round opponent, Filip Krajinovic, defeating the Serbian 6-4 6-2.
Raonic, seeded 20th, started his Miami Open against Mikael Ymer of Sweden, younger brother of Elias Ymer. Ymer had impressed in a three-set win over Jan Lennard Struff in the first round but was overpowered by Raonic in the second. The Canadian backed that up with an excellent straight sets victory against 13th seeded Diego Schwartzman, winning 7-6 6-3. He then put in another convincing performance to defeat Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 6-4.
How do they match up?
This is a match up dominated by power. Both players have plenty of it and the outcome will likely be decided by who is best able to harness it. For del Potro the major weapon is the forehand. The big Argentine hits the shot harder than anyone else currently on Tour, possibly harder than anyone ever on Tour. It is the shot that has fired him to his greatest successes, including last week in Indian Wells where Raonic was unable to cope with it.
Raonic’s best shot is his serve. The Canadian is one of the biggest servers currently on Tour and can usually rely on at least ten aces a match. His second serve is also an effective weapon and Raonic is comfortable hitting it with both slice and heavy kick. However, his backhand is a weakness that del Potro would do well to target. Though when given time Raonic can strike it sweetly enough, when he is rushed the backhand can be broken down.
It was del Potro who won their last clash last week in the Indian Wells semifinal. It doesn’t seem that enough has changed in the intervening period for one to expect a different outcome from this match. If anything del Potro is playing with even more confidence after winning his first Masters 1000 title. He is on a fourteen match winning streak for a reason, and that reason is that no one has been able to tame his forehand. Raonic will try again but he will not succeed. Del Potro in straight sets.
Who do you think will win the match? Let us know in the comments below!