In what is perhaps the pick of the first round singles action on Monday in Toronto, 10th seed David Goffin takes on former-finalist and Canadian #2 Milos Raonic on Centre Court. Goffin has never enjoyed huge success in Canada, having never been beyond the third round in either Toronto or Montreal. Raonic, in contrast, has thrived on the support of his home crowd and reached his first Masters 1000 final in Montreal five years ago. But who will win this one?
Goffin and Raonic have met five times so far, with four of those meetings coming at Tour-level. Their first, and the exception, was a clash in the first round of qualifying in Melbourne in 2011 which Raonic won when Goffin retired after losing the first set 2-6. Goffin then beat Raonic in 2014 in the Basel quarterfinals 6-7 6-3 6-4. Raonic then scored back-to-back wins in 2016 in Indian Wells in the semifinals before a comeback win at Wimbledon. Then in Madrid last year, Goffin won 6-2 6-4.
Last time out
Raonic has been on the comeback trail after an injury hit 2017. A run to the semifinals in Indian Wells and the quarters in Miami were a mark of progress and although his clay court season proved disappointing as his body failed him again, he played well on the grass. He made the final in Stuttgart before reaching his third straight Wimbledon quarterfinal although he may have been slightly disappointed by his 7-6 6-7 4-6 3-6 loss to John Isner there.
Since sustaining a freak eye injury in his Rotterdam semifinal clash with Grigor Dimitrov, Goffin has struggled to find his best form. The Belgian’s clay court season was broadly disappointing, with his best performances coming in Barcelona where he reached the semifinals and in Rome where he was a quarterfinalist. He then lost both his grass court matches before beginning his hard court campaign with a run to the quarterfinals in Washington (lost to Tsitsipas).
How do they match up?
Two more different players would be hard to find. Goffin, at his best, is the model of baseline consistency with his impressive defensive skills and court coverage allowing him to keep the ball in play when confronted with all but the most determined offence. He is not, however, merely a ‘pusher’. He has the confidence and ability to step into the court and go after his shots and is particularly adept at exploiting angles to his advantage.
Raonic’s movement compares most unfavourably with Goffin’s and he certainly does not have the ability to batten down the hatches and just make balls. But what he does have, and plenty of it, is power. It is most apparent when he steps to the line with the Canadian having long been one of the sport’s biggest servers. Indeed, at Wimbledon he struck the fastest serve at 147 mph and came third in the ace race with 149. His forehand is also potent, but his backhand can be vulnerable.
Goffin may be the higher-ranked man, but the vocal support of the Canadian crowd has done much to level the playing field for their sportsmen and women in recent years, as the runs of Vasek Pospisil, Denis Shapovalov and Raonic himself illustrate. And Raonic’s ranking of #30 is not an entirely accurate reflection of a man once ranked as high as 3rd in the world. In contrast, Goffin’s level has failed to match, let alone exceed, his ranking of late. Raonic in straight sets.