In a battle of the big servers, Sam Querrey of the United States takes on a rival from north of the border, Canada’s Milos Raonic. Sam Querrey has enjoyed surely the best period of his career over the last 12 months, reaching the Wimbledon semifinal and the last eight in New York and has now broken new ground in Indian Wells. For Raonic that same period has been one of massive frustration due to injuries. But both now have a big chance to make the semis in the desert. Who will?
Querrey and Raonic have met four times so far in their careers and the head-to-head is locked at two wins apiece. Querrey got the first in 2012 in the second round at Wimbledon winning a tight match in four sets 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-4. He was more comfortable when they clashed again later that year in Bercy in the round of 16, winning 6-3 7-6. Raonic had his revenge in the San Jose semis a year later, winning 6-4 6-2. He also defeated Querrey in the American’s first Slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in 2016 in four sets.
Path to the quarterfinals
Querrey, seeded 18th, began in the second round after a bye against Mischa Zverev. The German net-rusher has endured a torrid start to the year and has just three wins to his name. Querrey added to his misery with a 6-4 7-5 victory that sent him into the round of 32. There he battled past Yuki Bhambri after dropping the first set, winning 6-7 6-4 6-4. He was more comfortable against 28th seed Feliciano Lopez who he broke once in each set to defeat 6-3 6-4.
Raonic, who also received a first round bye, won an all Canadian clash against the talented teen Felix Auger Aliassime in straight sets, defeating the 17-year-old qualifier 6-4 6-4. That set up a meeting with Joao Sousa who had upset fourth seeded Alexander Zverev in the previous round. A late break in Raonic’s favour sealed the first set, but the Portuguese fought back to level the match. But Raonic’s power told in the decider as he broke twice to advance. Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis withdrew with illness ahead of their last 16 match to leave Raonic in the last eight.
How do they match up?
This will in effect be a battle of serves. Whilst neither man is limited to his serve, both in particularly possess howitzer’s of forehands when given time, there is no denying that the serve is their major strength. It was Raonic’s serve that fired him into the Wimbledon final in 2016 and it was his serve that saw him undone when he couldn’t get it past Andy Murray’s returning skills. Similarly, it is Querrey’s serving that has provided the springboard for his major successes.
Of the two of them, Raonic is the superior server. Though he stands an inch shorter than the American he has the greater power, with him regularly being able to reach speeds of 140 mph with his first delivery. His kick serve is also a formidable shot, and with the thin air and gritty court surface in Indian Wells, that serve has been well-rewarded all week. The Canadian will need to serve well, however, as Querrey is certainly the better player off the ground.
Querrey moves surprisingly well for such a tall man, and his forehand and backhand are more versatile weapons than the Canadian’s. Both men would do well to get into the net as often as possible. There are unlikely to be too many long rallies at any point in this match, but control of the forecourt could still be crucial. Neither man has the sort of passing and defensive abilities of Nadal, Djokovic or Murray so attacking the net could be profitable indeed.
Neither man has had a sterling start to the season, although Querrey, who was a losing finalist at the New York Open, has had the better 2018 so far. He will also win this match. Raonic is still working his way back from an injury hit 2017 where he was not able to play much tennis at all. Whilst this week has been an encouraging one for him the power of Querrey will prove a step too far for him. The American to reach the semifinals in three sets.
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