Roger’s Cup 2013 – Finals – Milos Raonic vs. Rafael Nadal @ Uniprix Stadium – August 11, 2013

This was a day that many tennis fans in Canada had been waiting for.  A Canadian tennis player in the finals of a Masters 1000 tournament.  Milos Raonic had moved up to the 10th ranked player in the world courtesy of his run at the Roger’s Cup.  The nation was bursting from tennis pride.  He played into that by wearing a red shirt with a white maple leaf on it for the Finals.

All the talk before the game was how world number 4 Rafael Nadal would handle the huge serves of the 6’5” Canadian.  Raonic regularly serves his first serves at over 220 km/h.  What everyone failed to realize was that the biggest question concerning this match up would be what would Raonic do when Nadal returned the serve?  It was very soon apparent that constructing points and defence is what separates these two players and by a fairly wide margin.

Nadal won the toss and elected to receive.  After a big deep breath from Raonic he began the game with a strong serve.  We were underway. And while the game did not go as Raonic and most of those in attendance had hoped it was still a glorious day for Canadian tennis.

Going into the match I’m sure his coach was telling him to be aggressive, do not let Nadal control the middle of the court and to keep the points short.  As soon as Raonic got into rallies with Nadal it was pretty much the Spaniard who completely controlled the points.  The two have played 3 times before with Raonic never winning a set.

With two aces off big serves Raonic had a good start with an easy hold in the 1st game.  Nadal matched that quick start with an easy hold of his own for 1-1.  In the 2nd game Nadal had a break point opportunity and broke Raonic for 1-2.

Nadal was dialed in for the entire match and returned Raonic’s serves well.  He held easily for 3-1.  Right away in the 5th game he got another break chance that he converted.  It was a clinic so far for Nadal who held his own serve easily again for 5-1.  Nadal came in with idea of being very aggressive and carried through on that.  Every time there was a short ball played he made Raonic pay.

Raonic was visibly frustrated and struggling.  He had no answers for Nadal’s game.  Frequently he was seen to be looking at his box for some guidance.  He had an easy hold for 5-2, but Nadal was never worried on his own serve and won the 1st set 6-2 in 32 minutes.

Despite the fact that Raonic was sending bombs over the net on his serve over half of his 1st serves were being returned and well over 70% of his 2nd serves.  It really was not a weapon for him.  The 22-year-old is the youngest player in the Top 10 and he showed all his inexperience on the day.  Once Nadal returned his serve Raonic looked off balance and on his back foot.  There was an inability to construct points from the baseline which is suicide against one of the top players in the world.

The 2nd set was pretty much a carbon copy of the 1st with Nadal winning by the same 6-2 score.  A little wobble for Nadal came in the 4th game when he allowed Raonic 3 break points.  Nadal did right himself and managed to hold for a 3-1 lead.  He continued to beat up Raonic’s 2nd serve for some easy points.  It only took a total of 67 minutes for Nadal to win what was his 3rd Roger’s Cup.

Nadal totally dominated the afternoon on his way to a fairly simple 6-2, 6-2 victory for his 25th ATP World Masters 1000 title.  He was in complete control of all aspects of the match from beginning until the end and never allowed the crowed to be a factor for the Canadian.  The way the game unfolded was a clear reminder that there is a big gap in between the top 4 players in the world (Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, and Murray) and the rest of the players.

After watching the match back Raonic will see he has to get physically stronger and faster.  Also, he has to work on his backhand.  He was running around the ball to hit his forehand and protect his backhand, but the better players are going to punish a player who tries that too often.  Raonic has to be more consistent with his game after he serves.  Nothing to panic about yet and it was a great week for him on his home court.  He had the right attitude after the game telling the crowd that it was “the most important” moment of his career so far.  It was a learning experience and a necessary step in the young, talented player’s attempt to get to the top.

The U.S. Open is starting in two weeks and it is back to the drawing board for Raonic while Nadal has got to be very happy with his hard court game at this point.

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