A Final to savour
Originally published on 19/06/16 00:00
Much of the media interest surrounding today’s Aegon Championships final will focus on the two players’ entourages, but Andy Murray insists that the courtside presence of Ivan Lendl, his coach, and of John McEnroe, who is working with Milos Raonic, will be irrelevant.
“I’m playing Milos, I’m not playing John,” Murray said as he looked ahead to his attempt to become the first player to win the historic Queen’s Club title five times. “Ivan is not on my side of the court.”
He added: “The only people that are there on the court are me and Milos. It’s up to us how we perform when we’re out there. [Ivan and John] can’t serve for us at an important moment and they can’t hit a return for us on break point. That comes down to the player.”
Raonic agreed. “It’s irrelevant to what my objective will be,” the Canadian said. “I don’t think it's going to sway anything the way I go about things or the way Andy goes about things.”
Although the presence of Lendl and McEnroe will contribute to a dream final for tournament organisers, who have had the most challenging of weeks because of the weather, the confrontation of Murray and Raonic is a fascinating enough prospect in itself.
Murray will have his eyes on a place in history – he currently shares the record for the most Queen’s Club titles with seven other players – while Raonic will see this as a chance to underline his grass-court credentials.
The world No 9, who will be playing in his first grass-court final after beating Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-finals, has always had a serve that can be a major weapon on grass, but under McEnroe’s guidance he is also becoming a more effective volleyer.
“It’s enjoyable knowing I can do different things in different situations and get myself out of trouble in different ways,” Raonic said. “To know I can adjust depending on who I’m playing, it’s nice to have that in my armour.”
This will be the first meeting between Raonic and Murray on grass. “He’s obviously played extremely well on the hard courts so far in his career,” Murray said. “There’s no question he can play well on grass.”
Having reached the Wimbledon semi-finals two years ago, Raonic will head for the All England Club next week full of confidence, whatever the outcome of his meeting with an opponent for whom grass-court tennis comes almost as second nature.
Murray has also been delighted with his work in the build-up to Wimbledon, especially after having little time to practise on grass following his run to the French Open final.
“To guarantee myself five matches again here is great, after quite a limited preparation,” Murray said after his 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 semi-final victory over Marin Cilic. “Again this event has worked out extremely well for me in terms of preparing and getting enough matches in for Wimbledon.”
Murray said that it would mean a lot to him to become the first player ever to win the title five times. “A lot of great players have played here over the years,” he said. “Winning any tournament is hard, but this one in particular has always got a very strong field. It’s a tough event to win.”
Raonic won three of his first five matches against Murray, but the Scot has won their last four meetings. Raonic won only two games in their most recent encounter on clay in Monte Carlo two months ago, but was two sets to one up in their semi-final meeting at the Australian Open in January when his chance of reaching his first Grand Slam final slipped away suffering a groin injury.
Although both players bring plenty more to the party, the serve is likely to play a big part in the match. The key could well be the outcome between Raonic’s huge serve and Murray’s electrifying returns. Raonic has won all 47 of his service games this week and faced only seven break points.
Raonic will also have to find a way to break through Murray’s serve, which has been in good shape all week. The world No 2 served particularly well in the closing stages against Cilic. In the final set Murray won 17 out of 17 points on first serve and dropped only two points on his second serve. It promises to be quite a confrontation.