Milos Raonic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will renew hostilities in a blockbuster round of sixteen clash at the Mutua Madrid Open on Wednesday. With a spot in the quarterfinals on the line, the world number seven will look to reach his second straight Masters 1000 quarterfinal, while the world number ten will look to defend his last big chunk of points before October by returning to the last eight in the Spanish capital.
The match will be the last on Aranxta Sanchez Vicario court tomorrow, stretching into the Spanish night (mid-afternoon EST).
How they got here
Tsonga started his campaign on Wednesday with a difficult win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas in three tight sets. The Frenchman took the opener in a tight tiebreak, before being broken late in the second to be forced to a deciding set. In the end, the Frenchman held on for the 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4 victory. He will have to rest up and be ready to go again tomorrow. He had received a bye in the first round.
Raonic has had a day to rest, but earned it after playing two matches in the first two days. The Canadians big serve has been at it’s best so far, as he has yet to be broken in two matches. It helped him defeat Thomaz Bellucci in straight sets in the opening round, but he had a tougher time with Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second round. The Canadian was once again unbroken, but dropped the second set in a tiebreak, although he dominated the deciding set.
Tsonga leads their head to head 2-1, although things are always close when these two men meet. Their first match is the longest match in terms of games in a best-of-three set match ever, when Tsonga topped Raonic 25-23 in the third set at the 2012 Olympics in London. However, Raonic won their most recent meeting, which was also their lone clay court meeting, at the Rome Masters in 2014 in straight sets.
Which serve will win?
Both Raonic and Tsonga have powerful serves that they rely on to win matches. Raonic’s is obviously the more famous and the more respected serve, but Tsonga also loves to blast opponents of the court with his own bomb, which often leads to his good results on fast courts. Both men will likely be firing on all cylinders in this match and breaks will be few and far between. It is more than likely that which ever man can keep up the higher level on their own serve for longer will emerge victorious.
Can Tsonga solve Raonic?
Milos Raonic goes into most matches with a specific game plan: hit the ball really hard. This will be the case against Tsonga too. It will be up to the Frenchman to find a way to counter the Canadian’s power. He is probably the better mover of the two and is capable of hitting a big ball of his own. However, if he is stuck playing defence under the Raonic onslaught, it will be hard for him to outwork the Canadian in the rallies.
The real key for Tsonga will be taming the Raonic serve. The crafty Dolgopolov and the clay court specialist Bellucci did not even come close, and Raonic only had three serves returned in the final set of his last match. Before Tsonga worries about winning the match, he needs to find ways to win points on his opponent’s serve.
Prediction: Raonic in three sets
Make that three tight sets. Tsonga should be hot after his semifinal run in Monte Carlo, but he was not all that convincing against Ramos-Vinolas in the last round and Raonic has been fairly strong, especially on serve, so far this tournament. Since their last meeting, which Raonic won on clay, the Canadian has become a more consistent baseline player, which means it will be tougher for Tsonga to wear him down. Moreover, the court in Madrid is quite quick, which works more to Raonic’s advantage (and remember, he beat Tsonga on a slow clay court in Rome). It will be close, the Canadian has the slight edge.