Tiebreaks have always been a strength of Milos Raonic. In his second-round clash with John Millman at Wimbledon, they were the key to his victory. The 2016 runner-up at the All-England club reached the third round for the fifth straight year, advancing on Wednesday after three 7-4 tiebreaks.
Service breaks were almost non-existent as the Australian journeyman matched one of tennis’ best servers for the better part of 36 service games. But when the chips were on the table in the tiebreaks, Millman simply could not hang with the powerful Canadian who won all the breakers to claim the victory.
Serving battle won by Raonic
Milos Raonic’s serve is deadly on any surface, but it is another monster on grass. The Canadian, who has reached three of the last four quarterfinals at the All-England Club, was dialed in from the start, pounding three aces in the opening game of the match. Through his first three service games, more than 50 percent of Raonic’s points were won on aces (seven of twelve).
However, Millman proved to be no slouch on serve either. While not pounding any aces, the Aussie surrendered no ground with his own serve, drawing a ton of errors on his own delivery. Once rallies got beyond the serve, the advantage started to edge towards the more consistent Millman.
The Aussie had the only real look on return in the set when he took a 15-30 lead on Raonic’s serve at 4-all. But as it often does, the Canadian’s serve would bail him out as three straight monster serves, including the fastest serve of the tournament so far at 144 MPH, handed the game to the 13th seed.
There were no break points, or even deuces, in the opening set, meaning a tiebreak was needed to decide it. Raonic struck early, driving a deep return at 1-1 that drew an error for a minibreak lead. Millman’s baseline consistency allowed him to reclaim the minibreak and level at 4-4, only for the Canadian to unleash a series of massive forehands to take a 6-4 lead. On his first set point, another deep return from Raonic drew another error, handing the 13th seed the opening set.
Both men were brilliant on serve in the opening, each winning more than 90 percent of their first serve points. Raonic had 15 aces.
Millman fightback falls short
In Raonic’s first round match, the Canadian had to battle through a tight first set but won it, breaking the will of his opponent Liam Broady and routing him over the next two. Millman was not about to go the same way as he upped the pressure on Raonic at the start of the second, pushing one of the tour’s best servers to deuce for the first time in the match in his opening service game.
Raonic survived that game without facing a break point and normalcy soon resumed on serve. Both men held fairly easily until 3-all when Millman finally blinked. The Aussie double faulted to open the game and followed it up with a pair of unforced errors to give his opponent a triple break point opening. Raonic only needed one, winning a long rally with a well-timed net charge to claim the first break of the match.
Despite some shaky moments, the 13th seed was generally on cruising behind his big serve and an increasingly efficient serve-and-volley game. However, up 5-4, 30-love on his own serve, the Canadian slipped up. Millman would battle back to level at 30-all and then set up a break point when Raonic netted a volley. On break point, the Aussie blocked a serve back that landed short, only for the Canadian to slice the easy backhand wide to level the set at 5-5.
Another tiebreak was needed to decide the set. The pair exchanged minibreaks on the first two points of the breaker before Raonic took a decisive lead at 5-3 when Millman sent a backhand long. The 13th seed would ride his serve the rest of the way, wrapping up another 7-4 tiebreak when Millman netted his passing shot on the first set point.
Raonic’s persistence pays off in tiebreak
Just like the start of the second set, Millman did not look discouraged despite having dropped the previous set, putting pressure on his opponent early. At 1-1 on Raonic’s serve, the Aussie battled to deuce and got a break point opportunity when Raonic sent a forehand long at deuce. However, the big Canadian’s net game came to the rescue as a strong approach drew an error to save the break point. At another deuce in that same game, Raonic struck a 147 MPH serve, the fastest serve of the tournament thus far and only one MPH off the all-time Wimbledon record.
After defending his own serve, the 2016 runner-up turned his attention to his opponent’s. At 2-1, Millman blew a 40-love lead and netted a forehand at deuce to give Raonic a break point, but the Canadian could not handle the serve. In the following game, Raonic twice stood at break point but could not handle the heat from Millman.
Once again, the pair went the distance. This time in the tiebreak, Raonic would take an early lead and never looked back. On the very first point, he struck a 146 MPH serve that knocked Millman down. On the next point, the Canadian took the minibreak lead when his opponent sent a forehand long. A second minibreak would help Raonic take a 6-2 lead. He missed his first two match points but put away a smash on the third to wrap up the victory.
By the numbers
It was another strong serving performance from the Canadian, who won 85 percent of his first serve points and struck 34 aces. Despite some nervous moments, Raonic managed to limit his opponent to just two break points in the match, one of which he saved.
Millman was solid on his own serve too, winning 73 percent of his first serve points, and did a good job of attacking his opponent’s second serve, limiting Raonic to just 54 percent of those points.
Raonic will meet Austrian Dennis Novak in the third round, who upset 17th seed Lucas Pouille in the second round.