In a tale of two matches, 13th seed Milos Raonic used an overnight stoppage due to poor light conditions to refocus and put away the pesky Dennis Novak in four sets to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon for the fourth time in his career. The pair played nearly three sets before the match was paused due to darkness on Friday night, completing the match on Saturday.
On Friday, it was Novak pushing an inconsistent Raonic around the court, frustrating the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up. The pair split the first two sets and were on serve in the third when darkness forced them off court. The delay seemed to allow the Canadian to refocus as he was dominant after play resumed on Saturday, winning seven of the last nine games to claim victory 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Raonic keeps battling back
The match was originally scheduled to be played on court one but was moved out to court 12 due to time and light concerns that made completing the match in one day unlikely. Raonic seemed determined to get off the court as quickly as possible as he erased a 40-15 deficit on Novak’s serve twice held break points at 40-AD. However, the Austrian was up to the challenge, saving both and holding serve.
In the fourth game, the Canadian threw in one of the sloppy games he can be guilty of, as he committed a series of errors to let Novak back to deuce. A strong net attack from the Austrian set up a break point where Raonic sent his backhand into the net to surrender the early break. He nearly got it right back when he took a love-30 lead in the next game, but Novak won four straight points to consolidate for 4-1.
In his next service game, Novak again fell behind 0-30 and this time he sent a forehand down the line just wide to set up a break point. He would then send his backhand into the net to give Raonic the break back. The Canadian would then hold to love to level the set at 4-all.
A tiebreak was needed to decide the set, the fourth in a row for Raonic. Just like the set itself, Novak took an early lead when Raonic netted a forehand to put the Austrian up a minibreak at 2-1. He would hold that lead until 5-3 when a massive return from Raonic drew an error to take the minibreak back.
The Canadian crushed back-to-back unreturnable serves to give himself a set point when Novak sent a backhand long to drop the tiebreak and the opener. Raonic won 90 percent of his first serve points in the opening set, with 19 of his serves not being returned.
Novak hangs on
Raonic had a chance to take control of the match early in the second set. In Novak’s first service game, the Canadian had a floater of a return drop in to push a game to deuce. Unfortunately, he could not repeat the magic as he missed his next two returns, allowing Novak to hold.
That would prove costly as in the next game, the 13th seed fell behind 0-30 and double-faulted to give his opponent a triple break point opportunity. He saved the first two with aces but missed a routine forehand volley during a serve-and-volley attempt to hand yet another early break to Novak.
The Austrian found himself in the same position as he had been in the opening set up the early break. This time, there was no repeat of the opener as Novak defended his serve well for the remainder of the set. He gave Raonic no chances to reclaim the break and calmly served out the set at 5-4 to level the match at a set apiece.
Delay can’t stop Canadian
Once again, Raonic struggled on his own serve in the early games. In the very first game of the set, the Canadian blew a 30-love lead, double-faulting to go down 30-40. However, he was able to save the break point with an inside-out forehand winner.
After dodging the early bullet, the 13th seed started to put some pressure on his opponent’s serve. At 3-2, Raonic had a massive opportunity when Novak netted a forehand to go down 15-40. But the Canadian could not get the job done, missing his return on the first before the Austrian saved the second with a smash. Throughout the set Raonic would score points on the Austrian’s serve but could not find a break.
After Raonic held for 6-5, the match referee gave the men an option to play one more game. Raonic was willing, but Novak said he could no longer see, so the match was suspended due to darkness at 8:57 PM local time, to be completed on Saturday.
If Novak thought the delay would work to his advantage, he was sorely mistaken. In the first game after play resumed on Saturday, with the Austrian serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Raonic came out with purpose. Novak took a 40-15 lead, only for the 13th seed to strike back-to-back return winners to push the game back to deuce. Another deep return drew an error to bring up a break/set point, where Raonic crushed a forehand winner to wrap up the set only one game into the restart.
Raonic races to victory
After a less than stellar first two sets and eleven games, Raonic was a different man on Saturday. Showing the form that saw him reach the final two years ago, the Canadian kept his foot on the gas to start the fourth set. He was hitting huge and attacking the net and found himself up 15-40 in Novak’s first service game. However, after returning brilliantly in the final game of the third set, Raonic failed to put a return in play on either break point and Novak held.
The 13th seed was not discouraged. In his next return game, he took a quick 0-30 lead and got another double break point opening when Novak netted a backhand. The Austrian saved the first with a beautiful backhand passing shot winner up the line but proceeded to push a backhand wide on the second to give Raonic the break.
With the way the Canadian was serving, it looked highly unlikely that Novak would find a way back into the set. Raonic was on form, cracking his serve and following it into the net effectively. There were no openings for the Austrian, who proceeded to run into trouble serving to stay in the match at 2-5. He failed to put a game away, letting Raonic back to deuce where the Canadian set up a match point with a smash. Novak would send a final backhand into the net to send Raonic into the last sixteen.
By the numbers
Despite breaking serve twice, Novak had no answer for the Canadian’s monster serve, especially in the third and fourth sets. Raonic pounded 28 aces and won 87 percent of his first serve points, only losing ten out of 76 overall. The Austrian also had a bit of trouble with his own serve, only winning 50 percent of his second serve points. Novak was broken four times on eleven opportunities.
Raonic’s classic grass court net assault was on full display as the Canadian moved into the net 55 times in the match. He won 38 percent of those points. His net strategy was particularly prevalent and effective in the fourth set.
Raonic will meet 103rd ranked American Mackenzie McDonald, who has yet to meet a seeded player in his surprise run, for a place in the quarterfinals.