It was the potential match up that jumped off the page when the draw for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells came out last week. After winning their opening matches on Sunday, Roger Federer and Milos Raonic are going to make the much-anticipated showdown happen on Tuesday night on Centre Court when the two meet in the third round.
Both player have won a pair of ATP titles in 2012 and are two of the in-form players so far this season. One is the fastest rising star in tennis with arguably the biggest serve in the game, the other is the greatest player of all time who possesses every shot in the book.
Although he has three Top 10 wins since last year and a match against Rafael Nadal, the tennis world has been waiting impatiently for Raonic to play against one of the ATP’s big four on a big stage. He’s finally going to get his chance. After a nervous showing against a gutsy Lleyton Hewiit on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open in January, this is an important match for Raonic to step up and make a statement, prove that he can compete with the top players when the spotlight is shining its brightest. It’s less about winning or losing and more about his level of performance. The 21-year-old Canadian appears ready to embrace the challenge.
“It’s going to be interesting. I think we’re both going to be trying to do the same thing to each other, which pretty much is dictate. He’s obviously probably the best guy to ever do that,” Raonic said following his second round win over Carlos Berlocq.“It’s going to be a great match for myself and I’ll try to make the most of it. I know priority number one is going to be to try to take care of my serve and build from there.”
Raonic speaks the truth about his serve. His biggest weapon will need to be firing on all cylinders. Federer will likely force him to move forward with some short slices and angles, so Raonic’s net play will also need to be up to par. If he can dictate points with his serve and signature inside out forehand, the Raonic has a chance to pull off the upset.
For his part, Federer is the hottest player on Tour right now and relishes the opportunity to face off against the promising young players.
“My focus is with your own serve, not to make any mistakes there. And then try your best on his serve. But that’s because he’s known for his big serve and his big sort of one‑two punch,” Federer commented in his post-match press conference on Sunday. “Against a guy like that you’re obviously going to try to make it as athletic as possible. I’m looking forward to that match. He’s a good player. Sometimes it can help and sometimes it cannot help to never have played a guy before.”
On paper, it is a mouth-watering confrontation of the future pitted against the present. Let’s hope that Federer vs. Raonic lives up to the immense expectations that have been placed on it.