Future of Canadian tennis looking bright but Raonic is leading light
The organisers of the Montreal Masters couldn’t have ordered a better box office last-four bill, as home-grown talents Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil face off in one semi-final and multiple-major winners Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal clash in the other.
However, the match with the most value has to be the all-Canadian clash and that is what is under the spotlight below.
Milos Raonic v Vasek Pospisil – Raonic to win @ 4/9
Canadian heart-throbs Raonic and Pospisil have delivered the semi-final that domestic fans could only have dreamt about, however, for the latter his run to his first Masters series semi-final looks set to end here.
The world number 71 will have surprised many with his passage through to this stage but anyone who had cared to follow his progress over the last month could have predicted a bold show. The 23-year-old reached the semi-finals in Bogota towards the end of July and continued the momentum onto the less heralded Vancouver challenger where he only lost one set en route to the title.
However, despite those recent performances his presence this late on in one of the most sought-after events on the tour is still unexpected. An opening round win against recent Atlanta winner and Washington finalist John Isner set the ball rolling but even after that result was backed up by an authoritative straight sets defeat of the always tricky Radek Stepanek, he was dismissed at 4/1 for his fourth round clash against Tomas Berdych.
In front of a home crowd Pospisil showed off a lot of attributes in recovering from losing a break-of-serve lead in the decider to take the tie-break against the world number six and his fantasy week continued when his quarter-final opponent Nikolay Davydenko retired when 3-0 behind in the first.
His countryman Raonic has had no easier task in making it to the business end, defeating the useful Jeremy Chardy in his opener before dismantling an in-from Mikhail Youzhny next up.
The highlight of his route though was undoubtedly a 2-0 win against last week’s Washington winner Juan Martin Del Potro, a result that although contained elements of good fortune – Raonic clearly touched the net with his foot when winning a point to set-up a break point that he then took to make it 5-4 in the second set – was characterised more by a steady stream of winners and awesome serving – his go to weapon that had deserted him during a dismal grass court campaign.
Despite having to call the trainer in that match complaining that he could not feel his arm he showed few ill-effects against Andy Murray’s conqueror Ernest Gulbis, having to show plenty of resilience in coming through 6-4 in the third.
Raonic and Pospisil have predictably played each other before and although in their four meetings it is the lower-ranked Canadian that has had the better of it winning three, the relevance of those meetings to this clash is minimal. All of their encounters were back in 2010 or before and in the three years since their careers have gone in different directions.
Whereas Pospisil failed to build on his early promise Raonic has cemented himself inside the world’s top-20 and that gulf should be exposed tonight.
Raonic has really found his range after a difficult couple of months and the man who almost single-handedly guided Canada to their first Davis Cup semi-final this year after two singles wins against Italy looks set to once again impress on his country’s biggest stage.
At 4/9 Raonic looks a solid option as although there is every chance that the nation’s number one could progress to his first Masters 1000 final in the minimum distance, the nature of his and Pospisil’s big-serving games brings tie-breaks very much into the equation and that is where the form book can have the least impact.
The world number 13 looks set for a duel with either Nadal or Djokovic and if impressing here will feel he has every chance to go all the way.
All odds and markets accurate as of publication’s time and date