Novak Djokovic defeated Milos Raonic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena in the fourth round of the 2021 Australian Open. He will face sixth seed Alexander Zverev–who beat Dusan Lajovic in the fourth round–in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Djokovic leads his head-to-head with the German 5-2 – and won the pair’s meeting at the ATP Cup earlier this month in three tight sets. The Serbian was also victorious in the only previous Grand Slam encounter between the two – in the quarterfinals of the 2018 French Open.
Novak Djokovic vs Milos Raonic
The opening set went to a tiebreak after no breaks of serve, with Raonic saving break points at 3-3 and 4-4. The Canadian sent an overhead long to hand Djokovic an instant mini-break in the tiebreak. Djokovic carried the momentum and closed out the tiebreak 7-4 to win the first set.
Both players saved a break point early in the second set, before Raonic broke for 3-2 with a forehand winner after a slightly mishit short backhand proved awkward for Djokovic to handle. The Canadian served well as he closed out the set 6-4 to level the match.
The Serbian responded strongly in the third set and broke for 3-1 when Raonic mishit a forehand wide. Djokovic then crucially held from 0-30 down in the next game–hitting an unreturnable forehand on the baseline at 0-30, and a strong, unreturnable second serve out wide at 30-30. The World #1 broke for 5-1 after playing an incredible return game, hitting stunning consecutive forehand return winners from 15-30. Djokovic then held to win the set 6-1.
In the fourth set, the Canadian saved two break points to hold for 2-1, before Djokovic held from 0-30 in the following game. Raonic then held from 0-30 for 4-3, but he succumbed when serving at 4-4. The world #14 started the game by netting a forehand drive volley and quickly slipped to 0-40. Djokovic converted the third break point when Raonic netted a backhand to end a nine-shot rally. The Serbian served out the set comfortably to take it 6-4, and complete a four-set victory.
High Quality Despite Injuries
There were doubts over Djokovic’s physical condition heading into the encounter after he suffered an abdominal injury during the third set of his five-set third round win against Taylor Fritz. There was even concern he may not take the court after he revealed the issue may have been a muscle tear.
The Serbian was not at his absolute peak, and showed signs of slight discomfort at times by grimacing and stretching. Despite this, he produced a high level of overall performance. He served well–hitting 10 aces, winning 78% of points on his first serve, and 59% on his second serve. Djokovic was strong from the baseline and hit 41 winners to just 25 unforced errors. His forehand, as well as moving and stretching to his right, were the biggest issues against Fritz. In this match, the Serbian’s forehand and movement looked good, which is particularly promising.
Raonic also had to contend with an injury – receiving heavy taping on his ankle early in the second set. While he played well directly after that, his movement did seem slightly hampered at times during the third and fourth sets. The Canadian did, though, produce a high-quality display as well. Raonic served 26 aces, won 76% of his first serve points, and hit an impressive 50 winners to 35 unforced errors.
The head-to-head is now an incredible 12-0 to Djokovic, and this match reiterated why it is so lopsided. The Serbian, arguably the greatest returner of all-time, is able to neutralize Raonic’s huge serve like no other opponent. He generated 11 break points in the match and converted three–taking particular advantage by winning 52% of the points on Raonic’s second serve.
On top of this, Raonic struggles to create opportunities to break Djokovic. The World #1 was able to limit the Canadian to having just three break points of his own, two of which were saved.
The Serbian’s greater stability in the pressure moments is also significant, as even when Raonic holds serve consistently, he often has to play a tiebreak. Novak Djokovic has now won eight of the nine tiebreaks the pair have contested–and the one in the first set of this match was pivotal.
Main Photo from Getty.