Roger Federer took a first look at Milos Raonic, the young Canadian with the mighty serve, and was impressed. Federer extended his winning streak, holding off Raonic with a 6-7, 6-2, 6-4 victory in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open. But after Raonic had battled through the first-set tie-break, there was still much work for the Swiss to do.
It didn’t take long for Federer to realize the extent of this 21-year-old’s talents.
“I got the answer early on that he was very good and it’s kind of what I expected,” he said with a smile. “You hope maybe he’s not that good! So you’re in a tough spot all of a sudden, which I was at the end of the first set. But finally being on court with him for 40 minutes I guess gave me a chance to see how the serve works, and what is his favorite serve, what is his pattern. I was getting to the ball often in the beginning but just not making the plays. That was hurting me early on. So the longer I stayed out there the better I started feeling and, as his serve dropped off a bit, it gave me more opportunities.”
Raonic admitted to being a little nervous in the first game, but he swung quickly into his service rhythm and throughout most of the first set Federer struggled to return it. And it was not just the virtually unhittable first serves that were the problem. Raonic, starting to lose the rhythm that would cost him dearly as the match continued, managed only one first serve in the breaker but Federer still could not make any inroads on the Canadian serve.
Then suddenly the former world No. 1 broke in the opening game of the second set, and the whole match changed. Raonic had played Rafael Nadal twice – his only other meetings against the world’s top four – and said that, although he lost both times to the Spaniard, that he felt he had a greater chance of staying in the match against Rafa than Federer.
“Federer has the ability to just take the match away from you,” he said. “He hits the ball like the other guys, but he has this ability to switch it and really just take you out of the court and put you on the back foot. He can do it a lot quicker, and he can do it off a lot tougher shots than the other guys.”
In a battle between two former champions under the lights, it was the 2008 winner here, Ana Ivanovic, who pulled the surprise by outhitting the defending champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-2. Ivanovic had last beaten the Dane at Roland Garros four years ago and had lost in straight sets in their two previous meetings. But the Serb, unhindered by heavy wrapping on her thigh, went for her shots right from the start and hit the ball too hard and too accurately for Wozniacki, whose normally tight defense was torn to shreds.