So that’s day seven in the books. Join us again in not that long at all, for a belter of a day eight!
Djokovic says he’s felt better, and the last ball he hit before the match was the final ball of his previous match. But it’s a slam, and at this stage of his career that means everything - any other tournament, he probably wouldn’t be playing. Against Fritz in that last match, the biggest struggle he found was returning because of the reaction speed necessary, but he was ok today, saying the short points suited him and that he was solid at the big moments. He’s on very strong painkillers so doesn’t know the damage he’s done but does know that he’s now doing more damage, being an aggressive player who slides a lot. He’s not expecting to be asleep much before 4.30 and is just focused on his recovery.
Djokovic is just so good at playing the big points – actually strike that, at playing the big games. You knew he’d find a break at some point in that fourth set, and that he’d serve out. The matches get harder from here, but the draw isn’t bad for him – Zverev next, then Dimitrov or Karatsev, which it to say he only needs to be one of Tsitsipas, Nadal and Medvedev to bring it home. As Ryan Giggs would say, he’d’ve took it.
Novak Djokovic beats Milos Raonic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 6-4!
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 6-4 Raonic Brilliant from Raonic, taking command of the rally before finishing it with a deep backhand to the corner ... except Djokovic runs it down and sends a sensational forehand pass down the line, on the slide, performing the splits! That is rrrridiculous. But Raonic fights back to win the next point ... only for Djokovic to slide into another superb forehand that’s too good. Raonic then swipes a backhand wide, crying out in pain as Djokovic prepares for match point ... and serves wide to the forehand, too accurately for Raonic to return! He’s played really really well these last two sets and meets Zverev next.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 5-4 Raonic* Eesh! Raonic forces Djokovic to stretch with a big forehand to the corner ... then crashes a simple put-away volley into the net! And Djokovic being Djokovic, he then blocks back a gorgeous return that breaks the sideline before a succession of impossible returns sees Raonic net. Three break points, and are we close to the end? Well, a huge serve saves the the first ... and the second ... but not the third! After missing with his first delivery, Raonic nets a backhand, and after they’ve had a rest Djokovic will serve for the match!
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 4-4 Raonic A floaty cross-court backhand which drops wide hands Raonic 30-all, so Djokovic simply splatters down two nifty first serves to increase the pressure.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 3-4 Raonic* Or not! He turns it up to make 0-30 ... but Raonic sets up the next point with a big serve to clinch it with two big forehands, then clatters an ace out wide. A service winner follows, but a forehand into the net follows that, so we’re on deuce. If Djokovic can rustle up a break here we’re probably looking at the end and he creates an opportunity for advantage only to net a forehand and Raonic quickly cleans up.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 3-3 Raonic Raonic plays a really good point at 30-15, but you need to play so many great shots to get rid of Djokovic and eventually a forehand goes into the net. Shortly afterwards, another quick game is over, and I daresay we’re getting a breaker here (or a Djokovic break at the last).
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 2-3 Raonic* Raonic hammers down his 25th ace for 40-0 and quickly secures the love hold. It’s tricky for him because he doesn’t exactly have the hands to keep Djokovic moving and needs to keep the points short. But he’s unlikely to win without his opponent’s injury getting worse, and that’s hard to arrange without rallies.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 2-2 Raonic Hello! Two deep Raonic returns – Raoturns – get him 0-30, bot two decent serves get Djokovic 30-all. He’ll not be wanting a decider, though there’s probably some part of him that’d consider winning it injured a flex. In the meantime, four straight points give him the hold.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 1-2 Raonic* A 22nd ace gives Raonic 15-0 – the games are disappearing fast now – but at 15-all, when he thinks he’s sent Djokovic hurtling off to the forehand corner, he has to watch a sensational pass flying by. The champ has raised it in the last hour and quickly earns himself two break points ... but the first goes with an ace and the second with a needlessly shovelled forehand. A further ace, the third of the game, then seizes Raonic advantage, and Djokovic nets a backhand return to secure him a crucial hold.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 1-1 Raonic Raonic comes in to play an alright volley, Djokovic responding with a lob that drops long ... as if it matters. He holds to that 15, and has won 10 of the 12 points on his serve, a lack of pressure that allows him to attack Raonic’s.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 0-1 Raonic* An unforced error while we’re watching an ad gives Djokovic 0-15, so Raonic punishes down an ace. He managed three in the first game of the previous set but only one thereafter as Djokovic took over, but here it’s the first of for consecutive points.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 6-1 Raonic Djokovic is playing better than at any time in the match – just when he needs to, obviously – and though he loses the first point of the game, he quickly reels off four straight points to make it five straight games. Raonic, who’s yanked to the net unnecessarily as he tries to salvage things at 40-15 – Djokovic pats away his get - will be wondering what the point of it all is.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 5-1 Raonic* At 30-15, Djokovic again picks the T-serve and dismissively swipes a winner ... then another next point, from out wide! This is brilliant from an absolute freak of nature, and an early return has Raonic netting! That’s the double break, and Djokovic will now serve for the set!
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 4-1 Raonic A wrong-footer from Raonic gets Djokovic facing 0-30, and these are key moments now. Raonic needs to force the break-back because it’s hard to see him winning consecutive sets, but a service winner makes it 30-all and a tremendous second serve is enough for game point. Raonic, though, gives it everything he’s got – both players do – pannelled forehands earning deuce, before Djokovic closes out to cement the consolidation.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 3-1 Raonic* Raonic hasn’t lost the first point of a service game since 4-4 in the first set, but Djokovic takes the first two here. Raonic, though, makes 30-all ... but Djokovic picks him, waiting at the T to take control of the rally and earn a break point ... which another booming delivery rescues. But Djokovic knows this is his chance, forcing another opportunity, and this time a deep return forces a Raonic to go wide with his forehand. Djokovic is an absolute joke - not always a good joke, but nevertheless.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 2-1 Raonic Another easy hold for Djokovic, who bends and sits gingerly and changeover. I don’t see how he can get through matches with Zverev, then, say, Dimitrov and Nadal, if he’s still like this.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 1-1 Raonic* Brimful of aces on the centre line; Raonic serves three, and though Djokovic then spirits a return winner cross-court, another big serve clinches the game. Raonic is looking solid.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 1-0 Raonic Djokovic is such a monstrous competitor and he holds to 15, finishing off with an ace.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-6 Raonic* Raonic holds it down well, pushing Djokovic back at 0-15 to elicit the forehand error then punishing forehands until his man can’t take any more. A colossal serve then follows, raising two set points, and when Djokovic goes long on the backhand, that’s the first set Raonic has taken off him in a major! I’ve not a clue who’s going to take this now, which is to say we’re set for some extremely invigorating tackle.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 4-5 Raonic Whatever else you say about Djokovic, he has heart and guts, holding to 15. How’re your nerves, Milos old mate?
Djokovic 7-6(4) 3-5 Raonic* Raonic is finding aces much easier to come by now - three in this game – while Djokovic is walking half the time. But he still eases his way to deuce when a cross-court pass elicits a netted volley, and it’d sting hard if he found a way to lose his break in these circumstances. So he finds a service winner and an ace to go a game away from levelling the match.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 3-4 Raonic Djokovic is starting to feel this, gurning and grimacing at the end of points. It’s mad that he can compete with whatever he’s got – a pulled stomach muscle or similar – and he holds to 15, serve-volleying the final point to bespeak a man trying to shorten points if he possibly can. If Raonic can keep him out there, he’s got a great chance now.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 2-4 Raonic* That timeout worked very well for Raonic, who’s looking strong all of a sudden. Two aces in the game make it three in a row, consolidating the break.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 2-3 Raonic Still no breaks in the match and have a look! A great return from Raonic opens the court for a clean-up forehand and 15-30, then Djokovic leans into a double, his posture as he nets the second serve intimating injury. A well-placed second serve saves the first break point ... but Raonic doesn’t let him off the hook, two well-directed forehands giving him the advantage! We got ourselves a ball-game!
Djokovic 7-6(4) 2-2 Raonic* Raonic has a medical timeout for a foot situation, but doesn’t look too bad and is quickly at the net putting away a volley. A double follows, his second of the match, but another decent volley, this time as Djokovic performs the splits, gives him 30-15. He’s looking alright out there, and quickly closes out the game.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 2-1 Raonic Raonic just doesn’t have the hands to make an impression on Djokovic’s serve, even though it’s slightly underpowered today. But as I type that, he opens an angle to run around his forehand and belt a winner cross-court for 40-30, then Djokovic sends a backhand wide. And have a look! A fine return, right onto the line, has Djokovic netting; that’s Raonic’s first break-point, which the Serb greets with some shouting, then does likewise when a service winner saves it. He then needs two goes at advantage to secure it, but gets there in the end just as we and they knew he would.
Djokovic 7-6(4) 1-1 Raonic* On which point, it’s really hard to pick a winner of this competition. Whatever it is with Djokovic, he’s not 100 percent fit, and to get through four matches in that circumstance is a lot to ask. But he’s moving alright when Raonic invites him to the net, finding a terrific backhand across the face of it to showcase hands his opponent just doesn’t have. That gives him 30-all, and a forehand into the corner forces Raonic to miss going down the line; break point; heartbreak point; but Raonic saves it well, gets himself advantage with a serve/forehand combo, then nails an ace down the middle. Well played him.
*Djokovic 7-6(4) 1-0 Raonic Djokovic’s ability to win that set despite his discomfort will not fill Raonic with confidence or pleasure. I’m not sure he’ll be able to beat Medvedev, Tsitsipas or Nadal if he’s still crook, but you never know how he’s really feeling, and he opens set two with a hold to 30.