When Yesterday Bleeds Into Today. . .and Tomorrow?
LONDON--Apparently, Milos Raonic needs to become accustomed to tennis matches that last for more than one day. You know, like a cricket match. Or stomach flu.
it happened to Canada's No. 1 player on Tuesday when he was prevented by rain from dispatching Columbia's Santiago Giraldo until Wednesday, and it happened to him again on Thursday when his second round hammer match with Sam Querrey was stopped at dead even in the third set by an absence of necessary natural light and carried over into Friday.
This is, of course, the nature of Wimbledon, where John Isner and Nicolas Mahut can tell you matches sometimes take three days because it can be rainy and there's no lights and stuff like that. For Raonic, having his match with Querrey suspended overnight might turn out to be very, very good news, or then again, it might kill his chances of a dream date with Andy Murray next week.
First, the possible good news. Deadlocked at one set apiece with the third set tied 3-3, it was as good a time as any for Raonic to get a break and a chance to consult with coach Galo Blanco and recalibrate. Yes, he had 17 aces and a higher first serve percentage than the 6-foot-6 Querrey in a match that one American commentator described as a "rock fight" and was roughly akin to watch two men pound a stake into the ground with sledgehammers.
No, guile was not on the menu in this one. But Raonic won the first set tiebreak and then had two set points in the second, and so in the third set, or at least the first six games of it, it wasn't hard to get the feeling that Querrey, slightly more experienced at 24 years of age than his 21-year-old opponent, was feeling just a wee bit more comfortable in the situation while Raonic was still agonizing over what might have been. Querrey has played Isner in finals before. He knows what its like to trade ace-for-ace, winner-for-winner and treat extended rallies like they are for the weak.
So overnight, the Maple Leaf Missile gets to review and consider new options. Thursday was a weird day on all fronts, because he practiced at 11 a.m. figuring to be on court by 4ish and instead, because Mardy Fish refused to finish off British journeyman James Ward when he should have, didn't get to start trading bombs with Querrey until 7 p.m.
That'll leave an athlete feeling out of sorts. At least Roanic knows that the third set is on serve and will commence - barring rain - at 1 p.m. London time on Friday on the same court. He might have to wait for the weather, but not for other matches.
The bad news, however, is that lean and hard-serving Marin Cilic awaits the winner of the Raonic-Querrey match, and Cilic soared through his match on Thursday and will have Friday off before facing the victor of the "rock fight" on Saturday. If Raonic gets there, then, he'll have prepared and played five straight days, not the recipe for success here.
Statistically, Raonic and Querrey were close to even when they broke for the day on Thursday. If there was a notable difference, it was the 23 points Raonic had won on 31 visits to the net, part of his game that still needs development, and part of his game that could ultimately turn him from promising to devastating.
We'll see what a night's sleep did. Fitful nightmares or blissful dreams? Dreadful images of Querrey's howitzer serve or visions of piledriving the American into submission with his own forehand?
This one could go either way. London's Friday morning started with heavy clouds, wind and rain, so more surprises and delays are possible. Raonic-Querrey is on the only second round match in the men's draw unfinished, and the third round has to be completed tomorrow. Sunday is a day off, and Monday is the big day, the Round of 16 for both men and women.
So even though the policy is usually that a match must be completed on the court on which it started, it's worth wondering that if there are more rain delays today, might Raonic-Querrey be switched indoors to roof-covered Centre Court to get it done?
Still, a break in the action gave everyone time to reconsider where they are, where they want to go and how to get there.