Milos Raonic was my pre-tournament EW pick so it goes without saying I’ll be unpatriotically picking the Canadian to beat Andy Murray in their Australian semi-final tomorrow.
Raonic goes into this riding a 9-0 record in 2016 after winning the Brisbane tune-up, and he looks a changed man from the often lumbering figure we’ve seen in recent years.
The 13th seed’s movement and volleying appears to have gone up several gears and, allied to his at-times unplayable serve, the challenge facing 7/20 favourite Murray is clear.
That said, if anyone can diffuse the 23/10 chance’s cannon-like delivery, it’s Murray, who is just behind Novak Djokovic in terms of first serve return points won at this event, having played a match less.
The key to Murray’s chances here probably lie with his own delivery, and with Raonic able to take huge swipes at the Scot’s still vulnerable – although slightly improved - second serve, it’s vital Murray sends down a high percentage of first tee-offs, which hasn’t always been the case here so far.
One thing that could work in Murray’s favour is if Raonic comes forward too much; despite his improvement at net, the world No.2 loves a target and picked off the Canadian time again with laser-like passing shots at their only previous Grand Slam meeting, a straight-sets win in New York more than three years ago.
Murray has also won their past two meetings to leave the pair locked at 3-3 in the career series, but Raonic looks a different beast now and this could go down to the wire.
Four or five sets looks certain and it may well pay to take a chance in the ‘overs’ market in terms of games – over 48.5 in the match is 47/20.
With all sets probably very tight, we could be in for a marathon. Djokovic will be rubbing his hands.