Category Archives: Milos Raonic

Raonic, del Potro, and the Importance of One Point

In last night’s Coupe Rogers match between Milos Raonic and Juan Martin del Potro, one point stands out from the rest.

Raonic won the first set, then Delpo broke early in the second.  With del Potro serving at 4-3, Raonic earned a break point with a winner at the net.  Replays clearly show that he touched the net.  Had the chair umpire seen it in real time, Delpo would have been awarded the point.

The Argentine never recovered, losing the next nine points and the match.

The net touch, and the point Milos didn’t deserve, was clearly a turning point in the match.  But how important was it, really?

If we assume that the two men were equal and that both players win 75% of service points (not true in Delpo’s case yesterday, but reasonable for two big servers on hard courts), here is a summary of Raonic’s probability of winning at various stages of the match:

  • After winning the first set: 75.0%
  • With Delpo serving 4-3, 00-00: 52.4%
  • With Delpo serving 4-3, 40-40: 53.9%
  • After winning the “touch” point: 58.9%
  • If Delpo had won that point: 51.8%
  • After winning the “touch” game: 75.0%
  • After holding serve for 5-4: 76.3%

The controversial point was, clearly, very important.  The difference between winning it and losing it was 7%, a magnitude that doesn’t happen very often in a tennis match, especially outside of tiebreaks.

But the real story here is the next point.  Remember that under normal circumstances, del Potro is a huge server and Raonic does not have a strong return of serve.  (I say “normal circumstances” because somehow, Raonic won 50% of return points in this match.)

If a server is winning 75% of points on his own racquet, his probability of winning a game from break point down is still 67.5%.  There’s a 25% chance he’ll lose the game on the next point, of course, but a 75% chance he’ll get back to deuce, where his serve gives him a 90% chance of winning the game.

The touch point increased Raonic’s chances of winning from 53.9% to 58.9%.  The next point upped his odds from 58.9% to 75.0%.  Which one do you think was more important?

Another way of looking at this to consider what would’ve happened had there been no video replay, and no chance of del Potro spotting the touch and arguing with the umpire about it.  Normal Delpo would’ve stepped back to the line and hit a service winner.  Five minutes later he would’ve held serve again and the two men would’ve played a third set.

It’s easy to look back at this match and conclude that the net touch was the difference in the match.  But no: It was the reaction to the touch–the controversy itself–that had a much greater impact.

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Filed under Juan Martin Del Potro, Milos Raonic, Win probability

Milos Raonic’s (Almost) Unprecedented Three-peat

Last week, Milos Raonic won the SAP Open in San Jose without dropping a set.  Juts like he did last year … and the year before.  In fact, Raonic has won every set he has ever played at this event.

That’s not just impressive, it’s only the second time in ATP history that anyone has pulled off such a feat.

Simply winning an event three times in a row is not easy task, of course, even dropping plenty of sets along the way.  Raonic was only the 27th player in ATP history to do that, though of course many of his precursors strung together streaks of more than three years, and many three-peated at more than one event.  Just last month, David Ferrer made news by going back-to-back-to-back on hard courts in Auckland, having previously three-peated on clay in Acapulco.  (Raonic won’t be joining that club anytime soon.)

What’s particularly impressive about the group of three-peating champions is how tightly it overlaps with the very best in the game’s history.  18 of the 27 three-peaters reached the #1 ranking during their careers.  Two more peaked at #2.  (Honorable mention goes to Balazs Taroczy, who never cracked the top 10, but did win Hilversum five years running.)

For all the accolades earned by those #1s, though, only one of those players did what Raonic just completed.  That was John McEnroe, who went back-to-back-to-back-to-back from 1980 to 1983 at the Sydney Indoor.  Had he not returned to the event in 1992, he would have retired with a perfect record at the tournament.

Johnny Mac had a tougher time of it than did Raonic.  Milos has only beaten one top-20 player in San Jose, and when he edged by #9 Fernando Verdasco to win his first title, he did so while winning far fewer than half of points, resulting in a pitiful dominance ratio of 0.66.  (1.0 represents an even match; Raonic’s average in San Jose is 1.71.)  The Canadian was only broken twice in these three years, but he rarely did much breaking of his own, going to nine tiebreaks.

McEnroe, by contrast, beat at least three top-20 players (including #4 Vitas Gerulaitis) and played only a single tiebreak in his  20-match winning streak.  He also had to play best-of-five-set matches in three of the four finals.

To match McEnroe’s mark, either in number of consecutive titles or difficulty of winning them, Raonic will need to start a new streak. The smaller number of ATP-level events now on the circuit, however, make it more difficult to find the perfect blend of conditions and weak opposition to put together such a streak.

That doesn’t mean McEnroe’s mark is safe, however.  Rafael Nadal is just five matches and one title way from matching at least the straight-set three-peat, sitting on a 10-match win streak in Barcelona.  In fact, Nadal has only lost one set in Barcelona since 2006.  Had he played in 2010, we might have been talking about a very different record right now.

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A Friendly Reminder About Milos Raonic

It’s been an exciting couple of months in tennis, and Milos Raonic has gotten lost in the shuffle.  He hasn’t beaten a top-40 player since Barcelona in April, and he remains outside of the top 20.  His five-set battle at Wimbledon against Sam Querrey was a high-class, hard-fought effort on both sides, and naturally, Querrey got most of the press after that one.

This isn’t a sophomore slump.  It’s the calm before the storm.

Much like Juan Martin del Potro, Raonic has been stunted in 2012 by the juggernaut that has been Roger Federer.  Of Raonic’s 10 losses this year, three have come against Roger, and all three have gone three sets, two of them to a third-set breaker.

More importantly, Raonic’s ranking doesn’t tell the whole story.  The Canadian missed almost the entire second half of 2011, coming back after the US Open at half-strength.  He has almost no points to defend between now and the end of the year.

Even a modest projection for Raonic suggests that he’ll move into the top 16 by the end of the year.  And as he climbs the ladder, he’ll get better seedings, avoiding roadblocks like Federer in the 2nd round of Madrid.

If all Milos does is play up to his seed at this year’s three remaining Masters, reach the third round of the US Open, and defend his semifinal points from Stockholm, he’ll ascend to approximately #17 in the rankings.  (I’ve ignored the Olympics, since that event will inflate almost everyone’s point total.  Raonic may also further pad his total this week at Newport.)  One decent run, like a Masters quarterfinal, a 500 semifinal, or even a fourth-round finish in Flushing, puts him at the edge of the top 15.  Based on his skill level, that’s where he belongs right now.

And that conservative path is almost certainly not all that the Canadian will accomplish.  On paper, his grass season is a bit disappointing, but a three-set loss to Federer and the five-setter against the resurgent Querrey is hardly a disaster.  And Raonic’s clay season exceeded expectations, including wins over Nicolas Almagro, Andy Murray, and David Nalbandian.

A couple of rough draws have made it easy to forget about one of the game’s future stars.  Don’t be surprised to see him persistently climbing the rankings, pushing aside top-tenners, for the rest of the 2012 season.

 

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Milos Raonic on Defense

One of the things I enjoy about watching up-and-comers on the ATP tour is how fast they can climb the rankings.  With few points to defend, a semifinal showing at an ATP 250 can be worth several ranking places, and a young player can string together several weeks like that.

This time last year, Milos Raonic did that (and much more) in January and February.  He started the season with a ranking of 156.  By the time he got to Indian Wells, he was up to 37.  He amassed nearly 800 points in a six-week span starting in Melbourne qualifying and ending in Memphis.  That’s more than half of his current point total, even after taking the title yesterday in Chennai and returning to his career-high ranking of 25.

In other words, Milos has his work cut out for him if he’d like to stay in the top 30.  At last year’s Australian Open, he beat Michael Llodra and Dr. Mikhail Youzhny en route to the round of 16.  Making it that far will be easier this year, since he’ll be seeded, but he’s still likely to face a top-16 player in the third round.  In San Jose, he won his first title, claiming 250 points thanks mainly to his beating Fernando Verdasco on an indoor hard court.  The next week, he racked up another 300 points for reaching the final in Memphis, this time beating both Verdasco and Mardy Fish.

The main advantage Raonic has this year is his ranking.  He wasn’t seeded at a tour-level event until late March, at the Miami Masters.  He had to defeat seeded players in the second and third rounds in Melbourne, then in the first rounds of Johannesburg, San Jose, and Memphis.  In 2012, it should be much easier going in the early rounds.

At the very least, then, Raonic won’t fall too far.  If all he does is play up to his seeding, he’ll reach the third round in Melbourne, then the quarters or semis in San Jose and Memphis.  That won’t be enough to defend all of his points, but it will keep him on the fringes of the top 32 long enough to build his rankings at the tournaments he missed last year.  Let Milos loose on the North American hard court circuit, and it isn’t difficult to imagine him cracking the top ten.

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