Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Murray's 11th Grand Slam final has different look

LONDON — Andy Murray has certainly had his major moments, none better than in 2013 becoming the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years.

But no man in the nearly 50 years of Open-era tennis has played so many Grand Slam singles finals while winning so few. Murray's 2-8 record is due to the prodigious drive and talent of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who between them have been the opponents in all 10 of Murray's previous major finals.

But the 11th will have a radically different look. Today in his latest Wimbledon final, the man across the net will be Milos Raonic.

The sixth-seeded Raonic, who knocked out Federer on Friday in a five-set semifinal, is no long-shot newcomer. With his thunderous serve and professional approach, he has been a young threat on the rise for years. In the age of Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Murray, the road to the top is paved with sweat, patience and a big entourage.

Raonic, 25, is in his first major final, which is also one of several reasons the second-seeded Murray, 29, deserves to be the favorite. Another is that Murray — whose returning and counterpunching are second only to Djokovic's — has beaten Raonic in their past five matches, including the Queen's Club final on a nearby patch of London grass last month.

"You face what you have to face," Raonic said. "First and foremost, I've got to face myself, then I've got to face Andy. The rest, if I don't have control over it, I try to make it as irrelevant as possible."

Raonic is an analytical type; his parents are engineers. But his power game has also been more mechanical than inspirational: weak on improvisation and adjustments on the fly. He has improved sharply in that area. Some of the points he won at the net Friday amounted to his beating Federer at his own game.

"I thought he volleyed as well as I've ever seen him in any match," said John McEnroe, a three-time Wimbledon champion who has helped Raonic in that department as a coaching consultant for the past month.

It appears he has made a difference, even if Raonic already was playing fine attacking tennis this season under the tutelage of his regular coaches, Riccardo Piatti and Carlos Moya, a former No. 1-ranked player and the 1998 French Open champion.

McEnroe also is working as a TV commentator at Wimbledon, and he will have a slightly different role in the ESPN booth today. Instead of being his usual outspoken self, he will act as a third wheel, in effect, to Chris Fowler and his brother, Patrick McEnroe, giving insight into Raonic's game.

Jamie Reynolds, an ESPN vice president overseeing Wimbledon coverage, said there was no problem with McEnroe working today as long as ESPN is transparent with the viewers. "I'm having him here as Milos' coach," Reynolds said. But, he said, ESPN avoided any perception of a conflict by keeping McEnroe from Raonic's matches until now.

McEnroe called Raonic's win over Federer for his other employer, the BBC, and some accused the BBC of a conflict of interest. The BBC denied that.

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