It’s Canada vs. …the kingdom in the gentlemen’s championship at Wimbledon: Milos Raonic takes on Andy Murray in the final on Sunday morning. Both have the weight of a country on their shoulders, as Raonic looks to be the first Canadian man to win a singles major, while Murray looks to lead the home faithful to a Wimbledon title once more.
Who will win the final singles match of 2016 at SW19? The TTI crew sounds off:
This isn’t necessarily the final we expected.
Heck, on Friday in the fourth set of the first semifinal, this certainly wasn’t the final we expected. The #narratives in this one are aplenty: Raonic will contest his maiden Slam final and Murray will try to win his first Slam since 2013 when he finally ended a long drought for *men’s tennis* in Great Britain.
I’m going with Murray here mainly on the basis of how business-like he was in most of his semifinal on Friday (with some help of Tomas Berdych) while Raonic continued to show nerves not just on Friday, but in his fourth round match against David Goffin. For all the huge weapons the Canadian possesses, his decision-making can go haywire in what feels like mere minutes, exposing some of his more glaring weaknesses.
I don’t think Raonic will be able to play with that kind of focus for possibly three and a half hours in his first Grand Slam final. Murray might get rattled — by himself, most probably — at some stage, but I believe he’s solid enough to see this out.
René’s Pick: Murray in four sets
Raonic’s run to the final has certainly inspired faith in the 25-year-old Canadian’s prospects as a title contender. He not only upended Roger Federer in a five-set thriller for his first Top 10 victory on grass — and before that, came back from two sets down for the first time in his career — but he actually delivered on the hype over his pre-Wimbledon form and turned it into something substantial.
There’s no doubt he has exactly what it takes to overcome Murray in the final here. He’s beaten the Briton three times in the past and has pushed him to the brink in two of their three 2016 meetings — but can he actually do it? Murray is not only at home on the Centre Court of Wimbledon, he’s at home on grass courts and plays possibly the second-best counterpunching game on the surface. The key in Sunday’s final will be weather or not Raonic can sustain his dominating game for long enough and not let Murray use both the crowd and his world-class anticipation to wrestle control of the match.
Will Raonic be nervous in his first Grand Slam final? I don’t think so, but I don’t think his composure will be the only game-changer here. Murray should be able to use his greater experience on both grass and in Grand Slam finals to claim his second crown at SW19.
Jeff’s Pick: Murray in four sets
Raonic had his chances to take down Murray when they last met at the Queen’s Club in the Wimbledon tune-up: the Canadian blew a set and a break lead in a match that he had in his hands. One big issue that Raonic had in that match was that outside of his serve, he struggled to break the Murray defensive fortress. Murray forced Raonic to create his own pace and his own offense via the slice backhand, and the Canadian was not up to the task.
On a court that should be playing slowly tomorrow in cooler conditions, Raonic is going to have an even harder time hitting through Murray who will be more inspired than ever to take down Raonic behind a partisan crowd. With Raonic coming off a five-setter against Federer, I think this one has straight sets written all over it.
Nick’s Pick: Murray in three sets
For the 987th straight major, I’ll go with Novak Djok—oh.
In all seriousness, it feels pretty strange not having one of Djokovic, Federer, or Nadal in a slam final, but let’s not act like this final is serving us shades of Marin Cilic vs. Kei Nishikori. Andy Murray is still Andy Murray, and he should be favored pretty heavily here.
…And then there’s Raonic on the other side of the net. His 2016 started with a bang, beating Federer to win Brisbane and going up two sets to one on Murray in the semifinals in Melbourne. The rise continued to the Indian Wells final, though he was walloped at the hands of the world No. 1. The clay season was less eventful, but that’s to be expected from a player like Raonic.
The natural progression suggests this might be the Canadian’s time to be the first of his generation to break through and win his first major. And yet…I won’t bet against Murray at Wimbledon against someone not-named Federer or Djokovic.
Sam’s Pick: Murray in four sets
Raonic talked about rising to the moment and seizing the occasion — in multiple dramatic ESPN spots — that have aired since he defeated Federer, saying that he’s not finished by making the final. Nonetheless, you’ll never know how you’ll react in the biggest moment of your life — let alone if he finds himself in a winning position at some point on Sunday afternoon. His strengths play into Murray’s strengths, and if the Canadian gets tight or isn’t firing on all cylinders, Murray will most certainly take advantage.
On the other hand, it might be tough for Murray to *finally* have an opportunity to win a Grand Slam against somebody that isn’t Federer or Djokovic, or he might completely embrace it. He’s done that before in the face of overwhelming pressure by leading Great Britain to the Davis Cup, and I think he’ll again thrive in this moment.
I think Raonic could sneak a set — maybe the third when he’s down 2-0? — but at the end of the day, the BBC will be dusting off the archives for “The Day We Won Wimbledon. Again.”
Vika’s Pick: Murray in four sets
Who is your pick to lift the gentlemen’s trophy? Sound off in the comments!