Milos Raonic is used to striking fear into opponents with a booming serve that routinely clocks in at more than 230 kilometres per hour.
He worked that power to near perfection Monday, beating 23-year-old American Mackenzie McDonald 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-2 in the fourth round at Wimbledon to advance to the quarter-finals for the third straight year. Raonic chalked up 37 aces in the match to just five for McDonald, who had no break points against the Canadian. And while Raonic’s first serve hit speeds as high as 230 kilometres an hour, McDonald’s best was a mere 189, slower than Raonic’s average second serve.
But now Raonic, who is seeded 13th, will be on the other side of a big server when he faces American John Isner in Wednesday’s quarter-final. And it’s a prospect he doesn’t relish. “It’s definitely not pleasant,” Raonic said when asked what it’s like to face a powerful server similar to himself. “It’s not enjoyable. You can’t get any rhythm. … But I’m aware he feels the same way. So I think we’re sort of both playing with the same type of fire. It’s about who can sort of temper the other guy’s better.”
Isner, the ninth seed, advanced to the quarter-final with a 6-4, 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (4) win over No. 31 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. Isner had 22 aces in the match, and his serve hit speeds of 223 kilometres an hour. The 33-year-old has never made it this far at Wimbledon and has only ever reached one Grand Slam quarter-final, at the US Open in 2011. “It’s strength on strength, for sure,” Isner said of his upcoming match against Raonic, who is 27. “Look, if one of us gets a crack, a few chances, we’re going to have to take it. It very well could be a close match. I’m looking forward to it.”
The two have only played each other four times, and Isner has won three of those. At 6 foot 10, the American is five inches taller than Raonic, but the Canadian doesn’t see that as an impediment. “I think I can move a little bit better than he can. He’s got a bigger wingspan than I do. I think probably the thing is neither of us behind our serves is hitting extremely difficult volleys. I think I feel more comfortable than he does up there.”
Raonic rated his serve as “A minus” on Monday, signalling that he can still do better. “A few games I fell behind. That was it. I didn’t necessarily serve the best in the tiebreak. But that’s the only little fault I made today.”
If he can get by Isner, he’ll likely face last year’s champion, Roger Federer, in the semi-finals on Friday. Federer has yet to lose a set at Wimbledon and on Monday swept 22nd seed Adrian Mannarino of France 6-0, 7-5, 6-4. Raonic lost in straight sets to Federer in the 2017 quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
Other winners on Monday included Serena Williams, who beat Evgeniya Rodina 6-2, 6-2; Rafael Nadal, who defeated Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-3, 6-4; and Novak Djokovic, who won 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 over Karen Khachanov. Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski also advanced in doubles with Yifan Xu and in mixed-doubles with Mate Pavic. Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez also advanced to the second round in girl’s play.
There are plenty of distractions in London this week, with England facing Croatia in the semi-finals of soccer’s World Cup on Wednesday and U.S. President Donald Trump in town Friday. Raonic recently began working with Croatian tennis great Goran Ivanisevic, who has been following his country’s fortunes closely at the World Cup. “He’s definitely excited, but I don’t think it’s leading to distraction,” Raonic said when asked if the Croatian will have his full attention Wednesday. “Every two years, when you come to Wimbledon, you buckle down in a house out here – you don’t make it to London too much. It’s nice to have the Euro Cup or the World Cup to have something to talk about every two years here, something to watch after matches and practices.”
As for Isner, he said he would welcome Mr. Trump stopping by to watch him play if he gets to the semi-final on Friday. “I’d love to have Trump come watch me. That would be awesome,” he said. “Maybe I’ll tweet at him if I win on Wednesday. I know a lot of people won’t like that, but I don’t care.”