Wimbledon men's semifinals preview: Roger Federer vs. Milos Raonic
LONDON -- No. 4 seed Roger Federer will try to reach his 25th Grand Slam final on Friday when he plays No. 8 Milos Raonic in the Wimbledon men's semifinals.
Federer has won all four matches against his the 23-year-old Canadian, who is playing his first major semifinal. Raonic, who had never made it past the second round at Wimbledon before this year, is seeking to become the first Canadian man to make a Slam final. In fact, with Eugenie Bouchard in the women's final, he's attempting to keep the Canadian hopes of a historic double alive.
The two take Centre Court after Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov fight for the other spot in the final. Here's the tale of the tape:
Hometown: Basel, Switzerland
Coach: Severin Luthi and Stefan Edberg. Luthi, the Swiss Davis Cup captain, has been in Federer's corner for years and has never received the accolades he deserves. Edberg joined the team at the start of the season.
Style of play: All court.
Best surface: Grass. He's a seven-time Wimbledon champion.
Biggest win: He's won 17 Slams and 962 matches, so this is a tough one. His 7-6 (7), 5-7, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 7-5 victory over defending champion Pete Sampras in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2001, at age 19, essentially launched his career. And we've never seen a post-win reaction quite as big as that one.
Why he'll win: He's Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Healthy again after a disastrous 2013 season, Federer believes he owns this place, and with both Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray out of the tournament, this is a massive opportunity for him to quiet the doubters and win his 18th Grand Slam title. Federer has been broken just once all tournament, and as long as he can get his racket on the Raonic serve and chip in returns, he has the obvious advantage in the rally.
What he said: "I know there's pressure, but the confidence is there. You know there is a chance now to go a step further because you trust your game. That's where I am right now. I'm really excited about the next couple days now."
What Raonic said: "He's gotten the better of me all four times. But I haven't played him [since the 2013 Australian Open], so I'm a different player. I've got in close with him in the past and I've found a lot of those things I can sort of pull away that give me a lot of belief that I can do this. So there's no point to talk about it. I've got to step up and do it."
Random fact: His father almost moved the family to Australia when he was younger. Don't remind the Aussies about that.
On-court quirk: No one calls for a Hawk-Eye challenge with as much disdain.
Hometown: Born in Podgerica, Montenegro, the Canadian grew up in Thornhill, Ontario, and now resides in Monaco. An international man of mystery.
Coach: Ivan Ljubicic. The former No. 4 has been coaching Raonic since last summer.
Style of play: Big server. Raonic can fire his serve upwards of 140 mph. He's hit 147 aces (or 29.5 per match) in the tournament, and more than 50 percent of his serves haven't been returned. He's been broken twice and has faced just nine break points. His game revolves around his serve, but Raonic has showed great improvement on the baseline as well as at the net.
Best surface: Indoor hard courts. Four of his five ATP titles have come with a roof overhead.
Biggest win: He has an impressive 3-1 record against Murray and beat him 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4) in the Tokyo semifinals in 2012.
Why he'll win: That serve. It's not just that the serve can earn him quick and easy holds, especially on grass. It's that it puts so much pressure on his opponent to hold. In all three of their best-of-three matches, Raonic has won a set off Federer, with two of those matches going to a final-set tiebreaker. If Raonic can hold and then roll the dice in the tiebreak, he has a great chance to pull off the upset.
What he said: "I'm going to step out there, and I'm not playing the seven-time Wimbledon champion. I'm not playing a 32-year-old man. I'm not playing father of two sets of twins, which is a very low possibility I bet to do. I'm not playing the guy that's won whatever he's won, which I could probably list quite vividly. I'm playing a guy that is standing in my way of what I want to achieve, and I've got to focus on everything that's there, on the situation, how best to deal with it to give myself the best possibilities to achieve what I want."
What Federer said: "Here clearly on the grass with a serve like that it's never going to be an easy match. That's where you then sort of go back to your own game and say, I'll take care of my own serves and see what I can do on the return. That's my mindset."
Random fact: Raonic has been running Ljubicic through warm-up drills before his Legends doubles matches at Wimbledon. He should probably stick to just playing for now. Ljubicic lost.
On-court quirk: He's been wearing an Iverson-esque sleeve on his right arm for the past few months. It started because he had some skin medication that couldn't be exposed to the sun. Now he just wears it because he likes it.
Federer in four sets.