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Tennis • Ricky’s Preview and Pick For The Cincinnati Men’s Singles Final: Djokovic vs. Raonic

By Ricky Dimon

It has been a roller-coaster ride in some shape or form for just about everyone, and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic is no exception.

His tournament began by withdrawing from doubles due to a neck issue, for which he took a medical timeout during his first singles match against Ricardas Berankis. The 17-time Grand Slam champion proceeded to beat Tennys Sandgren and Jan-Lennard Struff without any fuss, but thereafter it got tricky again. Facing Roberto Bautista Agut in the semifinals on Friday, Djokovic took another medical timeout for the neck problem, also dealt with an apparent stomach issue, and broke back with the Spaniard serving at 6-5 in the third before prevailing 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0) after exactly three hours.

“(It was a) very strange match, I must say,” the 33-year-old commented. “I don’t know how I won it, to be honest. He was the better player. I just didn’t feel good on the court at all in any aspect of my game and the body, but somehow I managed to pull this one through.”

Djokovic’s reward is a championship match on Saturday against Milos Raonic, who has lost all 10 of their previous encounters. They most recently faced each other at this year’s Australian Open, where Djokovic cruised 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(1) in the quarterfinals.

Raonic has been awesome this week, taking out Sam Querrey, Dan Evans, Andy Murray, Filip Krajinovic, and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nobody other than Krajinovic has earned a set or even broke serve a single time.

Milos Raonic at the Western and Southern Open at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, USA, 28 August 2020.

“I’m playing well,” the 29-year-old Canadian assured. “I think I’m moving much better than I definitely have in recent years. Maybe it’s been a long time, and I think that’s putting me in better position so I’m able to be more effective and more aggressive earlier. I’m able to play more on my terms and quicker on in the points.”

Raonic struggles to play on his terms against Djokovic, because even his booming serve is not as good as Djokovic’s return.

Obviously this all comes down to the top seed’s healthy. If Djokovic is 100 percent, however, he has to like his chances based his past successes against Raonic and because (according to Raonic, himself) the Louis Armstrong court surface is playing slower than the outer courts on which everyone had been playing prior to the semis.

Pick: Djokovic in 2

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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