Milos Raonic felt his performance against Roger Federer in his opening match of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals was ‘very disappointing’.
Raonic is one of three players making their first bow at the season-ending championships this week, but whereas US Open champion Marin Cilic has yet to play and Kei Nishikori made a winning debut when he defeated Andy Murray on Sunday, Raonic’s first experience of the o2 was not a triumphant one as Federer avenged his loss to the Canadian at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, winning 6-1, 7-6(0).
Thoroughly outclassed in the first set, Raonic created consistent pressure on Federer’s serve in the second set and had four break points – including one set point – but wasn’t able to leverage it into taking the set, instead failing to win a single point in the tiebreak.
‘Obviously it can come down just to one play, and we might be playing a third set,’ Raonic said. ‘But it's obviously disappointing, very disappointing actually, the way I finished that second set off.’
Raonic’s win against Federer in Paris was a key moment in his career – not only did it play a crucial role in securing his qualification for the World Tour Finals, but it was his first win over the world no. 2. But Raonic pointed to the quality of Federer’s returning to partly explain his inability to reproduce the win two weeks later and on the other side of the English Channel.
‘He was a lot more consistent on his return games. In Paris, okay, I'd get free points when I hit aces, but today the big difference was when he would get his racquet on the ball, he would make me play all the time. He was giving me some shots in Paris in that sense, some quicker points,’ Raonic said.
‘I believe he played better today. I believe I started off not playing nearly as well, but I think I sort of found that Paris level that I had against him come the second set. I think that's why I was able to create some opportunities for myself.’
After losing to Federer, it becomes vital for Raonic to win against his next opponent, Andy Murray, who lost to Nishikori on Sunday.
‘It's a completely different match,’ Raonic said. ‘Things are going to be quite different than the first match. We both, after today, have more so of an idea what we need to do different for the next round. It's going to be about who necessarily adjusts better, who can play better come Tuesday night.’
‘I get pretty angry when I lose, so I’m going to have to learn how to slap myself out of it,’ Raonic added.
Raonic has won three out of four completed matches played against Murray, including their only meeting so far this season, a three-set victory for the Canadian back in Indian Wells. And after playing against Federer, who received his usual rapturous reception at the o2 and the lion’s share of the crowd’s support, the big-serving Raonic is unlikely to be thrown by any local support for Murray.
‘Every time you play Roger, the crowd's on his side, even if he's playing a local favorite. It's hard for people to cheer against Roger,’ Raonic said.
Asked if he anticipated that being the case when Federer represents Switzerland in the Davis Cup final against France in Lille, Raonic elaborated:
‘I think the thing that's unique about Roger is people will support the home players when they face Roger. But Roger is very tough to cheer against. Whereas quite a few other players, people will try to sort of get on top of them, get down on them. I have not seen a situation where people have tried to do that, at least since I've been on tour, to Roger.’