INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Let’s start with the positive: Milos Raonic is having an incredible year. He’s 14-2, with a Brisbane title to his name, a semifinals appearance at the Australian Open, and a runner-up finish at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. He’s playing some of the best tennis of his career, but against Novak Djokovic, it doesn’t matter.
Djokovic is the best player in the world right now, and Raonic’s improved game couldn’t beat him, or even hurt him. Raonic’s serve was vulnerable from the start as he quickly found himself down a double-break and the match slipped away from there. Raonic only won 10 per cent of his second service points so the least Djokovic could do was give Raonic some wiggle room, but the world No. 1 made only four unforced errors in the entire match.
After dropping the first set, Raonic left the court with a trainer for a medical timeout. Following the match, he explained that he’s unsure if he re-aggravated the abductor injury that he sustained in his Australian Open semifinals loss to Andy Murray.
“I have to see the medical staff here and discuss … I just hope it has nothing to do with the previous issue I had,” Raonic said. “I don’t think it affected my effort. I thought he [Djokovic] played much better than I did. I struggled again, just like last time [I faced him], to start the match well, and then he’s the best player in the world at this moment and a good step ahead of everybody. He took the most advantage of that.”
Djokovic’s only loss of the year was at the Dubai Duty Free Championships when he retired with an eye infection against Feliciano Lopez. Raonic shouldn’t beat himself up over the fact that he lost to Djokovic, but the way he lost, having only won two games, will certainly sting.
“I need to work harder,” Raonic insisted post-match. "I need to execute better. My way that I go about things, I think I’m on the right track. I think it’s about putting the things together, being effective, which today I wasn’t able to do.”
But the only way to be consistent and effective is by being healthy. Raonic is scheduled to leave for the Miami Open on Monday and is unsure if his injury will prevent him from competing.
For Raonic’s sake let’s hope that’s not the case, because three months in, he’s having one of the best seasons on tour; just not better than Djokovic’s.