Roger Federer finally opens his 2012 clay court season and the world No. 3 will not have much time to shake off any rust he may have as he faces a young and surging player in Canada's Milos Raonic.
Federer, as he usually does, skipped the Monte Carlo Masters earlier this season and he also missed ATP Barcelona and the 250-level events such as ATP Estoril, a tournament Federer made the semifinals in back in 2010.
However, Federer will not be idle on Wednesday, May 9th as he faces world No. 23 Raonic, a player who exposed Andy Murray as possibly overrated for the 2012 clay court season. Raonic has looked dangerous in recent events as he made the semifinals in Barcelona, a result that thrust the Canadian up in the rankings to his new career high.
Raonic and Federer have met one time and that match took place earlier this season at the Indian Wells Masters. Federer prevailed in what was a partly competitive match with Raonic managing to take a set off of the Swiss Maestro before losing in three.
Federer, despite skipping the clay court tour events, did play in one clay court match as part of Davis Cup play. Back in February, Federer lost to John Isner of the USA on clay in four sets, a player comparable to Raonic in the sense that Isner has a booming serve as well.
The odds for the match are definitely implying a Federer victory as the Swiss Maestro is set at 4/11 with Blue Square while Raonic comes in at 5/2 with Betfred.
Raonic is looking more than dangerous, however, as he beat veteran David Nalbandian in the first round of the Madrid Masters, a match that saw the Canadian pound down 16 aces with just two double faults.
Straight up: Federer or Raonic?
Another point to consider is that Raonic was incredibly effective, even on service points where he did not ace Nalbandian. The match stats at the ATP website confirm that the Canadian won 100 percent of the points played on his first serve and 68 percent of the points played on his second serve.
In 10 total service games for Raonic, Nalbandian only managed to win a piddly six points.
Federer will have to be at his best in this match and that should invoke the old "rust versus rest" debate. If Federer is rusty after a moderately long layoff then expect the Canadian to go through to the next round.
If Federer is not rusty then expect some tiebreakers. This match is the final match on the order of play for Wednesday, May 9th for the main court in Madrid.
Prediction: Raonic covers a +3.5 game handicap (4/5 with bet365).