Milos Raonic is the 2016 Brisbane International champion after he beat Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 in a repeat of last year’s final on Sunday.
At this stage 12 months ago, Federer emerged victorious in a thrilling three-set match. But the big-serving Raonic turned the tables this year with an accomplished display, even overcoming an injury scare in the second set to emerge the victor.
Raonic is a player who has struggled to get the better of the Swiss star in the past and, as we can see here courtesy of TennisNow, was chasing just his second career win against the great man:
Federer and Raonic are meeting for the 11th time. Roger leads 9-1 and is bidding for career title No. 89. https://t.co/nYDAhrXwCJ2016-1-10 09:18:46
With the Australian Open creeping into view, this clash was a brilliant chance for the Canadian to prove he could mix it with the elite guys.
Federer had been in irresistible form heading into this clash and, as was evident as the duo entered the court for the final, was the crowd favourite for victory here, per the competition's Twitter feed:
Welcome, gentlemen #BrisbaneTennis #Raonic #Federer https://t.co/9THb0Y5kZk2016-1-10 09:05:39
Raonic started the match the stronger of the two players, capitalising on some poor serving from the 17-time Grand Slam champion and manufacturing a couple of early break points with the first set at 2-2.
Federer was able to stave off the pressure, but he was struggling to get a grip of his opponent’s thunderous serve.
Indeed, with Federer unable to get a foothold in the match when returning, Raonic seemed to play with freedom on the champion’s serve, knowing break points would come.
Eventually, after another break point was saved, the Canadian did capitalise on Federer’s slack serving, moving into a 5-4 lead and giving himself an opportunity to serve for the set.
With his serve in great working order throughout the opening stanza, there was little doubt about the outcome, with Raonic wrapping it up 6-4 to move ahead.
Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times had high praise for Raonic’s efforts in the opener, particularly his ability to conjure up opportunities when returning:
Ben Rothenberg @BenRothenberg
First set to Milos Raonic, 6-4 over Roger Federer. Milos generated far more chances on return, which might not have been expected.2016-1-10 09:56:54
Tennis TV took a look at the statistics behind the first set, which illustrated the world No. 14’s dominance at the net:
Tennis TV @TennisTV
#Raonic takes the 1st set against #Federer in Brisbane - can he keep this level going? https://t.co/gWYogOtcvn https://t.co/unbhuRYqLj2016-1-10 09:56:44
After performing so admirably in the opener, there were some early concerns for Raonic in the second. With the set 2-1 to Federer on serve, Raonic pulled up, prompting a call from the trainer and a subsequent medical time out.
In the very next game it seemed as though the Swiss was set to capitalise, as he dug out his first break point of the match. But his opponent gritted his way to a crucial hold to keep the set on serve and his positive momentum intact.
It was a hold that seemed to embolden Raonic, and with signs of an injury issue waning, he grew into the contest again.
With the scoreline at 3-3 and Federer serving, the Canadian pounced again on some sloppy play from the veteran, who was 30-0 up in the game, to move into a 4-3 lead. He consolidated with another hold to move within one of victory.
He was forced to serve it out, as you would expect when facing Federer, but Raonic showed few signs of nerves in the decisive moments, clinching his eighth career title.
Sports presenter Giaan Rooney was shocked by the outcome and suggested Federer would be very disappointed, too:
Giaan Rooney @GiaanRooney
Didn't see that coming.... #Raonic wins @BrisbaneTennis final in STRAIGHT sets over #Federer 🎾🎾🎾 @7Sport2016-1-10 10:41:13
Giaan Rooney @GiaanRooney
When I interviewed #Federer yesterday he was really happy with how he was playing, not the same player tonight...😕🎾 @BrisbaneTennis @7Sport2016-1-10 10:39:04
Ahead of what is one of the biggest tournaments on the calendar, this was a wonderful win for Raonic.
Throughout the Brisbane International there have been encouraging signs for 2016 and against a quality opponent, the 25-year deserves massive credit for finding a way to win this one so convincingly.
Raonic has yet to win a Grand Slam title, but he showed with this rounded display that he has all the credentials to do so in the upcoming season.
Federer is likely to stand in his way if the Canadian is to go all the way in one of those illustrious events, making this victory in the final of a prestigious competition absolutely crucial in Raonic’s continued progression.
Afterwards, Raonic was delighted, insisting he enjoys coming back to Brisbane more and more each year, per the Australian Open Twitter feed:
#Raonic "I've been back to @BrisbaneTennis 3 times & every time it's been more & more endearing to me." https://t.co/IjeKcX4YsS2016-1-10 10:56:43
.@MilosRaonic "Hopefully in 2016 we can learn to love each other a little more & the world becomes a safer place." https://t.co/8KCwplh2oU2016-1-10 10:59:31
Federer revealed that he wasn't feeling his best ahead of this final, but still wanted to get out on court to defend his title, per the tournament's Twitter account:
#Federer: "Even though I was a bit sick, I still made the final and loved being here." #BrisbaneTennis https://t.co/a5hHhtqQ352016-1-10 10:51:23
#Federer: "With the week that I've had, Im pretty happy. Still have a cough. Just one step too slow" #BrisbaneTennis https://t.co/65uS4Gv8Nu2016-1-10 11:16:39