Will it be this?
Andy Murray vs. Milos Raonic
The winner of this match gets the dubious task of trying to dethrone the most decorated hard court Australian Open/Championships player of all time. Andy Murray is #2 in the world, but for the second half of 2015 he did not appear to be Djokovic’s biggest competition. Perhaps, he can reboot their rivalry by forcing a 4th championship clash between the two in Melbourne. Milos Raonic is in his second major semifinal and is undefeated in 2016. Milos vs. Nole would provide a generational challenge to the current world number one.
Milos’ Serve vs. Andy’s Return Makes the Reverse True Too
Milos Raonic’s game is built around one of the most imposing serves in men’s tennis. Andy Murray’s returning prowess and counterpunching ability will press and be pressed by Milos’ service game. Milos’ step forward in 2016 has been accompanied by praise of his return game and tactics. Andy Murray’s second serve can be exploited. So the answer to who wins might come down to how well Milos’ returns serve. If Murray’s serve 1st percentage is low, Milos has to return well enough to take advantage.
Not many clues for this match can be found in their head-to-head. They are tied 3-3. I think this favors Milos in that he is facing someone he has had some success against in contemplating reaching his first major final. At Wimbledon 2014, Milos played quite well to reach the semifinal round only to look overawed versus Roger Federer. At that point, Milos had not won a match versus Federer. In this situation, Milos is 18 months older and has been even head-to-head with the man that stands between him and the championship round.
What I Think (Hope?) will Happen
On paper, Murray has to be considered the favorite. Plexicushion is an ideal surface for his game much like it is for Novak Djokovic. Milos is a big enough guy to hit through and serve through this slowish hardcourt (see Stan Wawrinka’s success in Melbourne) so Plexicushion won’t phase the big Canadian. Milos has worked hard on his movement, but if Murray makes movement a major factor in the match it is to the Scot’s advantage. Milos will need to dictate after big serves and try to dictate as often as possible after solid returns. Subconsciously and consciously I am not overly excited about a repeat of the 2011, 2013, and 2015 championship match-up even though I generally love Murray-Djokovic matches. This desire for something new may be impacting my prediction, but I am predicting: Milos Raonic d. Andy Murray 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6