For the majority of the Scot’s last match it looked inconceivable that we would have this headline clash as Murray struggled to even keep the ball in court against the inexperienced Jiri Vesely.
The world number 77 came into the game with his highest career ranking and this was Murray’s first meeting with the 20-year-old. However, none of that had any bearing on the endless stream of unforced errors coming from the racquet of the two-time Grand Slam winner champion and significant improvement will be needed if he is to worry a resurgent Raonic.
Murray’s stuttered progress in California has been indicative of his season so far which hasn’t come close to threatening the heights of last year.
Only twice has the world number six won three matches at an event this term and the fact he has needed to survive a deciding set twice already this week suggests his struggles are not set to end anytime soon.
It is a credit to the British number one’s winning mentality that he is still in the draw considering the way he has played but it’s difficult to see whether he can raise his level sufficiently to last any longer.
Raonic is one of the few players on the tour that has a positive head-to-head record against Murray with two wins from their three completed matches including last time they met in Tokyo in 2012 when the 23-year-old won their second hardcourt encounter in three sets.
This is the big server’s first outing since the Australian Open after suffering an ankle injury and he was entitled to a wobble in his first match back when dropping the second set against Edouard Roger-Vasselin. However, he was quickly back to his best with a dominant display against Alejandro Falla last time and looks ready to have another big season.
The world number 11, who became a hero in his homeland after guiding Canada to their first ever Davis Cup semi-final last year, has long looked like a Grand Slam winner in the making with one of the most effective serves in the game and a forehand to match.
The other wing is improving rapidly too and although not quite a weapon in its own right yet it surely will only be a matter of when not if he joins the top-table if it becomes one.
In the meantime, Raonic looks like a solid bet at 11/10 to send Murray back to the practice courts where he most likely needs to be at the moment.
Murray could easily raise his game with a better opponent to play against but that is leap of faith and wouldn’t necessarily be enough anyway.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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