When Milos Raonic burst onto the pro tennis tour in 2011, reaching the 4th round of the Australian Open, it was his booming serve that drew oohs and ahhs. Commentators and fans alike saw great things in the 20 year old. Few people remember that he had to win 3 rounds of qualifying just to get into the main draw – where he won 3 more rounds to make it to the final 16.
That tournament really was a stepping stone because a few weeks later, he was given a wild card entry into the SAP Open in San Jose – and we all know what happened after that – he won it. And again in 2012. And now in 2013, in the tournament’s final year, he has won it again. In fact, Raonic has never dropped a set in 3 years at the SAP Open and this year faced only 1 break point through the entire tournament. Amazing.
What is even more impressive is how he won it – aggressive, solid, composed, firing on all cylinders. Over the past 2 years, weaknesses in Raonic’s game beyond his world-class serve have been exposed and commented on by tennis commentators – his return game, net play and movement. His improvement on these important links to his game were emphasized as critical to his advancement into the top echelon of the game.
Raonic is no dummy. He knows what he has to do to improve his game. The problem with many armchair tennis commentators and so-called fans of today’s game is that they expect instant gratification and results – something that is inherently wrong with society on a general level. Applying this attitude to tennis (or any other sport) shows a lack of knowledge of the game.
So, over the past 2 years, Raonic has worked hard – very hard – to close loopholes in his game and become stronger on the shots that need improvement. I’m not privy to his training, but it’s quite obvious that he is a different player than he was a year ago – and an almost completely different player than he was 2 years ago. The serve is still booming – but it’s his solid approach shots to the net, net play, return game and movement that have just started to show signs of a player headed to the next level.
He showed off all of these hard-worked-for attributes at the SAP Open where he was completely dominant. Keeping this in perspective – the arena where the SAP Open is held is a fast hard court held indoors away from the elements. This is Raonic’s best environment. Moving this newfound improvement outdoors, to clay and to grass will be the real test.
The next few hard court tournaments leading into the European clay and grass season will be the stepping stone for Raonic. I really believe that this latest win is the first step that will propel him forward into the Top 10 where his game belongs. It’s going to be an exciting spring and summer for him and his fans.
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