US Open: Is Milos Raonic Capable Of Taking The Next Step?

The 2014 US Open started out in the manner in which both Milos Raonic and his throngs of fans across Canada were expecting on Monday afternoon. He wasted little time in dismissing Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (1) to easily move into the second round of the year’s final major.

Outside of a potential match-up with No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori in the Round of Sixteen, one in which the twenty-three would have to be heavily favoured, Raonic should have next to no problem in advancing to the final eight in New York. At that stage of the game, the hard-serving Canadian would likely be facing a major bump in competition, with No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka and nine-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic in his half of the draw.

While the No. 5 seed continues to make strides in his overall development, his continued struggles against the premier players in the world simply cannot be ignored. Beating players you are supposed to have little trouble and falling short against the top guys can no longer be an acceptable outcome.

Raonic will be one of many who should benefit greatly from the absence of Rafa Nadal at Flushing Meadows and when you add his draw into the equation, there is no reason why Milos should not find himself heading for his second consecutive trip to the final four of a major.   

While reaching the second week of major may have been the goal in previous years, anything short of semi-final appearances and pushing for a spot in the final has to be looked upon as disappointment for his camp. The six-time ATP Tour winner used the good fortune of Nadal losing to Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round at Wimbledon to cruise into his first ever major semi but was nothing more than minor speed bump in the road for one Roger Federer.

The ease in which he fell to the Swiss Maestro seemed to surprise some but in all honesty, it was a rather predictable outcome. With the pressure of the moment being what it was and his lack of success against Federer, expecting anything other than how it played out was foolish. However, instead of using the experience to his advantage and improve the shortcomings in his game, Raonic was arguably even worse during their semi-final “rematch” at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.

Having the serve that he does may be a massive weapon against 98% of the players on tour but it is nowhere near enough against the cream of the crop in the men’s game.  While it may be a small sample size, to this point in his career Raonic has gone 0-3 - Djokovic, 0-6 - Federer, 0-5 - Nadal...not to mention his 0-4 mark vs David Ferrer and 0-3 record - Wawrinka.  Outside of enjoying some success against Andy Murray (3-1), Milos has shown to be incapable of playing with the big boys.

While he has made improvements to some areas in his game, most notably his court coverage and play at the net, his return of serve remains a major concern as does the predictability of his second serve. Again, against the majority of players these issues tend to go unnoticed but if the goal is to challenge for Grand Slam titles and push for the No. 1 seed in the world, these issues have to be addressed or Milos Raonic will continue to do nothing but spin his wheels on game’s biggest stages.