Milos Raonic is currently playing Indian Wells, his first event on the ATP World Tour since he sustained an injury in his Australian Open semi-final against Brit Andy Murray. He recently spoke to tennis.com in a revealing interview in which he discussed injuries, his future on the men’s tour, his idols growing up and recent changes to his team.
A bright future
Raonic spoke of his bright outlook on his future, in which he fully believes he can become one of the world’s best.
“I think I can definitely give myself a great opportunity to win a Slam. I think the other goals fall hand in hand with that. Being No. 1 is a way away. That takes a bundle of Slams within 12 months. But I think I can really step up, play well and give myself a great opportunity.”
Raonic also discussed his chances against Novak Djokovic, who is currently dominating the men’s game.
“I think the match I came in the most against him, and I had the best chance on him — it wasn't the best surface for it — was the semifinal in Rome. That was a semifinal, and I think I only came in “that” much in the semifinal. Now I do that in every single match, so I think I'm much more comfortable. I hope if I get in the same (position), I can be more thoughtful and clear about what I want to do.”
Recent team changes
The world number 14 is happier than ever with his team set-up, and spoken of the different aspects they help him with.
“The great thing about Carlos [Moya] is he's very relaxed. I don't think he's ever talked about being No. 1 in the world. He's put his ego aside completely. He's given everything towards me being better. (He’s) probably the most open person I've ever worked with. I think every practice finishes with the conversation of ‘Did you like what we did? What can we do better?’ So I think those things add up. The atmosphere on the team is a little bit different. I like the structure I have around me,”
“Carlos is doing mostly tournaments, especially with the way he communicates with me. And Riccardo is doing mostly the work weeks – (he’s) through and through a coach. Carlos is a former player who coaches. So Riccardo likes to be on court six hours a day. He finds in that his greatest moments. In tournaments, when you practice for an hour and spend the rest of the day resting, I think Carlos can be more efficient.”
Career high performance and subsequent injury
The Canadian spoke of how the recent Australian Open tournament was a turning point in his game style, and how devastated he was to be afflicted with an injury in the most important match of his career so far.
“I think I'm playing much better than I have ever before. I'm moving much better, and I'm using my game much better. I've improved small aspects, some more than others. I think a lot of people highlighted my movement forward, but I think that has also allowed me ... I don't think I hit many volleys behind the service line anymore, which I think I would sometimes get stuck behind. All of these little things just compound, and they make a big difference. And I think there's a big difference in my game, and I'm always trying to add to it,”
“Probably two hours [after his semi-final against Andy Murray in which he sustained his injury] I sent the most aggravated message to my group chat, I had to apologize before the next day. But when you step back and assess where I was during 2015, it's a big difference,”
“Now I'm moving well, and these sort of things. I haven't been able really to play, other than mini-tennis and hitting from the center of the court. I started only doing lateral movement play-wise — not in a controlled setting — when I got here. I'm serving well. That's going to keep me alive, and the other things can catch up.”
Due to his susceptibility to injuries, Raonic is now being proactive in trying to prevent them as far as possible in the future.
“Let's say if I practice at 10:00, I start at 8:00—my warm-up, to really be on top of things, to mobilize properly, to take care of things. Who knows what is the right solution is for me? Maybe sometimes I do too much and it tires me mentally, but I want to try everything so I can find those answers and those solutions.”
Game improvements, Sampras’ influence and celebrity All-Star game
Raonic has recently made improvements to his net play, but this has been side-lined due to his disrupted schedule for the last few months. He also cites Pete Sampras as an influence, and discussed potential star coaching arrangements in the future.
“I've been playing, but I haven't been playing (full-time) for nine months. I didn't feel I could really train. I finished the season in Asia, I don't think I practiced once in between. When I'm not practicing, I have a lot of time to reflect. What can I do better? And I watch a lot of tennis. I love watching tennis, and when the discussion came up, who can I work with next, that was a key aspect to that,”
“[Watching Pete Sampras as a child] helped me. I've also called numerous people to see what I should be doing up there. With every single person I called to see if we could have (a coaching arrangement) working together, that is an aspect I wanted included in the steps forward,”
“I watched a lot of videos. I've watched [Pat] Rafter, I've watched [Richard] Krajicek to understand what I need to do to [get] up there and to be better up there.”
Finally, Raonic spoke of his enjoyment during the All-Star game he was a part of a few weeks ago.
“It’s probably the most enjoyable 40 minutes I've ever had competing at something. I think I played the whole time with a smile on my face, and I can be pretty stoic on the tennis court. It was, in the complete sense of the cliché, a dream come true.”