Milos Raonic has been working hard for the better part of the last two years to return to the form that saw him reach the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2014. The big-serving Canadian has always been tipped as a player who could succeed on the lawns of the All-England Club. After a strong first half of 2016 and a brilliant start to his grass court season, Raonic seems primed to make a charge at this year’s Wimbledon Championships.
Notable Results to Date
The Canadian has had a fantastic year so far. It started on a high note when he won his first tournament of the season, upsetting Roger Federer to win the Brisbane International. His hot run in Australia continued, as he charged into his second career Grand Slam semifinal at the Australian Open, beating Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils on the way.
Injuries briefly stalled Raonic’s run but he picked up here he left off in Indian Wells, reaching the final before falling to Novak Djokovic. He would reach the quarterfinals or better of every tournament he played until the Italian Open when he fell in the third round. He was also upset in the fourth round of the French Open. In total in 2016, he has reached three finals, winning one.
Best Grass Results Leading into Wimbledon
With his big serve, height, and powerful groundstrokes, Raonic is a player who many have expected to be great on grass for many years. However, prior to this June, he had generally struggled on the surface. But that changed this month at the Aegon Championships, where the Canadian went on a charge, using his big serve and attacking shots to reach his first career grass court final.
The Canadian did not have an easy draw at the Queen’s Club but made routine work of his. Through his first four matches, he only dropped one set, the first set of his first-round match against Nick Kyrgios in a tiebreak, and did not have his serve broken on his way to the final. He then took a set and a break lead against Andy Murray before the world number two battled back to claim victory. Despite the loss, Raonic was impressive throughout the tournament, sending notice the ATP World Tour that he will be a threat at the All-England Club.
Best Results at Wimbledon
Because he has had a deep run, it is often forgotten how poorly Raonic has performed in general at Wimbledon. In his first three appearances, he failed to advance past the second round, while last year he crashed out in the third round. In Raonic’s defense, twice in his five Wimbledon appearances, he was injured.
That being said, in 2014, Raonic showed just how dangerous he can be at the All-England Club. The Canadian was at his big-hitting best, blasting his way into the semifinals of a major for the first time in his career, in the process becoming the first Canadian man to reach the last four of any Grand Slam event.
He got off to a hot start, not dropping a set through the first three rounds of the tournament. His first test came in the fourth round against Kei Nishikori, who Raonic had never previously beaten. But after dropping the first set, he reclaimed control of the match, reeling off three straight sets to reach the quarterfinals. In the last eight, he faced the surprise of the tournament, future rival Nick Kyrgios. Once again, the Canadian dropped the opening set but roared back to score three unanswered to send the Aussie teen packing and reach his first career major semifinal. Although he was bounced in straight sets by the legendary Roger Federer in the last four, the notice had been sent that he was a new threat at Wimbledon.
How Raonic’s Game Translates to Grass
Since Raonic based his style off of that of seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras, it should come as no surprise that the Canadian plays a style of tennis that should be very strong on grass. The most important part of grass court tennis is the serve and Raonic has one of the biggest and meanest on the tour. He can routinely crank out serves above 140 MPH and hit any spot on the court with any combination of power and spin. On grass, this makes him incredibly deadly. Just ask his opponents at the Queen’s Club, four of whom could not break his serve.
Even behind that big serve, he has a ton of big weapons. His forehand is gigantic and when possible, he likes to hit it hard and flat, which skids low off the grass. While he is also capable of crushing his backhand, he has learned to hit a low slice backhand that barely bounces up off the grass. To wrap it all up, he loves attacking the net and possesses phenomenal volley skills, which when combined with his massive wingspan, makes him a huge threat at the net. Overall, he plays the ideal game for grass court tennis.
The only real problems for the Canadian is his movement and his consistency, which often cause problems simultaneously. While he moves considerably better than he used to, he cannot move as well as the men ranked above him. Raonic continues to struggle in long rallies, where crafty opponents can outwork him. If he is forced to move around and hit a lot of shots in a rally, he struggles to win them.
Raonic is coming into Wimbledon with momentum and confidence, which makes him a huge threat at the All-England Club. The rest of the tour had better watch out.