Milos Raonic Puts Canuck Tennis on the Map

Milos Raonic at the Monte Carlo MastersCanadian tennis has produced a few notable players. Retired player Greg Rusedski used his amazing serve on behalf of Canada before switching his allegiance to the U.K. On the women’s side, Aleksandra Wozniak has won one Women’s Tennis Association event, but she’s never made it past the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament. However, over the past two years, a new tennis sensation has emerged from Ontario. His name is Milos Raonic — and he has the future of Canadian tennis on his racket.

Anyone who loves sports betting in Canada needs to keep an eye on this rising tennis star. Raonic made it to the round of 16 at both the Australian and U.S. Opens this year, peaking at No. 10 and bagging a big endorsement deal from New Balance. Raonic led the Canadian Davis Cup team to the semis, which is the team’s all-time best performance, although they lost to the Serbian team led by Novak Djokovic. With more aces per match than any other player on the tour and a wily new Croatian coach named Ivan Ljubicic, Raonic seems destined to pack some major star power.

What to Watch:

For the most part, Raonic has a good all-court game. Let’s take a look at his assets:

The serve. Raonic’s serve is currently the best in the sport. He regularly serves at speeds over 140 mph, and he clocked the fifth-fastest recorded serve in history at the Rogers Cup competition in 2012 when he hit a 155.3-mph bullet. He leads the ATP tour in aces, first-serve points won and service games held. He also wins the majority of his second-serve points because he takes advantage of the body serve.

Groundstrokes. The forehand is Milos’s favorite shot. He often serves down the T to set up his forehand and dictate play. Like most tall players, he has a high-risk, high-reward forehand. He hits a lot of winners but also a lot of errors off of that side. On the other side, his backhand is effective but not a significant weapon. Too frequently, he runs around his backhand to hit a forehand, a strategy compromised by his inefficient footwork.

Raonic has a long way to go before he can count himself as more than “a serve and a forehand.” He needs to improve his:

Footwork. At 6 feet 5 inches tall, Raonic struggles with mobility. He has the wingspan to cover the net, but he has a difficult time hitting the ball when he’s not in good court position. As a result, he tends to miss opportunities to come forward and hangs out on the baseline trying to keep up with the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Bad idea. He also tries to run around his backhand to use his forehand, but he’s not fast enough to be consistent on the runaround.

Fitness. During Raonic’s fourth round match at the U.S. Open this year, the 22-year-old could not keep up with the speedier Frenchman, Richard Gasquet. Improving his economy of movement, which goes back to the footwork, could help him not to expend as much effort on the court. Also, improving his backhand so he didn’t run around it so often would make his movement more efficient.

Aggression and mental endurance. Milos could be deadly at the net thanks to his height, but his fitness limitations make him too tired to run forward when he’s deep into a match. He gets into a defensive position on the baseline, where he seems happy just to finish rallies. Running back and forth playing defense is not a great strategy for a guy who’s 6 feet 5 inches tall. Milos needs to come to the net more often and put points away quickly. Ljubicic should be a great help to him as a coach who can bring out his killer instinct.

While Raonic stuck his toe into the Top 10 in 2013, he isn’t ready to be a consistent threat to Djokovic, Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Still, on any given day, he has the potential to beat anyone on the tour. His next task is to become a dominating force instead of “that guy” who pulls the occasional major upset.

Photo credit: Beth Wilson

About the Author: Yanos Stanich is a tennis analyst for several publications in Canada.