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 M. Raonic - The revelation of 2011 
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Tennis Magazine: Milos, you are THE revelation of 2011. At this season ends, what first comes to mind?

Milos Raonic: Of course, the two images that come back to me spontaneously are Australia and San Jose. They are the two biggest moments of my season. After that, it wasn’t all positive. I’m thinking Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicobviously of my injury. That was a tough thing to overcome. But I’ll still put the Australian Open first. It will remain the first significant result of my career.

When I arrived there, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I had done good work during the winter period, and that it would pay off during the year. But I didn’t expect that it would pay off so soon. The fact that I saw that my work and my good feelings translated into competition gave me the confidence that I brought into the next tournaments – notably to San Jose. I knew, there, that I was able to play very well and to beat the best.

TM: When you arrived in Australia, you knew you had put in the work. But did you also know that you were capable of producing such good tennis?

MR: I knew that I could reach that level during the season. But maybe not quite as soon. You can never know how long it might take to put that work into practice. Before this year, I had played only four or five Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicmatches on the main tour. So I couldn’t really measure myself against the other players. Because that, too, is tennis: how you feel is one thing, but if the others are better, you lose.

That was sort of the unknown for me. And I was pretty surprised to realize that, in fact, I had reached that level so quickly.

TM: Was there one moment where you felt you were there?

MR: I felt it in Australia. During the offseason, I had the chance to train with very good players, notably going 7-6 in the third set with (Nicolas) Almagro during an exhibition in Spain. So I knew that I could. But an exhibition and a Grand Slam, that’s not exactly the same level of pressure … But I saw in Australia that it was falling into place. I particularly got the proof Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicafter beating (Michaël) Llodra. As long as I was in the tournament, I wasn’t thinking about all that but after, when I had a few days off, I realized that something had happened.

TM: You could speak of a sort of “click” during that match against Llodra?

MR: The “click” was in Australia, although I don’t know if we can point to one match in particular. I had played the tournament in Chennai before. I was playing pretty well but something was still missing. I got to Australia pretty early; I had a week to prepare well. Then I played the qualifying where everything still wasn’t perfect. But despite that, I felt that I was getting more powerful with each match. I played well against (Bjorn) Phau in the first round, I served and returned well against Llodra in the second round. I was starting to get more solid from the baseline. … That gave me confidence, and Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicmostly it helped me figure out how you had to go about beating the best.

TM: After which, you had that stretch in San Jose and Memphis where you were nearly unstoppable. That must have been a heady feeling …

MR: Quite, yes (smiles). In Australia, I played one tournament after another without having a second to think. I remember, after my win in San Jose, doing the press conference, and a half-hour later I was on my way to the airport to catch the flight to Memphis. I arrived there around 5 a.m.; I slept a few hours and practiced in the afternoon. Basically, I was caught in a bit of a whirlwind. For the body, it wasn’t the best use of time but for the spirit, it was something else, because it Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicdidn’t leave me any time to get wrapped up in everything that was happening. There were, all of a sudden, a lot of new things in my life, in my career and, in the end, I was pretty satisfied with the way I was able to manage everything.

TM: What new things, for example?

MR: Following up one tough match with another, against top-level players. That had never happened to me. And, the travel. The Futures and Challenger circuits are organized so that the players travel as little as possible between tournaments, to save money. Here, in less than two months, I had done Chennai, Melbourne, Johannesburg, San Jose, Mexico for Davis Cup … Basically, I went around the world. I tried to put the fatigue aside to take advantage of my momentum.

TM: Can we say that the fatigue caught up with you, notably during the clay-court season where your results weren’t as good?

MR: Actually, I thought I played pretty well on the clay, a surface on which I hadn’t played much. I didn’t Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicquite know what to expect. I needed to find reference points on this surface and that’s why I played three tournaments back-to-back in April. I won quite a few matches and then, when came the Masters 1000 in Madrid and Rome in May, it’s true that I was a bit tired. Overall, I thought my clay-court season was positive. But I took some lessons from it for my scheduling next year.

TM: Since we’re talking about ambition, do you have concrete objectives, or dreams, in terms of results of ranking?

MR: I’m not there yet, because I consider myself still recovering from my injury. As well, I’m still a developing player and I have progress to make. I owe it to myself to understand that, even if I hate losing and I want to win everything. In time, I think I have the potential to reach the top 10.

TM: We remember that fall on the court against Gilles Muller at Wimbledon. Was that where your injury happened, suddenly?

MR: Actually, I had already had the injury for a while, and that fall just sped things up. From there, Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicsurgery was unavoidable. Basically, it repaired a bit of damaged cartilage on the inside of the hip (I don’t quite know the exact medical terminology). Quite a few players have had it, like Nalbandian and Hewitt recently.

TM: Let’s come back to more positive things. Many players and observers agree that you’re a future champion. For example, after he beat you in Tokyo last year, Nadal said he was very impressed with your game. What does it feel like to hear that?

MR: It’s always great to hear that kind of comment. But it’s not because people think it that I will automatically get there. I’m looking at the road I have left.

TM: In what areas of the game?

MR: In a lot of areas. I have to continue to work on my serve. I know that might seem strange because it’s Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicprobably my best weapon, but I can still improve it. I must improve my play at the baseline, my return of serve, my movement … In fact, I can improve in just about every area and that’s a positive feeling.

TM: How and when did you start working with Galo (Blanco)?

MR: I met him last year, in March, through Steven Diez, a young Canadian player who was part of Galo’s academy. We agreed to try it out together during the fall in Tokyo, and then at the Tashkent Challenger, which I had to pull out of because of injury. After that, I spent some time at his home in Barcelona, where he has his academy. You have everything you need there: clay courts, hard courts, everything you need…

TM: The Spaniards have a reputation for being very hard workers. With a Spanish team, is it the same for you?

MR: I don’t think I worked harder, but I worked differently; the work was perhaps better adapted to my Magazine Tennis interviews Raoniccharacteristics. Working hard was never a problem for me. But it was a matter of finding the right way to work.

TM: Is it true that not long ago, you were extremely nervous on the court?

MR: Uhh … yeah! I panicked pretty quickly, I got very frustrated, I wasn’t able to stay focused. And not only did I start playing less well, but I lost all lucidity. I beat myself, and I helped my opponent. It was long a pretty critical thing for me, and was the subject of long discussions with Galo. I had to do a lot of work on myself to improve on that.

TM: Canada will host France next February, in the first round of Davis Cup. Are you already starting to think about that tie?

MR: For the moment, we’re mostly happy to be back in the World Group. It doesn’t happen that often; this is only the fourth time. I think I’ve done quite a bit for Canadian tennis this year. People were following my results, and we get the feeling that tennis got a little bit more important, that things are moving a little. We have to capitalize on that.

Magazine Tennis interviews RaonicI take that to heart. As well, I wasn’t able to play in Canada this year because our Davis Cup ties were on the road, and I was injured during the Masters 1000 in Montreal. Also, I really enjoy Davis Cup. I haven’t played a lot of ties, but I’m hooked. It’s completely different from normal tournaments and it’s the only time of the year where you’re not alone.

I’m really excited about this first round. I know the French players pretty well, I get along with most of them and I’ve played a lot of them this year. Since my return (from surgery) I’ve played Llodra in Shanghai, Monfils in Stockholm, Benneteau in Bercy. We can’t get away from each other!

TM: That said, you weren’t born in Canada since, as we know, you’re originally from Montenegro. Despite that, you’re pretty patriotic?

MR: Of course. It’s important to me to defend the Canadian colours. And I don’t just do it in tennis. I might now follow hockey as much as the average Canadian, but I support several Canadian teams. I’m a Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicbig fan of the Toronto Raptors. On top of that, I love my country, simple as that. It’s a magnificent country, the people are really welcoming. And in this period of economic crisis, Canada is a model because it’s one of the most table countries. Basically, it’s a country with a lot of great things. And so yes, I’m proud to be Canadian.

TM: What part of your personality is Canadian, and what part is Montenegrin?

MR: They say Montenegrins are intelligent, and maybe that’s why I was pretty good in school (smiles). I think I’m nice, and respectful, which are two qualities most Canadians have. You know, getting back to Canada, it’s a pretty cosmopolitan country. There are a lot of different communities and everyone lives together pretty well. Maybe that’s why I’m so open to different cultures. Wherever I go, I feel at home. For example, a lot of players don’t really like going on the Asian swing. I adore going there. And, because of my path, I’m partial to other languages. Because I spent a lot Magazine Tennis interviews Raonicof time in Montreal, I speak a little French. Well, not enough to do an interview as long as this one! (laughs)
Beyond that, I’m a real perfectionist. I’m demanding and critical about myself. It’s something my parents passed on to me.

TM: But you learned to play in Canada?

MR: Yes, when I was about 8. No one in my family played. I started playing street hockey, but there were tennis courts near my house, and it was my father who suggested I try. I don’t really know why. But it was a good idea …

Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:50 pm
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