Raonic ready to make strides this season
Canada's Milos Raonic, of Toronto, Ont., gestures to the crowd after defeating Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez during a Davis Cup tennis world group first-round tie singles match in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday February 3, 2013. Raonic is fresh from the biggest team victory of his young tennis career. The hard-serving singles star from Thornhill, Ont., wants to build on that success by making significant strides on the ATP Tour this season while anchoring the Canadian side in Davis Cup play. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
TORONTO - Milos Raonic is one of the biggest young stars on the ATP Tour and he's riding high after anchoring Canada's recent upset win over Spain in Davis Cup play.
The future is bright for the 22-year-old right-hander from Thornhill, Ont., who currently sits at a career-high No. 13 in the world rankings. His next mission is to take the necessary steps to continue his steady growth on the ATP Tour.
It won't be easy to crack that upper echelon where the sport's elite players are rooted. The top level is filled with battle-tested veterans who are loaded with experience and seem to be a half-step ahead of the rest.
Raonic appears well-positioned to get there down the road — it seems to be just a matter of when.
"I think I'm capable of a lot of things," Raonic said Tuesday of the season ahead. "I've set my goal to make London at the year-end (championship). That would probably put me in the top eight. So all these kind of things I look forward to.
"I've just got to work one match at a time and try to keep getting better throughout the year."
Raonic is known for his booming serve and power game. But he has worked hard over the last few years to improve his return skills and net play.
It was a more well-rounded Raonic that clinched an upset win for Canada last weekend.
In the deciding match, Raonic kept Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on his heels and was able to dictate the pace of play. Raonic still relied on his heavy serve, but also worked his opponent around the court and was aggressive with his volleys.
The straight-set victory at the University of British Columbia put Canada through to the Davis Cup World Group quarter-finals for the first time.
It also showed that Raonic has more than just his serve as a weapon. He displayed a deft touch at the net and used his six-foot-five frame to cut shots off and keep his opponent from finding any rhythm.
"I've got to keep working, I've got to keep improving a lot of things," Raonic said. "But I'm on the right track, I feel. I've got to keep going forward and make sure I'm getting better day in and day out."
Raonic earned ATP Newcomer of Year honours for his breakout season in 2011. He picked up a pair of tournament victories last year and was the youngest player in the year-end top 20.
He has risen 16 spots in the world rankings over the last year. That jump results in better seedings at tournaments and improved position in draws.
Raonic has posted a few big wins over top-10 players but has come up a little short when pushed by the world's best. But his coach, Galo Blanco, is confident the Canadian star will continue to blossom with experience.
"I don't think you can find many players under 22 or 21 that are even top 100 (in the rankings)," Blanco said. "What he's doing is pretty impressive."
Next up on Raonic's calendar is the SAP Open in San Jose, where he's the two-time defending champion. He will continue the U.S. hardcourt season with a stop in Memphis after that.
Raonic will also be counted on again when Canada returns to Davis Cup action in early April against Italy. And the next stop on the Grand Slam circuit, the French Open, is only three months away.
Blanco said the young Canadian is working hard to attain his goals.
"I think he's doing the right things, we are not in a rush," he said. "This is the more important thing. As soon as you rush, you hesitate, you want to get the things and you get more tight. It's not the way. We have to go step by step.
"He's doing the right thing and hopefully he can get there soon."
Raonic made an appearance Tuesday at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital to make a $70,000 funding announcement through his Milos Raonic Foundation.