Milos Raonic, home favourite and star of this week’s Rogers Cup in Toronto, is Canada’s greatest singles player of the Open Era.
In the Great White North you don’t get much greater than this.
Currently ranked six in the world, he’s also the most exciting player from the Americas right now. Here are 10 reasons why he’s going to be top (or at least near the top) of the world before long.
1. Best serve in the world
“His serve is probably the best of all time,” says Canadian doubles legend Daniel Nestor. And Nestor should know – the 41-year-old has been on the tour since 1991.
Just look at the stats. As of this week, Raonic had blasted down 650 aces in 39 matches in 2014. He’d won 83 percent of his first-serve points (only Ivo Karlovic is ahead of him). And he’d won 91% of his service games (only John Isner and Karlovic are ahead.)
2. Mega-fast serves
In 2012, at the Rogers Cup (the tournament he’s competing in this week), Raonic delivered the 5th fastest serve of all time: 155mph. He regularly pushes the high 140s.
3. Disguised serves
You can be fast and accurate, but if you don’t disguise your serves, a good returner will always get his racket to them. Raonic is the Sherlock Holmes of tennis when it comes to service disguise, using the same ball toss whether he’s going flat, sliced or topspin.
4. Big levers
Raonic has a killer forehand groundstroke, too. Like the serve, it’s helped by his enormous levers which create a whip-like motion as they stroke the ball. At 6ft 5inches, he has leg bones, torso and arm bones longer than most of his rivals’.
5. Level-headed family
There are some crazy tennis dads and tennis mums on the professional tour. (Just ask Bernard Tomic or Jelena Dokic.) Raonic’s parents are among the sanest, however.
“His family, in my opinion, are role models,” says Hatem McDadi, at Tennis Canada. “They sacrificed. They got up early. They also stressed education.”
Even his older siblings (brother Momir and sister Jelena, 9 and 11 years his senior) helped with tennis duties such as driving little bro’ to practice sessions.
6. His parents don't coach him
With a few notable exceptions, parents who also coach generally spell disaster further down the line. Wisely, Raonic’s avoid getting involved, leaving it to the professionals.
“Even to this day, my parents will not give me tennis advice,” he says.
7. He is unremittingly driven
Nothing’s half-baked with Raonic. Even as a youngster, he would wake his dad up at 5am demanding to go and hit balls at the local courts.
At age of 11 he gave up ice hockey and snowboarding, worried he might break a wrist and not be able to practise tennis.
A Canadian kid giving up ice hockey? It’s unthinkable.
8. Anger control
As a junior player, Raonic regularly used to lose his rag on court, succumbing to “hours of rage”, as he describes it.
He’s since learned to control that rage. “Pretty much as an act of desperation,” he adds.
At 6ft 5inches, Raonic is usually the tallest player on the court. This has biomechanical benefits during play but it also arms him with an invaluable psychological weapon. When the coin is being tossed, he’s looking down on his opponent. And the umpire. And the coin.
10. He can win even when he’s not playing his best
“We play 50 to 70 matches a year,” he told Sportsnet magazine. “We probably feel good at three or four of them. Every other one you’re sort of managing, whether it be emotions, physical issues, the wind, the heat, whatever. You have to learn how to put that all aside and try to get the most out of yourself.”
What about Raonic’s prospects at this week’s Roger’s Cup in Toronto, and at the US Open (starting August 25th)?
He is third favourite to win in Toronto at 11.00, behind Novak Djokovic at 2.20 and Roger Federer at 4.50.
At the US Open, he is 7th favourite to win at 26.00. Djokovic is favourite to win at 2.20, followed by Rafa Nadal at 5.00, Roger Federer and Andy Murray at 6.00 and Stanislas Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov at 15.00.