Milos Raonic: I Feel Like I Serve Like One of the Top Guys in Tennis [Interview]
Canadian tennis fans have to be encouraged by their new star Milos Raonic who today became the first man from Canada to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open. Raonic hit 31 aces today in a very impressive 4-set win over 10th-seeded Mikhail Youhzny.
Roanic will move into the Top 100 in the rankings and he could go well higher if he can beat David Ferrer in the fourth round on Monday.
The 20-year-old has a monster serve and based on what I saw from him during his ESPN interview, he’s seems very poised with a good head on his shoulders.
Milos was born in Montenegro, was raised in Canada and just recently began training in Barcelona under coach and former player Galo Blanco. And for you girls, Milos says he has a girlfriend back home.
If you missed the ESPN interview which just ended, here’s his post-match presser after the Youhzny win. A new star is born!
Q. Did you expect to be back here after the last match?
MILOS RAONIC: Uhm, yeah. I didn’t really count myself out. I know I can play well and I know I can play at this level.
Uhm, I knew the chances were in his favor, but I knew I was prepared to fight for every point, however long it took. I can’t say I would be shocked if I wasn’t here. But I’m not really shocked I am here.
I worked hard and I’ve put in the hours, so it’s all coming together.
Q. Why are you playing so well? You went through qualifying and have gotten this far. Why are you playing so well?
MILOS RAONIC: I’m doing the things I need to do. Before I used to train in Canada, in Montréal, for the last three years. I was in a very good atmosphere there. I feel I was in a very good atmosphere that allowed me to progress and develop my game.
This last three months I moved to Barcelona, which is also a very good atmosphere for my development, but also from my competitive standpoint. So I feel I am competing better.
Also I’ve sort of found my game, and I keep what I’m doing well is I’m playing my game and I’m imposing my game. So it’s putting a lot of pressure on the other guys, and I feel I’m doing that well. It’s paying off in the matches and with the results.
Q. What expectations did you have coming into the tournament?
MILOS RAONIC: Not many. Really when you come in, it’s three tough matches through quallies. So my focus was one match by one. I wanted to qualify for this tournament, and then you see where you’re at, what’s next, because you don’t know who you’re gonna play.
But with my results I’m not really shocked, because I knew day to day when I see who I’m playing next, I knew I have a chance. I knew if I keep fighting, if I do the right things, if I play the way I’ve been training, and if I do implement my game, I know I have a chance.
I feel like I have more of a chance now because I feel like I’ve put a lot of good matches together.
Q. When you retire in Tashkent, were you injured?
MILOS RAONIC: Yeah, I tore my pec. I had a seven millimeter tear.
Q. How long did you stop?
MILOS RAONIC: Two weeks off completely after.
Q. How difficult is it to play at this level when you never have before?
MILOS RAONIC: It’s tough to close out the matches obviously. And I’ve had glimpses at this level. I had probably a year and a half ago match points on González in Montréal at the Masters. This was probably my biggest result before this, probably when I played my best.
But I’ve been practicing well. I played even a warmup tournament to this, an exhibition tournament, in Spain, where I was able to go 7 6 in the third with Almagro in a match atmosphere.
So I know that I’m getting there. I know I’m doing the right things. I’m playing well in the practices. I just have to start implementing it more and more into the matches. I knew the results would come, and it’s showing here.
It’s a really nice stage to show, at a Grand Slam, because it is tougher to beat these top guys, especially in three out of five, knowing after two sets they have a chance to get back. It’s really something special.
Q. You were very calm out there. I’m told that hasn’t always been the case on court. Is this a conscious change?
MILOS RAONIC: Yeah, it’s something that’s been talked about many times between myself and my coaches, especially my coach now, Galo Blanco. We’ve sat down numerous times and had a heart to heart talk about this. This was almost the reason why I lost last round in the quallies. I was able to change it around.
I’ve been keeping it together. I feel it’s a thing I have to stay on top of myself to keep together, but I know I can keep it together.
Q. Is it hard to suppress your emotions?
MILOS RAONIC: No, because I’m not getting angry. That’s the thing. It’s not like I’m hiding. I’m not getting angry. I’m seeing everything clearer, able to play the big points better instead of being sporadic, getting more caught up in the previous points.
I’m able to think point by point next point, sort of try to figure out what I want to do, try to dictate as much as I can.
Q. What do you know about Montenegro? Have you been there?
MILOS RAONIC: Yeah, I try to go every year. My brother and sister, after we moved in ’94 to Canada, my brother and my sister finished high school in Canada, and then she did university in Montenegro. She worked a few years and got a scholarship in Canada, so she came to do a Masters degree. She moved back; she’s married there.
My brother, in 2008, moved back after working a few years and finishing university in Canada. So all my family is there. Only my parents are still in Canada. So I do like to go back. Grandparents are there. I have really close ties with everybody that’s there. When I do go back, it’s never for tennis, it’s a vacation, per se, and a family visit.
Q. In which way you are from Montenegro and which way from Canada?
MILOS RAONIC: Born in Montenegro.
Q. I mean inside yourself.
MILOS RAONIC: When I was younger, I was very lazy, when they say about people from Montenegro. They say they’re smart, so I did well in school. This is a good thing (smiling).
In Canada I’ve learned a lot of things. For the tennis, it was definitely a benefit for why I’m here, and also from the support of Tennis Canada. It also taught me a lot about cultures. It’s been able to provide me a better transition to all the traveling through different cultures and stuff, because you have a lot of diversity in Canada.
Q. What about your parents?
MILOS RAONIC: My parents, they’re working in Canada. They like it there. But I don’t know what they’re gonna do.
MILOS RAONIC: Both engineers? My dad has a PhD and my mom has a Masters. They’re both engineers.
Q. The last best Canadian player ended up playing for Great Britain. I take it you will play for Canada.
MILOS RAONIC: Yes.
Q. You when you were in Canada, you say Tennis Canada helps you. In which way? Do they give you some money?
MILOS RAONIC: In 2007 I started at the National Center in Montréal. There I was helped financially and was under a Tennis Canada coach. For two years it was Guillaume Marx, a French coach brought to the National Center to work.
In 2010 I worked with Frédéric Niemeyer. He was helping me. Now I made a recent transition to Barcelona to work with Galo Blanco, but Tennis Canada is still helping me out financially. Even my scheduling process, everything is done with the head of the National Center in Montréal, Louis Borfiga. Everything is reviewed with him, what I need to do next, what are the next steps for my development and such. There’s still very close contact back home.
Q. How big a weapon do you feel your serve is?
MILOS RAONIC: My biggest. And I feel like I serve like probably one of the top guys on the tour. It allows me to play more freely also on the return games, because I know most of the time I will be holding. So it allows me to take less pressure on myself and play more freely, whereas I feel it also puts more pressure on the other guy, knowing if I do get up a break, there’s a good chance I could serve out of set.
Q. During today’s match, when you get in a winning position, did you have to sometimes say to yourself, Wow, I’m about to be in the fourth round of a slam, or do you believe you belong there?
MILOS RAONIC: It didn’t come up in my mind. I think one time when I sat down after the second set was over. Other than that, it never really came up to my mind.
The only person I sort of look out to, outside the walls of the court, is my coach. Outside of this, I’m quite good at letting everything else go, staying in a little bubble, and focusing on the things I need to do.
So after the match was over, it was a very pleasant thought, but even after it took me a while to get around through that, because I was happy with who I beat also, a top 10 player playing very well.
I felt I had to play extremely well to win today, and I’m happy I did that.
Q. In Barcelona there are a lot of beautiful girls.
MILOS RAONIC: I have a girlfriend back home.
Q. Was Galo Blanco at the match?
MILOS RAONIC: Yes.
Q. Youzhny said the freedom you played with is quite common with players in their first year on the tour. Did you feel that? Were you conscious than of it? It looked like fun.
MILOS RAONIC: Yeah, what I did today was I was converting a lot of big opportunities early. So this was good. But I wouldn’t say I was really free wheeling at anything. I was just going for random shots. Everything sort of had an intention that I was doing.
I was trying to do what I thought was best, either with percentage play, or if I felt I had an opportunity to try something a bit riskier. But I wouldn’t say I was really just letting the ball fly off my racquet, not knowing where it’s going, and the ball was going in today.
Q. Were you aware you were pretty much a stranger to him?
MILOS RAONIC: Yeah. It’s sort of a thing when coming up new, not too many players know you. And I have sort of an advantage of seeing them play so many hours on TV. But it’s something I really want to utilize to my ability.
But also I feel like I have a big game, and I’m able to impose it even on the top players. So I feel this also has given me an advantage.
Q. What were you most pleased with today in your game?
MILOS RAONIC: Just how collected I stayed. Even though I lost my serve many times in the second and third set, I was able to keep it all together. I had maybe very little of a lapse of concentration. I felt I stayed there the whole match, even against a top player, the intensity and level you need against a top 10 player. It’s something I’m really proud of.
Q. How do you feel about being in the top 100 now probably?
MILOS RAONIC: These are goals, but this is something I think about today and that’s it. Tomorrow I go out, I train how much I need to, I recover, I do what I need to, and I’m ready to play the fourth round on Monday.
Q. How about playing on a bigger court than Court 3 finally?
MILOS RAONIC: It will be nice. Honestly, it’s something I’ve looked forward to. I like playing on the big courts. It’s something I want to experience and it’s going to be fun.
Q. What’s the reaction been back in Thornhill with your parents and girlfriend?
MILOS RAONIC: It’s been very supportive. I think today was the first time that my match was televised completely, the whole match, on the main sports channel back home. So friends were able to see this. Many messages and much support from everybody. Especially my parents, girlfriend, everybody has really been behind me.
They were there obviously even before the quallies. People now are saying, Keep it going, keep it going. They were saying after first round quallies, Keep doing what you’re doing, make sure you train, do what you’re doing. It’s nice to see more people come sort of behind me and help me, but my parents, they love me so much, and I love them; they’re always there for me.
Q. Do they follow you also in Montenegro? Are you superstitious?
MILOS RAONIC: I’m quite superstitious. We’ll probably have to talk about that.
In Montenegro, yeah, I have quite a big following. My uncle is vice president there after the separation of Montenegro. I have quite a bit of popularity there now with the tennis results, especially last summer after that big win over Nadal and Djokovic in the doubles in Canada.
I sort of have more recognition there and press through newspapers and on the TV channels, on the daily news and such.
Q. You played with Rafa in Tokyo.
MILOS RAONIC: In Tokyo, too.
Q. What impression did you have?
MILOS RAONIC: It’s something I’ve tried to build off as much as I could. I played a good match there, but it was really a steppingstone. It was a big thing for my development because I knew what had to come of it. It was sort of a big motivation and a big click for the work I did put in in the off season.
I did get hurt the week after. I only played one match after this. I made sure to take six full weeks to do fitness and on court training and to prepare myself to play the level I’m playing now.
Q. You mentioned before your uncle being the vice president. Of what?
MILOS RAONIC: Montenegro.
Q. The country?
MILOS RAONIC: Yes.
Q. Do you still have time to study something?
MILOS RAONIC: Yeah, I’ve been doing courses. I’ve done a lot of financing courses. That’s what I’ve sort of studied in and focused on. Now it’s getting tougher. I sort of want to be relaxing and resting when I’m in my hotel room rather than sitting in front of a book.
Q. Which top player would you like to beat?
MILOS RAONIC: All of them (smiling).
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