Milos Raonic and Friends: The Future or Typical Over-Hype?
by Ben Pronin | March 24th, 2011, 4:09 pm

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Juan Martin del Potro all won their first grand slam titles when they were 20 years old. Nadal has gone on to become one of the all-time greats. Djokovic recently captured his second slam and is finally hitting his stride. And Del Potro is slowly but surely getting back to his best form after a year away from the tour.

Milos Raonic wins his first ATP title in San Jose, the SAP Open, a level 250 event, the smallest possible ATP event, and all of the sudden he’s the future of tennis?

His big breakthrough came at the Australian Open where he won seven matches before losing to David Ferrer in the fourth round. And he’s done a good job of following up that performance with the win in San Jose and a final in Memphis. But is this really enough to say that he’s a future world number one? Djokovic is 18-0 on the season and people are still hesitant about proclaiming that he’ll end the year number 1.

Then there’s Richard Berankis, Bernard Tomic, Ryan Harrison, and Alexandr Dolgopolov, too. Apparently, these guys are the future top players in tennis. The new generation of “New Balls, Please.” But why?

Honestly, I’ve never even seen Berankis play. I just keep reading his name next to all of these other guys. And looking up his numbers, he’s done nothing to show that he’s going to be a great player in the future. And he’s already 20.

The only time I hear about Tomic is during the Australian Open where he’s played some good matches the last two years. But what else has he done? I guess he still has some time, being only 18, but it’s time to make a legitimate breakthrough and scalp some big names if he wants to be regarded as a future great.

I was very impressed with Harrison’s play at last year’s US Open and, most recently, at Indian Wells. His game is a lot of fun to watch. But again, he needs to make a legitimate breakthrough. Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray, Nadal, Djokovic, all of these guys BEAT Federer when they were teenagers, they didn’t just keep it moderately close over two sets.

Then there’s Dolgopolov, who’s a whopping 22. Considering the way he plays, it makes sense that he would be a late bloomer of some sort, but can anyone really see this guy consistently winning big events and taking out top players? I mean consistently, not just every full moon. His style is exciting, no question, but it’s a style that’ll make him a perennial dark horse, but never a legitimate contender.

Raonic has definitely distanced himself from the rest of these players, though. He’s easily one of my favorite players already and I would love to see him winning slams as soon as possible. But, again, if Djokovic hasn’t done enough to show that he’ll overtake the number one spot this year, then there’s almost zero basis to say that any of these upstarts will be number one or slam winners in the future. I understand why there is so much hype, though. Only a few months ago I was seriously wondering where all the young talents are and I’m very excited with the recent breakthroughs, but it’s way too soon to say they are the future.

Let’s not forget all of the hype that surrounded the formidable Donald Young and how great that turned out. (I still can’t believe he beat Murray). Let’s just stay a little realistic for now and wait for things to play out more before proclaiming anyone the second coming of Pete Sampras.

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42 Comments for Milos Raonic and Friends: The Future or Typical Over-Hype?

grendel Says:

“I’m very excited with the recent breakthroughs, but it’s way too soon to say they are the future.” Well, someone’s got to be the future, Ben! Unless you see Nadal, Fed, Djoko etc fighting it out for ever more. Baldy Nadal serves to white haired Fed as they contest their 30th Wimbledon final…

“Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych, Andy Murray, Nadal, Djokovic, all of these guys BEAT Federer when they were teenagers,” – yes, well, they mature later these days, that’s just the way it is. This point has been made BEFORE. Analysed, wrapped up and put to bed.

I see Grigor Dimitrov – another wonder boy – was beaten today 2-6,4-6 by Stakohvsky, the one who scraped by Harrison in that US Open thriller. Good looking player himself, Stakohvky, and no disgrace to young Grigor. Give him time. Harrison seems to have matured a little earlier – I understand he has a tremendously strong family base for support, and it shows. The lad simply oozes confidence.

“His style [Dolgopolov’s] is exciting, no question, but it’s a style that’ll make him a perennial dark horse, but never a legitimate contender.” Yay for perennial dark horses, they stir the blood, nay for legitimate contenders, they induce the yawn…

blank Says:

“But, again, if Djokovic hasn’t done enough to show that he’ll overtake the number one spot this year, then there’s almost zero basis to say that any of these upstarts will be number one or slam winners in the future.”

What do you mean by this? Are you waiting for someone to tell you Djokovic has done enough to claim the No. 1 for the year already? Who is saying that these young upstarts will certainly be No. 1 and GS winners etc? It appears to me like people are just excited to see new talent with potential. However, only time will tell whether these guys are capable and if Djoko will claim YE No. 1. But that’s stating the obvious isn’t it? I don’t see any over-hype here, but you sound mad that people (I don’t know who they are) are not conceding the YE No. 1 ranking to Djokovic already!

Joe Says:

Djokovic’s body will break down before ever reaching #one. He will not be the YE # one!!!!! Djokovic…what a joke!

Fritz Says:

You wish Joe… Keep wishing!
On December 31st the joke will be on you.
Or should I call you Jo(k)e ;-)

Fritz Says:

Jo(k)e, read this article from Eurosport. It was published a few hours ago. I am sure you’ll like it:

grendel Says:

Nice to see Nishikori win and earn a slot against Nadal. After Nishikori had taken a set off Nadal at Queens about 3 years ago, Nadal predicted that he’d make the top 5. Hasn’t happened – for one thing, injury hasn’t permitted. The potential is still there, though.

dari Says:

there will never be a new “new balls, please!”
that was the first tennis ads, aggressive, “campaign-style” i remember seeing. not everybody panned out, but there were some gooduns- guga, fed, roddick, safin, ferrero, haas…! i thought tennis was really fun then, but now its even better!


Most of the legends displayed their greatness on the pro circuit before their 20th birthdays. Borg, Wilander, Edberg, Becker, Sampras and Nadal all won slams before they turned 20.

Agassi had won many tournaments and was ranked #3 in the world as a teenager. Also 2 semifinal slam appearances.

At 18 McEnroe came through the qaulies at Wimbledon and made it all the way to the semis before losing to Connors.

Federer is the exception to the rule.

Raonic is already 20. He shows potential, but winning a 250 tourney doesn’t foreshadow a future world #1. It will be interesting to see how he does at Wimby and the US Open this year. If he can put up a semi or final appearance then I would feel confident about his chances to win a slam or two in the future.

To be fair today’s game is so physical compared to when these legends won their 1st slams that I think it is extremely difficult to be developed enough as a player to win a slam as a teenager.

jane Says:

That is true about the youth ruling. Djok won his first slam at 29, Roddick won his only slam at 21, Safin won his first slam at 20 also. So it is true that Fed is really the exception. Most have won slams by 21 years if they are going to win one..

jane Says:

Oops meant 20 not 29 for Nole’s first slam…

jane Says:

JMac had his first slam at 20 also…

skeezerweezer Says:

Sorry in advance..have to post this as it is relevant to the promising youth in pro tennis… 54 where are u?

From the wiki….

“Chang’s most famous match took place at the 1989 French Open (on the way to winning his only Grand Slam singles title). In the fourth round, he faced the World No. 1, reigning Australian Open champion, and three-time former French Open champion Ivan Lendl. Conventional wisdom made Lendl the heavy favorite to win the match against the 15th-seeded 17 year-old Chang.

Lendl appeared to be on the way to victory after taking the first two sets 6–4, 6–4 and then breaking Chang’s serve in the opening game of the third set. But Chang broke back immediately and went on to claim the third set 6–3. During the fourth set, Chang experienced a severe attack of leg cramps, and though he won the set to level the match, he considered retiring from the match while up 2-1 in the fifth set. He later said that he felt “an unbelievable conviction in my heart” not to give up, and decided to finish the match.[3]

Chang adopted some unusual tactics in an attempt to overcome his cramps. He hit the ball high into the air on many points to slow the game down (known as “moon balls”), and also began to go for more winners in order to shorten the points.[4] Chang also ate bananas and drank water at every opportunity.[5] The success of these tactics caused Lendl, known to be one of the least easily fazed players, to lose his rhythm and caused him to swear at the umpire and the crowd, especially after losing a key point in the fifth set when Chang shocked him by delivering an under-arm serve.[6] Chang later explained, “I was trying to break his concentration. I would do anything to stay out there.”

Chang continued to suffer from cramps, but managed to take a 5–3 lead in the fifth set with two match points on Lendl’s serve. Aiming to break Lendl’s concentration one more time, Chang stood well inside the baseline, almost at the T-line in the centre of the court while waiting to receive Lendl’s serve. The crowd started laughing at the bizarre situation and Lendl seemed to think everyone was mocking him.[7] The tactic worked as Lendl produced a double-fault to give Chang the victory, 4–6, 4–6, 6–3, 6–3, 6–3 in 4 hours and 37 minutes. Chang sank to his knees and broke down in tears at the conclusion of the match. Seven days later, he went on to take the title, becoming the youngest male champion in Grand Slam history by beating Stefan Edberg in a five-set final, winning 6–1, 3–6, 4–6, 6–4, 6–2.”

Mila Says:

There is an article on Novak on Eurosport UK by Simon Reed. Here is the link:

It is very complimentary for Novak, which is rather unusual coming from Mr. Reed.

Dory Says:

Bernard Tomic is EXTREMELY TALENTED. If only he could convert his passive style into a super aggressive one, he could be the next top 5 player. I LOVE THE WAY he strikes the ball. Has GREAT VARIETY in his game.

Andrew Miller Says:

Ben is right about tempering the hype. However, the ATP top 50 is “old” – they have either been top 10 for 10 years running or they have seen other top 10 talents (James Blake) go down the rankings and know, at some point in the very near future, that they are next.

The reason to hype these young players on the ATP is that, in contrast to veterans in the top 50, their rise is pretty shocking. It’s hard to win matches in today’s ATP – the skill level is higher in part because of the way Nadal and Federer pushed the sport forward.

But the reason these guys are doing well, and which no one is talking about, is our fan favorites are getting up there in the age department (despite their youth). As Sean Randall said, Father Time is UNDEFEATED!

margot Says:

Dory: completely agree about Tomic! Think he is my favourite of the “new boys.” When he played Rafa he hardly seemed to be moving at all, yet always seemed to be in the right place to return the ball.
Wonderful :)

fern Says:

For the record, Rafa won his first slam at 19 not 20.

I agree that it’s over-hype. Saying Raonic is the new Sampras is a little bit hasty especially as he is all serve at the moment and no substance to his game. He’s got a long way to go with his all court movement.

I haven’t seen Harrison play much, but I was impressed with him against Roger at IW, but he didn’t win, and he has to perform well against top players regularly to be seen as the future of tennis. It’s no use playing lights out tennis one minute and then going down in the first round the next to a player who is about to hang up his racket like Schutller.

Dimitrov and Golubev have not won any significant matches as far as I know, and I think Dolgo will end up being a specialist doubles player. He’s got the game for doubles but a little bit too erratic for singles.

fern Says:

margot Says:

Dory: completely agree about Tomic! Think he is my favourite of the “new boys.” When he played Rafa he hardly seemed to be moving at all, yet always seemed to be in the right place to return the ball.
Wonderful :)


Margot, you sure don’t like Rafa, that comes through loud and clear.

Donald Young is my favourite player.

MMT Says:

When I evaluate young players I look for two things: (1) the mechanics of their technique (2) their movement (3) their committment to improving.

Of all the players cited, Harrison and Raonic appear to me to have the best stuff in those three areas. Even though both have weaknesses, I feel their commitment to improving gives them a chance to great that other young players have not yet shown.

Harrison has two major weaknesses: (1) the mechanics of his serve and (2) his court positioning when under pressure. His serve is good in terms of placement and spin, but there is a hitch in it where his wrist breaks as his brings the racquet head above his head – very similar to Venus Williams – and I think it has a tendency to break down under pressure.

Against Federer, although they had the same number of double-faults, Harrisons were more costly, and at a lower first serve percentage his second serve was more exposed. I also feel Harrison’s positioning when under pressure from his opponent is too far behind the baseline. It makes it hard for him to transition to attack against the better players and too passive against players he should pounce on. But I think both will improve, as he has shown a lot of commitment to do so.

Raonic on the other has 1 big problems that I can tell, and it’s not his movement – it’s excellent for a player of his height – it is the production of his forehand. One tell tale sign that a forehand is too elaborate is if when you watch the player from the front hiting a forehand, you can see his racquet head behind his head – in other words it’s a really big loop.

That loops causes all kinds of problems on natural surfaces, where bad/inconsistent bounces are a problem, and on fast surfaces where the ball stays low. On a true bouncing synthetic surface, it’s no problem, and that’s usually where the results are best. But put him on something where he can never be sure where the point of contact is going to be until after the bounce, and it’s a nightmare.

I also feel that Raonic, unlike most young players, has a tendency to overhit when being agressive, and hits a lot of errors when he doesn’t need to. His net game is good enough that he can hit good solid setup or kills shots without trying to blow up the ball, and get to net to finish off what is normally a weaker replay.

Dolgopolov is not young – he’s already 22, and as noted, most of the top players showed a lot more results than he has. I like his game, but I also feel that under pressure it is too elaborate. However, if he focus his game a little and find a comfort zone that allows for consistent results, he is the most versatile of all listed players – he’s quite good on all surfaces.

As for the age of the great champions when they won their first majors, I think it’s fair to say that 22 years old is probably the cut-off – not too many players score their first after this age, and even those who do, rarely win multiples. And Andy Murray is 23, so by this measure he’s at risk.

Having said that, I don’t think it’s prohibitive for him because I think the overriding factor is the players committment to improving at that age is greater, but Murray is continually improving.

P.S. I believe Federer was 21 when he won wimbledon the first time – although his birthday is in August, so it was almost 22.

margot Says:

fern: What????? So if I admire a young man who played with flair and courage against Rafa and I say so, I automatically “don’t like Rafa.”
Do please go into my head and tell me some more who I like and “don’t like.” I’m sure I’ll find it highly illuminating.

margot Says:

MMT: thanx for encouraging words about Andy, always appreciated ;) And what do u think of Tomic? I know his movement has been criticised.

tronin Says:

This guy ben sounds like a total ass clown. He’s def not a bro.

jane Says:

Raonic getting routed by Somdev a.t.m.!

stu Says:

gaahhh, i picked Milosh! should have had more faith in Somdev after he took it to Rafa!

stu Says:

wow Dodig takin it to Soda too?!

stu Says:

GO Somdev! Clutch serving there! I’ll gladly lose a point for you!

jane Says:

Interesting that milos lost last week to harrison and this week to somdev – both contemporaries. Maybe the favourite tag does get to him? Somdev is in great form though, nice win for him…

Tennis Vagabond Says:

There is going to be a huge vacuum at the top. A ridiculous amount of today’s top players are antiques, who have either remained at the top (Fed, Roddick) or experienced late-surges, like Ferrer, Verdasco, Soderling, Youzhny, Fish…
Its obvious there’s going to be major change within a few years. Who will take these spots in the top 20? The same young underachieving guys who have been around the last few years- Gasquet, Tsonga, Monfils… well, the French really. Gulbis?
It’s just time for new blood, and here it is.

As to why its hyped so much, I think people are just ready after five years of Fedal, and then the Big Four… there’s been so little surprise on the tour for years now (Pax Federer). So people are excited.

As to why the young guns are so old… meh. Its a trend lately, there’s very few prodigies like Rafa any more.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Don’t forget, even with his loss today, Raonic is playing better this year than the French Middle Agers.

The fighter Says:

Go Som….Proud to be an Indian…

MMT Says:

I think Tomic had a lot of potential, but I question his commitment to improve. I don’t know if his entourage is wagging the dog in his best interest.

dari Says:

“Pax Federer” love it. It was a time of peace and prosperity for all- with the last name federer.

Tennis Vagabond Says:

Those who break an empire often don’t enjoy the spoils for long.

margot Says:

MMT: I agree re Tomic’s dad who seems to be another awful tennis parent and very aggressive with it.
Now whaddyasay about Andy? Another tournament, another loss. I’m just speechless :(

grendel Says:

margot – I too greatly enjoyed Tomic against Nadal. You put it pithily, how he always seemed to be in the right place – without any noticeable movement. Since then, he seems to have disappeared from view. Did he just have a very good day and is Nadal, for some reason, a good match up for him? or what?

Andrew Miller Says:

Tennis Vagabond, agree with you 100 percent. The top ten is going to change – look at guys like Davydenko, who headed into Australian Open as “man to beat” in 2010, and now heads into every tournament as “used to be top ten” – diddo for James Blake, who rose to #4 on talent and hard work and crashed out of the top 10 because he hadnt improved since 2006. The top ten already has changed in the last several years, and it will definitely change this year – by the end of 2012, who knows who will be number 1.

Polo Says:

I like this article. It is very sensible and realistic.

Polo Says:

Nadal will still be number one by the end of the year. Djokovic will give him a heck of a fight though. Federer will still be third. Roddick and Verdasco will be out of the top twenty, even lower maybe.

margot Says:

grendel: he’s only 18, went out in first round at Miami but put up a fight. I think he and Dimitrov are still knocking on heaven’s door whereas Raoinic and Harrison seem to have kicked it open :) That American confidence perhaps.
I’m sure T and D will get there, just need a little more time, dear me how singy I am today ;)
Now, can I talk to u about “The Killing”? Also, series 3 of “Spiral” next week. Should I buy 1 and 2 v. cheap on DVD, b4 hand, do u think?

grendel Says:

Always suspected it was Vagn…….(we only talk about these things AFTER the event…) Very disappointing ending to a tremendous series. I wonder, though, if one or two of the loose ends are picked up at beginning of 2nd series. In particular, will that loathsome crown prosecutor get his comeuppance? Dammit, we the audience are supposed to experiemce a spot of the old catharsis. Doesn’t happen in real life, I know – that’s why we watch this stuff partly. Felt cheated. Damn realism. At least so far as entertainments go. Modified realism, shall we say. w.r.t. Spiral – I couldn’t tell from the announcement if it was a repeat or new series. You say new? In which case, if you can find the time, I’d definitely watch the earlier series – a lot of character development goes into them.

margot Says:

Cheers for “Spiral” up date, yes this one’s new.
Ok I give you some disappointment but 2 spine chilling moments, firstly Sara face to face with Vagn, suddenly realising he’s the killer and what a very fine actor she is. Secondly, the green hands appearing in the cellar, yikes!
And Bix suddenly turning into a kind of good guy and and …
Also, really liked the political shinanigans and Hartman’s sidekick turning into a first rate slime ball.
The acting alone would make it worthwhile for me.

grendel Says:

agree with all your points…

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