BY FAIZAL KHAMISA – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
He’s no longer the sleeping giant. He’s no longer the lankiest player on the practice courts causing comments for unaware opponents. He’s no longer the up-and-comer on tour. He’s no longer Milos Raonic, unknown as the Australian Open beckons.
It’s hard for anyone 6’5″ to sneak up on opponent, literally and figuratively, but Raonic did in 2012. Finishing the season as the 13th ranked player in the world, Raonic’s power game will no longer come as shock to his opponents. As a result, his start to the 2013 season may be indicative of what we’ll see this year.
Raonic has had a surprisingly poor beginning to 2013, posting a 1-3 record in the build-up to his first Australian Open match. The record is hardly worrisome; it’s the quality of losses that cause a speckle of doubt on his ultimate potential. The men on the opposite side of the net have begun to pry on Raonic’s weaknesses, and attack his strengths.
In his opening match of the season, a straight sets loss to 48th-ranked Grigor Dimitrov, Raonic had a bit of trouble returning his opponents first serve. He failed to win a single point off it.
Raonic’s less than stellar return game is usually countered by his dominant service game. He managed just four aces against Dimitrov. He hit more in each one of his matches in 2012. His opponents have finally found a shield to the strongest weapon is Raonic’s arsenal.
Raonic feels like he’s “close to the top guys now.” Feeling close and actually being close are two different things, especially in tennis. While the rise in rankings can lead one to believe he’s on the cusp of super-stardom, his play simply isn’t polished. An early loss in Australia could spell disaster, and lead to a year of regression.
Raonic is just 22, and has been praised by some of tennis’ elite. But it’s time for Milos to ignore the inside, and begin listening to words of his training team if he hopes this start is simply a spell of bad luck versus bad play.
The struggles can all be forgotten with stellar play at the Grand Slams. That, of course, is how tennis players are quantified.
Raonic has struggled in his eight Grand Slam appearances, failing to make it beyond the fourth round. It won’t get any easier at the 2013 edition of the Australian Open, with a potential fourth round clash against Roger Federer looming. Raonic is 0-3 against the Swiss Mister, though each match has been competitive.
That was the word of 2012 when describing Raonic: competitive.
Now, in 2013, with expectations at an all-time high, and opponents’ awareness at the same level, there’s a new word that Raonic wants to hear: champion.
It may be too much too soon.
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