After an impressive season in 2012 that saw Milos Raonic reach a year-end, career-high ranking of No. 13 in the world (the top ranked North American in the ATP, let alone Canadian), we were supposed to see a stronger and refreshed Raonic in 2013.
Well, that didn’t exactly go as planned.
In an exciting second-round match featuring two young stars in Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov, the Canadian was the favourite. The two had met once before on the ATP tour, with Raonic coming out the victor. Leading up to the season-opening Brisbane International, Raonic had spent a month and a half training hard in Barcelona with his coach Galo Blanco and, subsequently, he was supposed to be more prepared than ever.
But Raonic couldn’t handle the 48th-ranked Bulgarian on Thursday, losing 6-3, 6-4. And when I say “couldn’t handle,” it’s not meant as a cliché — Raonic didn’t win one point on Dimitrov’s first serve.
Not one point.
That’s unheard of, especially considering that Dimitrov isn’t known for his serve on tour. Returning has always been one of Raonic’s weaknesses — but it is not that weak. Heck, Raonic only had four aces compared to Dimitrov’s 10. That’s also weird. With the loss, Raonic’s ranking gets bumped to No. 15.
So what went wrong? To be fair to the Canuck, he had a bye in the first round and wasn’t in his groove going into his match with Dimitrov. Also, this was Raonic’s debut in Brisbane and instead of defending his title in Chennai, Raonic decided to play Brisbane in an attempt to better prepare for the Australian Open.
But that’s it for excuses. This was a disappointing loss and not a great way to prepare for the first Grand Slam of the year — a Slam that Raonic can do quite well in. This upset is also a reminder that 21-year-old Dimitrov is a very talented player who we’ll be hearing a lot more of.
Will this hurt Raonic’s chances at the Australian Open? Doubtful. The only downside is that he isn’t riding a wave of confidence going into the Open like he was last year after Chennai. Nevertheless, it would have been nice for Raonic to have a few games under his belt before the Aussie Open.
But remember, Raonic had his coming out party in Melbourne in 2011, reaching the fourth round and then the third round last year. He likes the Aussie Open and he does well there so there is no need to worry just yet.