Davis Cup captain on Raonic: ‘He was right there’

Tennis insider Chris Bowers says he's never seen Milos Raonic so down, after his heartbreaking loss to Andy Murray, saying a leg injury robbed us all of a natural finish to a great match.

Moments after Milos Raonic lost 6–4, 5–7, 7–6, 4–6, 2–6 to Andy Murray in the Australian Open semifinal, Martin Laurendeau, Canadian Davis Cup captain, spoke with Caroline Cameron over the phone from Australia. Laurendeau has been in Melbourne with Raonic’s camp and sat in Raonic’s players box in Rod Laver Arena for the semifinal.

Sportsnet: What was the mood like when Milos got off the court?

Martin Laurendeau: Disappointment. It was a fantastic match. The first three and a half sets were really close; very even. It was a great semifinal match between two different styles and it was a moment that Milos has been training and working hard for. He was finally there. It was materializing and he was right there with the lead, going into the fourth set and then lost a game at love and it appeared that he was hurting somewhere. It was difficult to figure out where but the way he was wincing and landing, we could tell something was hurting. He dealt with it through to the end. That’s the way sports goes.

SN: Did his body betray him?

ML: We’ll have to find out a little bit more—if it was the hip or the groin. You need to be have your legs and your whole body when you play Andy Murray. It was slower conditions tonight and it was cold. That suits Andy well. He made Milos run a lot.

SN: A month into his season, what’s impressed you the most?

ML: How good of a start he’s having. He didn’t play much of October, November, December. He had surgery on his foot. He kind of wobbled through the summer ’cause of his foot injury and his body breaking down even there. It’s been a while since he’s been at the top of his form and competitive for a good stretch. Usually you see quite a bit of rust when players come back but he went to Brisbane and he won, and then he comes here and has a great semis. With not having seen him play in a few months, I’m very impressed to see he’s improved in so many areas of his game, so many strokes, so many patterns tactically; he’s moving better, he’s returning better, serving and volleying better, he’s using the body serve a lot more, which is good. A lot of things have improved over the last few months. It’s a good sign ’cause he’s just coming of age now. At 25 you’re entering your best years. Usually it’s just one or two things [that improve] but in his case it’s five, six, and seven, dramatically. It’s a tribute to how dedicated he is and how much he wants to win a Grand Slam.

SN: You’ve known Milos since he was 12 years old. Have you recently noticed a shift in his mental approach to the game?

ML: His focus, concentration, his poise and his calmness have improved a lot. He’s obviously always been a very determined guy and he challenges himself to be the best he can be—that’s always been there. But I sense there’s more calmness when he’s going through his matches. He’s pacing himself better during matches. He’s calmer because deep down he knows he can win from the ground, from the baseline, in more ways than four or five years ago when he was relying more on his first serve and his forehand. He’s very well rounded. He can hurt with the slice, backhand, running around second serves, serve and volley. He’s mixing up the serve and the speed and location fantastically. That comes from hard work, that comes from being very focused at improving whatever he can improve. It’s a tribute to how dedicated and focused he is to be the best. He’s been winning a lot. This is only his second [Grand Slam] semifinal. He was in the position he wanted to be in. He had a shot at Andy. It’s a good start to the year. Fantastic. It’ll be exciting to see how he’ll play from here.

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