The legends could not have been wrong. John McEnroe described him as “the real deal” after watching Milos Raonic reach the fourth round of the Australian Open on debut in 2011, while an impressed Martina Navratilova predicted the “sky’s the limit” for the gangly Canadian.
Four years since, the expectations are not any lower. The sky is still the limit, but Raonic wishes he had ticked a few more boxes before his 25th birthday, which he celebrated last Sunday, on December 27.
“I don’t think I would put an age on it,” Raonic said after reaching the last four of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. “I would love to win a slam by the end of my career, and I would love to achieve other things.
“It’s just that I am not a patient guy. When I want something, I try to get it as quickly as I can.”
The rueful smile that followed said it all. As a newcomer on the Tour, all Raonic wanted was success at all cost. “The first three years I don’t think I would leave my hotel room outside of tennis, because I was like, ‘I got to rest, I got to rest’,” he said. “It was like sort of a paranoia to do everything as best as I can.
“Only the last probably two years, since I broke through, I have been finding ways to enjoy being on tour more outside of the tennis, finding things that make me relax rather than being in that stressful mindset all the time.”
Raonic was making a steady climb up the rankings since finding that balance, but a foot and then a back injury curtailed his progress in 2015. Last year, Raonic had reached the semis at Wimbledon after a quarterfinal appearance at the French Open. He made it to the last eight at the start of the year in Australia as well, but then had to miss the French Open because of the foot surgery.
“The year was probably the most draining one,” said Raonic as he talked about a frustrating 2015, when he slipped from a career-high No 4 in May to a year-end No 14. “If I had played 80 matches, I probably would have been fresher towards the end of the year just because everyday since, I would say, April 1, was a doubt.”
Happy with how his rehab and how his body feels at the moment — he says he is at 97 per cent — Raonic is looking confidently towards the new season.
“I think I can break through and hopefully make a big result, much bigger than I have in the past,” he predicted boldly.
Given the recommendations he has on his CV, from the McEnroes and the Navratilovas, not many would dare doubt that.
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