Raonic falls short of history
By Christian Bouchard
I had the chance to look at the NHL standings the other day. Like most Canadians, I noticed the poor play of all seven Canadian teams. If the playoffs started today, for the first time since the 96-97 season, every single Canadian team will not make the playoffs. For a country that has built a culture around the success of Canadian hockey, I was shocked to realize just how poor our teams have been performing. But do not fret my fellow Canadians, Milos Raonic is here to save the day. Despite his latest misfortune at the Australian Open, the Canadian is destined to shine bright.
The 25 year-old from Thornhill, Ont. was an eyelash short of making Canadian tennis history earlier on this morning. Losing in five sets (4-6, 7-5, 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-2) to the second ranked Andy Murray in the Semi-Finals of the Australian Open, Raonic showed signs of a true superstar. Playing through an apparent leg injury in the third set, the Canadian missed his shot at becoming the first ever male Canadian to reach the finals of a Grand Slam. Not to mention, the match also lasted a little bit over four hours.
Raonic started off well taking the first set, all while taking advantage of his monstrous serve as he made his first serve 81 per cent of the time in the first set. It served him well throughout the match as he blasted 23 aces. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen time after time, it was that nagging leg injury that ultimately made the biggest difference. Raonic was locked and loaded in the first two sets taking chances and not committing many unforced errors. One might even think he was going to win. I did. However, with the apparent injury that forced Raonic to take a medical timeout late in the third set, Raonic could not mentally battle through the pain. His game quickly fell off as he made more than 50 unforced errors which eventually led to him getting broken mentally when he smashed his racket. As this was unlike the tennis player I’ve had the privilege of watching as I grew up, I was surprisingly okay with his actions. Never have I seen him lose his cool before today. Raonic showed me passion the entire night pumping his fists after key points and screaming to get the fans behind him. It was the kind of passion needed to battle your way back into a match in which you’re trailing. Never did he give up. Instead, he inspired.
Throughout the entire tournament, Raonic was faced with overcoming adversity. Every time his back was up against the wall, he came through with either a big shot or as we’ve seen thousands of times, a big serve. You can say the stage was too big for him again, say how he’s too young, how he’s not good enough to win a Grand Slam, whatever. It doesn’t change my stance on the matter. Milos Raonic will win a Grand Slam final within the next year.
It’s no secret the “Maple Leaf Missile” is a perfect nickname for Raonic as he has one of the greatest serves on tour. In fact, he currently holds the fifth fastest serve ever hit on tour at 155.3 miles per hour. While this has gained him many fans and ads to his game, I’m more impressed with the fact he’s become the best overall server in the game. And he’s only 25 years old. Statistically, his serve is one of the strongest on tour. In 2012, he served more aces per match and won a higher number of service games than any other player. Today, Milos holds serve 91 per cent of the time he steps to the baseline.
Despite the loss to Murray Friday morning, I see a bright future for Milos. Of course, he will need to remain healthy if he wants a taste of success. He will also need to continue playing like the best server on tour. The key, however, will be his net play. At six-foot-five, Raonic provides a tall, lanky body that installs fear into many players when he approaches the net. We saw it earlier on this morning when he gave Murray troubles every time he approached the net. But with that nagging leg injury, it proved too much to be able to move as efficiently and get to the net in time to set up a volley.
On route to the semis, Raonic knocked off some of the best players on tour in Stan Wawrinka and Gael Monfils. Now that he’s had the time and experience on tour to get a feel for the game, he’s showing his true abilities to play with the best on tour and even defeat them along the way.
Even with the loss to Murray, I’m confident in saying Milos is playing the best tennis of his life. He’s gained the confidence needed to succeed and he’s been showing it. In March of 2015, Raonic earned his highest ranking on tour at No.4. Currently ranked the fourteenth best player on tour, I’m sure his ranking will only rise after an impressive outing in the Australian Open.
Raonic has also gained praise by the likes of Jimmy Connors and one of the greatest servers in tennis history, Andy Roddick. Both tennis legends agree Raonic has a bright future. As do I. While he hasn’t been able to remain as healthy as he would like, he’s making constant progress.
For Canadian tennis fans and Canadians all over the world, I’m thrilled to say Raonic will be the answer. He will rise up to the occasion and make the most of his opportunities. When the lack of Canadian hockey teams in the NHL playoff prove to be too much for the hearts of hockey fans, I predict Canadians will turn on their TVs and cheer for Milos as he prepares for the French Open. Maybe there will be a Canadian team to make the playoffs, I don’t know for sure.
But one thing I am sure of: Milos Raonic will soon be a household name for Canadians.
Milos Raonic will continue to be one of the best servers on tour.
Milos Raonic will make Canadian tennis history and become the first ever male Canadian to reach the final of a Grand Slam.
Milos Raonic will be the answer for Canada.