Michael Emmett: “Raonic Wins Again”

Written by: Michael Emmett

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***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs.  He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet.  Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada.  Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s.  Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***

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Milos Raonic beat top-seeded Janko Tipsarevic 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4) in a serve-dominated Chennai Open final Sunday, earning his second career title.

The young Canadian did something this past week that I thought was impossible.  He went 48 for 48!  Yes, he served 48 times in his 4 matches in India and didn’t lose serve once.  It is an awesome feeling,” said the 21-year-old Raonic, who won all of his service games during the week to become the first player to win a tournament without dropping serve since Roger Federer at the 2008 grass-court tournament in Halle.

Fourth-seeded Raonic hit 35 aces in a marathon match that lasted 3 hours, 16 minutes and didn’t include a break of serve.  “Raonic dropped only four points on serve in the first set and had four chances to break in the fourth game before the Serbian stole it in the tiebreaker.

Raonic’s 35 aces are the 5th most in an ATP World Tour final since the ATP began tracking aces in 1991.

Raonic hit 76 aces in four matches. He also saved all 14 break points he faced in the tournament, including four in the final.

“My serve is a big factor in my game … in 99 percent of my matches,” said Raonic, who averages 124 mph on his first serve. “My job is to take care of my serve.”

The ninth-ranked Tipsarevic now has lost six of eight ATP finals in his career.

Milos has been so impressive against the best players in the game – something that bodes well for the future when he continues to play the top players on a weekly basis. He improved his record against top 10 players to an astonishing 5-8. To already have 5 wins over top-10 players at this early stage of his career is so impressive.  Some players play for 15 years and don’t have these kinds of stats.  This is the first time in his career he’s beaten two Top 10s in the same tournament.

“Guys like Milos are special players,” Tipsarevic said after his first match against the Canadian. “It was a great game of tennis. Nobody knew till the end who would win.

The Canadian is 2-1 in ATP World Tour finals, claiming his first title in San Jose last February. He followed that up by finishing runner-up to American Andy Roddick in Memphis a week later.

Raonic rose from No. 156 in the rankings to a career-high 25th last season before moving down slightly to his current No. 31. He won the ATP Newcomer of the Year award last year – and award voted on by his peers. With this win in India – Milos will improve his ranking 6 spots to match his career best ranking of #25 and will be seeded 23rd for the upcoming Aussie Open.

Raonic heads to Kooyong, Australia, to play in an exhibition event, a tuneup to the Australian Open in Melbourne, which begins Jan. 16. More on that in shortly!

What is so impressive is his lack of fear.  He cranks that serve all over the court at scorching speeds no matter what the score is.  He is relentless and has gobs of confidence at such crucial stages of the match.  The guy is robot-like with his massive serve and seems to fire aces at such critical junctures of matches.  To go an entire event without losing serve is the most improbable stat I’ve heard in any sport at any time – this is just not done!! The concentration, skill and composure required to accomplish such an unlikely task is incredible.  With this cannon for a serve, the sky is the limit for this lanky kid from Thornhill.  Guys are returning so well in this day and age – to win 48 consecutive service games outside in humid conditions against a top-notch field is mind-boggling and inconceivable.  This is so preposterous that we may never see it happen again.

A guy, who can serve a 117 mph second-serve ace down the T, as he did against Tipsarevic, is brutally dangerous for any opponent. He rarely dips below 130 mph on the first serve, unless of course he chooses to go for a spinning ace out wide in the deuce court. And he often goes above 110 mph on his second serve and rarely misses – simply put the guy never double faults!  He not only has the heater (fastball to all corners) – he also has the best second serve in the game.

When Milos serves around two aces per service game, not counting all the unreturnables or sitters that come back at him – there’s only so much the opposition can do.  This serve is more than a weapon – it’s a torpedo that is the talk of the tour right now.

And that is what makes Milos Raonic interesting at the Australian Open.  Can he beat any of the top 5?  Can he do it over 5 sets?  All questions we’ll no doubt get answered in the near future.

A daunting third-round opponent for any player and the Big Four will be praying to avoid him. Perhaps none more so than Rafael Nadal, who’s always been troubled by players who take away his rhythm and refuse to rally. If John Isner can take Rafa to five sets at Roland Garros, what can Raonic do at the Australian Open? We’re about to find out.

While I would be quite surprised if Raonic makes it beyond the quarters, I can certainly see him making another fourth round or even the quarters. It all depends on two things: the draw, and his serve!

An injury-free Raonic should be able to have a couple of deep runs at the slams this year and make his way into or around the top 12.  Better than that you say?  I say not this year – but I do see him making massive improvements in his already impressive ranking.

And so far, I’ve failed to mention his lethal forehand – this gigantic stroke is right up there with the best in the world. His racquet head speed on the inside out forehand is breathtaking.  Imagine that, 2 blistering shots that can be outright winners in a blink of an eye.  If Raonic improves his return game, his movement and his volleys, the rest of the tour better watch out.

Because service-wise, he’s almost unbreakable – and he just might have the best serve of ALL-TIME!

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