Michael Emmett: “Did we Jump the Gun on Milos?”

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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His serving statistics are off the charts.  He holds serve almost 90 percent of the time – best on the ATP tour.  When he puts in that lethal first ball he wins almost 80 percent of the points – again, best on the ATP tour.  His second serve is the best in the business – bar none. He became just the second player to win a tournament without dropping serve in early January in India. He just might have the best serve of all-time – better than any of his predecessors.  And of course, we are talking about Canadian tennis superstar Milos Raonic.   And Guess who the popular dark-horse pick to win the Australian Open was? – Milos Raonic! The tennis world has fallen in love with our Canadian luminary.  This serving giant is can’t miss material in the minds of several tennis aficionados across the globe.

After watching him collapse, to a meager looking over-the-hill Aussie in prime time on the middle Saturday of the Australian championships, I beg to differ.  This match told me so much.  This guy is a long way away from winning a major championship – let alone a top-10 ranking.  There are too many holes in his game to beat the game’s best.  This match was not an anomaly in my opinion – these weaknesses must be dealt with – otherwise, Milos will never reach the Promised Land that so many Canadian tennis fans are dying to see.

Sorry Canada – Milos has some more growing to do before we can expect a deeper run at a major tournament. He lacked confidence during so many pivotal moments of the match against Hewitt. He didn’t seem to have a solution for a guy he should have handled in straight sets. He struggled mightily on the low balls inside the service line –either missing outright or setting up Hewitt with an easy passing shot.  Milos was never in control – he was treading water for most of the match – and this is crazy when you consider his incredible power.

With canon-like serves traveling at 240km/hour and with jaw-dropping forehands that whipped across the court we should see more volley winners from our Canadian heavyweight.  He looked uncomfortable attacking from anywhere close to the net.  Every time he was forced in – he looked vulnerable.  No greater example of that than in the decisive 3rd set tie-break when he whiffed on a shoulder-high sitter that would have evened up the breaker at 6 apiece.  It was the biggest point of the match and Milos looked like a fish out of water – and unfortunately, this shot cost him the match.  How he looked so bad on a gimme is beyond me. Champions of the sport don’t miss this shot – at any point of any match.

So how could a guy with this major weapon lose to a journeyman like Lleyton Hewitt in the third round of the Australian Open?  For a guy who has aspirations of stardom and has Grand Slam trophies in his mind – this was a terrible loss.  A loss that simply shouldn’t have happened!  Are we expecting too much too soon from our Canadian up-and-comer?  Am I being too hard on the lanky 6-5, 21-year-old from Thornhill, Ontario? Does this loss prove we may have jumped the gun if we think a top-10 ranking is in the cards in 2012?

One match does not make an entire career. But one thing is for sure.  Milos and coach, Galo Blanco, have plenty of work to do before the next major – The French Open!

A deeper dive into second serve statistics

The two most widely reported second serve statistics in professional tennis are the number of double faults a player hit, and their second serve winning percentage. If we’re trying to understand the effectiveness of a particular player’s second serve, relying only on those statistics has significant drawbacks. Article by Michal Kokta.

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