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Milos Raonic

Raonic talks all things tennis with PDT

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  • Location: Roehampton Club, UK

Now 26, Milos Raonic is approaching the prime of his career, and his results over the last 18 months show he’s ready to compete with the very best in the game. Is this the year he makes the jump from up-and-coming challenger to Grand Slam winner?

We caught up with the Canadian powerhouse earlier in the summer to find out how he plans to become a true champion

You made it all the way to the final at last year's Wimbledon. What do you think you need to do to go one step further and win a Grand Slam in 2017?

I think I’m a better player this year than I was last, and I think for me to take the next step forward it’s just about being in that same situation, getting myself there and being a little bit more expressive emotionally. I bundled up a lot of nerves inside that I never got out of my body and that held me back.

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He's got the tools, and the experience, to make the jump from up-and-coming challenger to Grand Slam winner.

How are things going with your new coach, Mark Knowles?

They’re going well. We spent a lot of time together during Queen’s and leading up to Queen’s, and we had another week or so leading into Wimbledon, and it’s been a positive experience so far.

What's the biggest change he's made to your training in your short time together so far?

His role has been more observing the way we go about things. Right now it’s really about him seeing what we do, how I do things, and giving a little bit of feedback here and there when he thinks he can help.

How does your training alter before, during and after a tournament?

Before the tournament you really see where you might be exposed or where you have some space for improvement. Then you can dedicate more time on court, in the gym, or in recovery if that’s what you need. During the tournament, tennis takes over, the fitness becomes minimal, and it’s really about having good feeling and focusing on the recovery side of things. Then obviously the post-tournament it’s really full focus on the recovery, to not only recover from Wimbledon, but also to start preparing yourself to be able to take the stresses of going back onto hard courts and dealing with that harder surface.

Let’s wind the clock back a bit. When did you start playing tennis? And what was your first tennis club?

First tennis club … I don’t know the name. I remember it was it in the outskirts of Toronto. I was signed up because both of my parents were working. They signed me and my brother up to a “Bring Back Tennis” camp when I was eight years old. I played that one week, and then I didn’t play for almost a year after that. Then my father found a programme and signed me up. That was more of a full-time thing, so I started taking it seriously when I was nine years old.

Who was the first coach to recognise your potential?

Casey Curtis. I started with him when I was nine – when I started taking tennis seriously – and he was my coach for the first nine years of my tennis existence.

Can you remember your first tournament as a pro? Did you think you’d “made it” at the time?

I definitely didn’t think I’d made it at the time, I felt pretty far away. I think it was in Kuala Lumpur when I qualified for my first ATP 250. I actually did quite well, I believe I qualified and made quarters, so that was a pretty good feeling. But I guess everybody has their own definition of what “making it” is.

What’s your definition?

I’d say becoming a player in the top 100. When you can compete at all the Slams throughout the year.

What shot have you had to work on the most in your career?

It’s still the same today: the return of serve. Just because of its importance. You start the points that way, and it can dictate if you start the point in a bad position or a good position. So the return of serve gets a lot of attention from me, and it’s been the one I’ve worked the hardest to overcome my difficulties with.

If you had the chance to play a single match from your career again, which one would you choose?

I would definitely choose last year’s Wimbledon final. It was the most significant match I’ve played so far in my career and one that I would love the opportunity, if I could, to change the outcome.

Looking to the future, your sponsorship deal with New Balance is quite unique. What is it about the brand that made you want to commit for your entire career?

The most appealing thing is the family-like atmosphere. The Davis family do a great job and have over many decades now, but also beyond that, the people I work with, especially in the tennis division, have become close friends and advisers. Even when tennis isn’t the topic of conversation, they’re people that I would love to have a meal with, have a discussion with. They know my family, I know their family, it’s become a really great family atmosphere.

And what do you think they see in you?

I think we have that bond on a personal level. They also like my serve – that helps me quite a bit [laughs]. Everybody has been a pleasure to work with, and I hope they would say the same about me.

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What shoe are you wearing for the 2017 season?

The 996. I wear it throughout the entire season. It’s a comfortable shoe, a shoe that feels great brand new as well, and that’s something we made sure we paid attention to when we were working on the next model of the 996.

So limited break-in time?

Limited break-in time, comfort, there’s also a lot of lateral stability. For a guy like me, that’s important. I’m a heavier guy, so playing most of the year on hard courts, it’s important to have that kind of stability and cushioning to help soften the blow of running on my joints.

And finally, a quick fun question: if you could choose any celeb to cheer you on from the Players' Box, who would it be?

I think a pretty cool experience would be if Tom Brady cheered me on. That would be a cool one. I look up to him a lot.

Fancy throwing a few balls with him?

Probably not, it’s too physical of a sport. I already have my issues with injury, I’ll stay away from football as much as possible [laughs].

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