Milos Raonic’s earliest tennis education was facing the ball machine hours on end on cold mornings. His father, Dusan, booked courts at the Blackmore Tennis club in Ontario, Canada from 6:30 am as “court fees were cheaper at those times.”
On Wednesday, Raonic’s racquet spit out balls with a similar mechanical accuracy, as he warmed up to his Chennai Open campaign with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Romania’s Victor Hanescu in the second round.
The 21-year-old, who had failed to qualify for the tournament last year, came into this year’s edition seeded fourth, and walked the Centre Court like he owned it.
If Raonic’s serves, consistently hitting above 200 kmph (his highest of the day clocked 230 kmph on the speedometer), didn’t get the job done, the follow-up shot, smacked with equal venom and precision, did. But more than the firepower he can unleash on the court, what must bother his rivals, at least in Chennai, is the perfection he is seeking.
Firing nine aces in a match that lasted less than an hour and quarter would make most players happy. But Raonic believes, “I still have to work on my serve. I have been concentrating a lot more on the return of serve in the off-season.”
“I know it can be hard on myself sometimes,” he continued, “but it’s because I have the belief that I will do well.”
That belief came handy as he has improved from 156 in the rankings 12 months ago, to 31, and made it to the round of 16 at the Australian Open along the way. His opponent, placed 90, was clearly outclassed.
And looking at the player field here, it seems unlikely that any of them will be able to live with him.
The ‘Canadian missile’ looks set for the kill.