Young gun Raonic revels in giant-killing run
Australian teenager Bernard Tomic hogged the headlines on Sunday for his gallant loss to Rafa Nadal but the most impressive young gun at the Australian Open so far has been qualifier Milos Raonic.sports Updated: Jan 23, 2011 10:57 IST
Australian teenager Bernard Tomic hogged the headlines on Sunday for his gallant loss to Rafa Nadal but the most impressive young gun at the Australian Open so far has been qualifier Milos Raonic.
Virtually unknown outside Canada before the year's first grand slam, the big-serving 20-year-old has blasted his way through qualifying and past two seeds into the fourth round at Melbourne Park.
His second round victory over France's Michael Llodra included the fastest serve of the tournament so far, a rocket measured at 230 kilometres per hour (142.9 mph).
In just his second grand slam event, Raonic sent down 31 aces in his third-round victory against 10th seeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny and is already drawing comparisons with his hero Pete Sampras.
Raonic, who was born in Montenegro where his uncle was once vice president and moved to Canada when he was three, has been completely unfazed by his progress so far.
"I know I can play well and I know I can play at this level," he said after beating Youzhny.
"I knew the chances were in his favour, but I knew I was prepared to fight for every point, however long it took. I can't say I would be shocked if I wasn't here. But I'm not really shocked I am here."
Raonic, who will move into the top 100 after his Melbourne Park run, grew up idolising 14-times grand slam champion Sampras, endlessly re-running tapes of the American's matches.
He puts his blistering start to the year down to an injury at the end of last season which extended his off-season, and to the calming influence of his new coach Galo Blanco, who has helped him avoid on-court meltdowns.
"We've sat down numerous times and had a heart-to-heart talk about this," he said. "This was almost the reason why I lost last round in the quallies. I was able to change it around.
"I've been keeping it together. I feel it's a thing I have to stay on top of myself to keep together, but I know I can keep it together."
Next up for Raonic is seventh seed David Ferrer and, given his results so far, he may lose the element of surprise when he takes on the Spaniard.
That is not too much of a concern for Raonic, who is keen to prove once again that he can hold his own at the very top.
"I have sort of an advantage of seeing them play so many hours on TV," he said.
"But also I feel like I have a big game, and I'm able to impose it even on the top players. So I feel this also has given me an advantage."