Toronto’s Great New Hope: tennis sensation Milos Raonic’s success in three steps
The Toronto Raptors are racing to the bottom of the NBA standings, the Toronto Maples Leafs are trading the present for the future and the Toronto FC are spending their spring overseas. But local sports fans still have a reason to feel upbeat: Thornhill native Milos Raonic is taking the men’s tennis tour by storm. Fresh off becoming the first Canadian player to win an ATP title since 1995, Raonic shot up another 25 places in the world rankings to rise to 59 after opening the year nearly 100 spots lower. The 20-year-old has made a splash outside his homeland, too. This week alone, Raonic garnered praise in the Toronto Star (finally), Sports Illustrated and World Tennis. We look at the star’s meteoric rise through the competitions to date this year.
STEP ONE: The Australian Open: January 12-30
The tennis world took note of Raonic’s blistering play at the year’s first Grand Slam. He went from winning his first-ever singles match in a main draw at a Grand Slam event to finishing in the final 16—all in about a week. He battled through three rounds of tough action (including an upset over top-ten player Mikhail Youzhny) before finally falling just short of the quarterfinals against sixth-ranked David Ferrer.
STEP TWO: SA Tennis Open
Canada’s youngest gun continued his roll at the SA Open in Johannesburg. He still had to play two qualifying matches before gaining admittance to the tournament’s main event. After a pair of wins, he upset second-seeded (37th-ranked) Yen-Hsun Lu in the first round. He lost to Simon Greul in the next round, but his efforts helped him crack 100 in the world rankings for the first time in his career the following week.
STEP THREE: The SAP Open
Raonic became the first Canadian man to win an ATP World Tour title this weekend in San Jose when he topped the ninth-ranked player on the planet, Spain’s Fernando Verdasco (in true Canadian fashion, his victory came in a hockey arena). Verdasco was the top-seeded player at the tournament, and Raonic dispatched him in two straight sets. The hard-fought win prompted World Tennis to crown him the “the biggest young talent to emerge on the tour since Rafael Nadal in 2003.”
On the ATP World Tour Web site, Raonic lists his goal as becoming “a consistent top-fifty player with top-ten aspirations.” The consensus is that if he continues his development and pace, he’ll far surpass what are quickly starting to look like modest targets.