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Milos Raonic levelling up at Australian Open: 'I think I'm a better player than I was in 2016'

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 22 Jan 2019
  • Milos Raonic believes he's playing better tennis now than he was during his career-best season in 2016
  • The Canadian faces Lucas Pouille in the Australian Open quarter-finals on Wednesday
Milos Raonic (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Flying under the radar despite surviving arguably the toughest first week draw of any seed at the Australian Open, former semi-finalist Milos Raonic believes he’s playing some of the best tennis of his career in Melbourne as he continues on his quest to return to the top 10.

Raonic has endured a couple of injury-marred seasons since his career-best year in 2016, where he started off the season with a title in Brisbane and advancing to the semi-finals of the Australian Open before going on to finish runner-up at Wimbledon and qualify for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals, finishing the year at No. 3 in the world.

Wrist, knee, elbow and adductor injuries have caused Raonic to slide down the rankings over the last 24 months, not allowing him to compete consistently whilst healthy and stagnating a once-rapid progression to the very upper echelon of the sport. However, after a big pre-season and finally getting his body right, Raonic says he’s feeling as fresh as ever and ready to put together the sort of form that saw him crack the top three in 2016.

Milos Raonic (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
“I had a really good off-season,” said Raonic. “I put in some of the best hours in a long period of time, maybe, if ever. I'm not the kind of guy that needs a lot of matches. For me, it's about being sharp, moving well, and being efficient with my serve and this kind of thing.
“If I can get those kind of things, my serve always buys me time in matches and in tournaments to sort of figure things out. It can keep me alive for a while. As long as I have the freedom to put in the work and with no physical hindrances, I think I can always give myself a chance.”

So confident in his ability, Raonic went as far as to say that he was playing better tennis now than he was three years ago.

“I think I'm a better player than I was back then,” he said. “I think back then I just found some situations a little bit easier to deal with, because I had three or two good years from 2014 to 2015 before that... Instinct takes over when you have played that many matches consecutively.
“Now you always have to think about things a bit more because you're always trying to search for that rhythm, that sort of what should you do, whereas in those situations I don't think I was really asking myself. I was trusting a lot more.”

In danger of an early elimination after receiving a brutal draw at the Australian Open, Raonic instead viewed the situation as a challenge he could conquer and ultimately come out of it in better shape - and he’s certainly done that, beating former quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios, former champion Stan Wawrinka, fellow big server Pierre-Hugues Herbert and fourth seed and reigning ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev, registering his third win over a top 10 player at a slam when he demolished the German by a 6-1 6-1 7-6(5) scoreline in the fourth round on Monday.

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The dream lives on 💪🏼

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During the 2016 season, Raonic only lost twice to a player ranked below him up until Roland Garros, as he became a master at beating those he should, while also beginning to consistently challenge and beat those at the very top of the game.

It’s that sort of level that Raonic is aspiring to get back to - and he’s confident he will be back to that quality of play (if he isn’t already) swiftly if he avoids more injury woes.

“I think I have to re-establish my ranking and consistency throughout a year… I know when I do my things right, I can give myself a chance, and I don't necessarily worry too much about what other people are going about, and what other players are doing. I just sort of try to be on top of my own things and try to deal with them as best as I can.
“If you can't trust [your body], it's going to be a miserable time. You give it what you can, and hopefully it can get you through.”

Raonic will take on 28th seed Lucas Pouille for a place in the Australian Open semi-finals on Wednesday.

The Canadian also beat Pouille in the first round in Melbourne on his way to the 2016 semi-finals, also conquering Wawrinka and Gael Monfils before going down in five sets to Andy Murray.


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Milos Raonic levelling up at Australian Open: "I think I'm a better player than I was in 2016"

Flying under the radar despite surviving arguably the toughest first week draw of any seed at the Australian Open, former semi-finalist Milos Raonic believes he’s playing some of the best tennis of his career in Melbourne as he continues on his quest to return to the top 10.

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