With his short-back-and-sides hairstyle highlighting a careful regard to every aspect of his appearance, the impeccably mannered Milos Raonic reminds many fans of eras past.
Particularly when his big-serving game is increasingly complemented by frequent forays to the net.
Famously fastidious about every area of his tennis development, Raonic’s focus encompasses everything from diet to sleep. Gluten has been off the menu for years and, having consulted with experts, hotel room temperatures are reportedly set to 19.44 degrees Celsius each night to ensure best quality rest.
But it’s the Canadian’s superstar coaches that demonstrate the lengths Raonic will take to maximise his vast natural skill. Italian coach Riccardo Piatti has been the most consistent influence in Raonic’s career but that guidance has been complemented by a string of Grand Slam-winning consultants.
Former world No.1 Carlos Moya was employed for an extended period and John McEnroe became a special advisor during the 2016 grasscourt season. Raonic most recently enrolled Richard Krajicek, reasoning that the 1996 Wimbledon champion could boost an attacking game to counter the baseline brilliance of Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.
And how that careful attention to detail has paid off. The first 1990s player to claim an ATP title – at San Jose in 2011 – Raonic is now a winner of eight tour events, the most recent achieved with a win over Roger Federer to claim the 2016 Brisbane International.
Another win over the Swiss superstar provided an even bigger milestone: by delivering Federer with his only semifinal loss at Wimbledon in 2016, Raonic became the first Canadian man to progress to a Grand Slam final and subsequently rose to world No.3.
Not that Milos, a staunch perfectionist, is content. Writing in the Players’ Tribune early in 2017, the 26-year-old underlined his determination to climb all the way to world No.1.
“I’m at a crossroads in my career, having fulfilled my original goals in tennis, while remaining short of the accomplishments of my idols,” he wrote.
Ambition hasn’t always been so fierce. The teenaged Raonic was set to take a far different course when he accepted a scholarship to the University of Virginia, intent on combining tennis with studies in finance.
But soon before his scheduled arrival in Virginia, Raonic unpacked his bags, realising that a pro career could deliver a top 50 ranking. “Top 50. That, to you, would have been a satisfying life,” he wrote.
That Raonic so quickly re-set his intentions as he progressed on tour highlights a fine-tuned self-awareness. “Every step up the ATP rankings, I learned something new,” he said, noting long periods spent in far-off nations, often alone, to create the best opportunities.
Such sacrifices were hardly a problem, Raonic having learned from the example set by parents Dusan and Vesna, who immigrated to Canada from Montenegro when Milos was three years. They worked tirelessly to develop their careers as engineers in a new land, the Canadian acknowledging: “I really believe that I got my work ethic from my parents.”
For all his innovations, the old school Raonic clearly values tradition – and both will combine superbly at the Laver Cup.
There’ll also be a pleasing synergy for the exacting Raonic, with the event providing another chance to work with World Team captain McEnroe, still a friend and regular confidante.
It’s another setting in which Milos can continue his relentless quest to always progress.