Milos Raonic: beneath the surface
Owner of the best-known serve in tennis, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up and a recent world No.3: these are the headline items most fans could readily relate about Milos Raonic.
But here are 10 facts you might not know about the intelligent Canadian.
1.His fierce work ethic was developed early
Born in Podgorico, Montenegro, Raonic was three years old when parents Dusan and Vesna moved their family (including sister Jelena and brother Momir, who are both older) to Ontario, Canada. Despite a brief early taste of tennis, Milos was aged eight before he became serious about the game. The talent – and dedication – soon became clear: the young player famously practised with a ball machine early in the morning and late at night, when court time at their local club was more affordable.
2. Family is critical
The family-focused Milos talks to his parents every day, “whether it’s for 30 seconds or 30 minutes” but tennis rarely enters the conversation. From his first forays into the sport, Raonic has explained, his parents insisted they would leave their son’s development to his coaches. On long drives between tournaments, Dusan would pass the time by asking the young Milos to solve math equations rather than talk about matches or practice. It’s perhaps unsurprising that Raonic now credits his family for helping instill humility.
3. Canada’s most successful player ever
Becoming the first 1990s-born player to win an ATP title when he claimed San Jose in 2011, Raonic has now collected eight career titles – all of them on a hard court. Starting 2016 by defeating Roger Federer to win the Brisbane International, he achieved an even bigger breakthrough as runner-up at Wimbledon, making Milos Canada’s first-ever male Grand Slam singles finalist. It helped Raonic finish the season at a career-high world No.3; the highest singles ranking for any player, male or female, from his nation.
4. Hockey was his first love
Surprisingly, the young Raonic “didn’t love tennis at first”. He revealed in the Players’ Tribune “I had more fun playing street hockey, which was the sport of choice for all the Canadian kids in our neighborhood”. But guided by coach Casey Curtis, the game became his future. Offered several scholarships to play US college tennis as a teenager, Raonic committed to attend the University of Virginia where he would also study finance. Two weeks before he was due to start, Raonic fortuitously decided to pursue a pro tennis career instead.
5. A keen student
The deep-thinking Raonic has long been a keen student. With his parents steadfastly insisting he maintain his education while developing his tennis, he finished high school in Canada a year early. Milos learned in other ways too: as a junior, he video-taped all of Pete Sampras’ matches, replaying those matches over and again so he could learn to compete like his idol.
6. Many weapons
Delivered from his 196 cm frame and helping him to amass more than 5500 aces in his career so far, a booming serve is clearly the Canadian’s trademark – but it’s far from his only weapon. Driven by a relentless desire to improve every area of his game, Raonic has employed Carlos Moya, John McEnroe and Richard Krajicek at various stages to help add more dimensions. Improvements were evident in his career-best season: in 2015, he won 12 per cent of his return games; in 2016, that number rose to 17 per cent.
7. The CEO of Milos Raonic Tennis
Those aforementioned coaches – who have operated superbly alongside Raonic’s long-time advisor Riccardo Piatti – are part of an expansive team that also includes a fitness trainer and physiotherapist, among others. It’s Milos, though, who ultimately controls everything. “I’m the CEO of Milos Raonic Tennis,” he memorably declared soon after he employed McEnroe as consultant in 2016. A masterstroke strategy that led to new heights at Wimbledon, it highlighted the professionalism that drives Raonic’s quest for perfection.
8. Art provides a balance
While once he had a more blinkered approach to his tennis, Milos now appreciates a more balanced approach. Art is a particular interest for the Canadian, who regularly takes time to attend exhibitions throughout the world with his girlfriend Danielle Knudson. “I love that visiting these galleries doesn’t exhaust me physically; it stimulates me,” he wrote in the Players’ Tribune. “That way I have an outlet that doesn’t negatively impact the amount of energy I have when it comes to being on court.”
9. A generous spirit
Recovering from a hip injury in 2011, the then 21-year-old decided to focus on philanthropy. The Milos Raonic Foundation was officially established in 2012, with a particular interest in helping disadvantaged youth become active and productive members of society. The Canadian Paralympic Committee and the Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto are among the organisations that have benefited.
10. The world No.1 ranking is in sight
Milos freely admits that when he bypassed college tennis to become a professional, the top 50 was his initial goal. Now the ambitious 26-year-old has far bigger plans. After finishing 2016 at world No.3, he was asked if the world No.1 ranking is a target. “That’s the goal,” Raonic told ATPWorldTour.com. “It’s about going out there every single week and trying to give myself, not only physically but also mentally, the best possibility to win.”