Milos Raonic made major strides in his development in the 2016 season, although his first Grand Slam crown eluded him. The 26-year-old lost to Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final and was also knocked out by the Scot in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, preventing him from lifting a major title for the first time on the ATP Tour.
However, the Canadian has displayed the ability to match the best players in the world on the court, and his inroads towards the latter stages of Grand Slams suggests that he is beginning to deliver on his huge potential.
His performance in the semi-finals of Wimbledon to topple Roger Federer was the best display of his career and if he can harness that level of play throughout a major tournament then his first crown will not be far away.
The 26-year-old is backed in the latest bet365 tennis odds at 16/1 to win the Australian Open, but will have to be at his best as both Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have held the edge over him in their previous meetings.
Raonic’s size and strength do give him a physical advantage over many players on the tour, although he has not been able to translate it into success on the big stage. The Canadian’s height at 6ft 5in allows him to fire the ball at extreme pace and at awkward angles, leaving his opponents in great difficulty even if they are able to return his serves.
That strategy has allowed Raonic to advance to the latter stages of tournaments during his career, although against the better players in the game, who are skilled returners, he has come unstuck.
He can look no further than the example of Juan Martin del Potro, who has similar build and style, which has helped him turn into a successful career, notching one Grand Slam title and two Olympic medals. This includes his run to the final in 2016 where he beat Djokovic, only to be defeated by Murray in the gold medal match.
The Argentine has struggled with injury, although when he is on song with his powerful serve and formidable forehand, few players are able to withstand the ferocity of his play. Raonic has yet to fully capture that dominant style of play, but should he become more aggressive on the court it would surely help his performances on the big stage.One of his biggest areas of improvement in 2016 was his play at the net. Due to his height movement was an issue in the early stages of his career, but his ability to serve and volley helped him best Federer in their duel at Wimbledon.
Pete Sampras dominated an era with the same technique along with his flawless play on the baseline. Although perhaps a better example for Raonic and his quest for glory would be Goran Ivanisevic’s heroic run towards the crown at the All England Club in 2001.
It’s all about execution for Raonic as unfortunately for him he plays in an era where his style of play runs right into the hands of the two best players in the game. Both Murray and Djokovic are excellent returners and are extremely mobile around the court, which negate the Canadian’s strengths.
This is proven in their strong records against the 26-year-old and should he face them again he will have to be flawless in his play to overcome either man to enjoy the ultimate success on the tour.