January 10, 2012
Routine works for Raonic Down Under
By DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Apparently tennis players are superstitious, too.
Or, least Canada's own Milos Raonic is.
With the Australian Open next on Raonic's agenda, it's not hard to see why the 21-year-old phenom wants his routine to be the same as last year when he hits Melbourne later this week. He's booked into the same hotel he stayed at in 2011 -- it goes deeper, though; he'll be on the same floor, heck, maybe even the same room -- and will return to the restaurants he ate at 12 months ago.
Maybe it's just an Aussie Open thing, though. After all, that Grand Slam tournament is where he burst onto the international scene, a fuzzy-faced qualifier from Thornhill, Ont., who inexplicably made it to the fourth round before bowing out to David Ferrer of Spain.
Melbourne is where Raonic's whirlwind 2011 began, a year that saw him rise from 152nd in the world to 25th, win his first ATP title and win the tour's newcomer of the year award despite missing months after having hip surgery.
But when the 2012 Aussie Open gets under way Monday, Raonic, again ranked a career-best 25th after winning last week's Chennai Open in India, will be the tournament's 23rd seed. It's a far cry from last year, when he had to qualify just to make the field.
"I'm not really getting ahead of myself," Raonic said Tuesday. "I know the things I need to do and I know that I'm just going to keep getting better and better with more matches, so I'm really just going after it as if it's sort of my first time here.
"Obviously, it's fun to play here and I have really good memories and I even have superstitions because of how I did last year. We have a few things that I picked up last time that we keep up on."
Raonic is hoping he's able to replicate the success he had last year, when he beat German Bjorn Phau, Michael Llodra of France and then No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia to become the first qualifier since 1999 to make it to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tourney. Being seeded should give Raonic an easier draw this time but the reality is, he won't even know who his first-round opponent will be until Friday.
"It definitely makes a big difference (being seeded 23rd)," he said. "But it's not something I think about too much. I don't think about who I'm playing, I think more about what I need to do and what I can do and what my strengths are.
"That's the beauty about tennis, it's anything on that given day and the goal is just to be better than them on that day. I really just go out there and try to do the things I need to do."