“Milos doesn’t need to apologise for his game” – Interview with Ivan Ljubičić on Milos Raonic

From l’Équipe print edition Monday March 23 2015 page 17 by Frédéric Bernes

Ivan Ljubičić defends his protégé Milos Raonic’s style of play and discusses the stages of improvement of the world number 6, who was beaten in the Indian Wells semi-final by Roger Federer.

He’s the only one who’s name isn’t Federer, Djoković or Nadal to have won  Indian Wells since 2004.  In 2010, the Croat Ivan Ljubičić won the biggest title of his career here. Presently coaching Canadian Milos Raonic, alongside Riccardo Piatti, the big bald one and world number 3 hasn’t lost his frankness.

Milos Raonic beat Federer for the first time last year in Bercy, and he’s just beaten Nadal for the first time. Do you feel he’s getting closer to them?

They’re baby steps but he’s getting there.  He improves in almost every tournament. We’ve made a lot of changes in his game and even his technique in the last year. Beating Rafa here in Indian Wells, a tournament where that’s very difficult to do, is an important step. He’s showing them that he’s there – but the guys (the “Big 4”) don’t gift you anything. It didn’t work like that fifteen or twenty years ago. Sampras and Agassi had occasional dips.

Now he has to show that he can beat them in a Grand Slam …

Yes and that’s what’s most difficult. The ideal would be for Milos to beat those guys again. Look: he’s never beaten Novak. Right?! When he had to play him at the Australian Open [in the quarter-finals], it was complicated mentally. You haven’t done it until you need to do it in five sets, in Australia on top of everything, where Novak is so strong … I’m not saying that because he’s beaten Rafa, beating him at Roland Garros will be easy [laughs]. But Milos won’t be in the same frame of mind.

What’s the most radical change in young Milos’ game?

Five steps. He’s moved up five steps on the court. Before he was far back and hit with enormous spin. Which is an easy tactic. You can use it, but you can’t play with it. He didn’t move well. He was the opposite of what I’d imagined for him. Too me, when you’re two metres tall (1.96 more precisely), you shouldn’t play like that. His previous coach (the Spaniard Galo Blanco) didn’t agree with me. But OK. He brought him from 300th to 15th in the world: hats off!

Since the start of the season, when he’s sitting down, Milos does this odd tapping routine, like he’s playing piano on his knees …

He’s working on his mental preparation with someone. It’s not a psychologist. Milos isn’t lying on a couch talking about his childhood [laughs]. He’s found that this “ritual” works, He stayed impeturbable against Nadal. But you really should talk to him about it [we tried but Raonic was vague on the subject]. The goal is to know yourself as much as possible. Milos has changed his eating habits, his technique … he’s an open and super determined person.

Exactly, isn’t it complicated sometimes to work with such a disciplined boy?

Telling him, ‘Listen, tomorrow it’s rest.’ We have problems with that. It might sound amusing, but I’m serious. He’s two metres tall, weighs a hundred kilos, he needs to be careful. Milos has a tendency to underestimate how much rest he needs. He has the idea it’s a waste of time. He doesn’t switch off, even though he’s got better at it.

Of course you’ve heard those who think that Milos’ game is very boring to watch. What’s your response?

When I watch Kei Nishikori, I tell myself he could be even more spectacular. No? Each has their weapon. Milos works on and uses his serve as much as Kei works on and uses his backhand. Milos doesn’t need to apologise for having such a huge serve. And what’s more, he doesn’t only have that. Everyone knows that. We know those types who are two metres tall who have serves as good as Milos’ and who aren’t at his level. If the critics came to see what a Milos practice was like, maybe they’d change their minds. The are some who prefer Djoković or (Andy) Murray to Federer or Raonic. I’ll tell you right off: to me, that (Djokovic and Murray), that’s boring.

Translated by Mark Nixon

Caroline Garcia: “Hey! There’s a 2 now in front of my ranking number”

An interview by Frédéric Bernes in the 15 March 2015 l’Équipe print edition.

Garcia is “Miss Latina”.  The trend is confirmed.  Now ranked 28, the 21-year-old native of Lyon won her only title in Bogotá last year.  And now she’s reached two consecutive finals in Acapulco and Monterrey, each time meeting the same woman: Timea Bacsinszky.  Goodbye Mexico, it treated you well.  Now the locale has moved to the Californian desert where heat was oppressive yesterday (34°C). Yesterday, Garcia was in a tussle and escaped with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 win over the Slovenian Polona Hercog, ranked 75, in 2 hrs 17 minutes.

Would you say your Mexican tour was a success or was there one more win missing, like a title…

“Considering the circumstances before making the trip, I’m very happy with the two finals. I might have gone out in two first rounds.  There were no titles at the end of it but going through all that was good experience.  I’d gone to Dubai just after the Fed Cup.  We all know how the Fed Cup eats up energy.  Especially when you win the deciding doubles 3-2 [which is what happened in Italy].  I reached the doubles semi-finals in Dubai, so I left Sunday evening—for Lyon.  It was either that or spend seven hours waiting at an airport.  After that, I took three flights: Lyon-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Mexico, and Mexico-Acapulco.  Because the final there was scheduled for Saturday, I had to play on Tuesday.”

It seemed that between Acapulco and Monterrey there was a change of season…

“It was summer in Acapulco.  It was 30°C and very humid.  And then we went from the seaside to a refrigerator.  It was 10°C sometimes in Monterrey.  Even 8°C, I think.  There’s a heat limit in the rules, but not one for cold.”

You didn’t lose a set on the trip…

[cuts off] “Yeah, except in the final! [laughs]. OK, that means I had some solid matches.”

The one against Ivanovic [6-1, 6-4 in the Monterrey semis] made an impression. Was it a good match?  A great match?

“A good match.  I wasn’t playing out of my head—not that, no.  I put her under pressure from the start and she couldn’t deal with it [Garcia meets the Serb in the next round].  It’s my best match this season but I wasn’t putting everything I had into it by hitting like a crazy person.”

There are good vibrations between you and Latin America…

“I love that part of the world.  I made the finals there in Casablanca [Mexico] as a junior and I won in Venezuela.  I like the people in those countries.”

And they must like a woman called Garcia…

“It’s a good name to have there, true.  It plays well.  There are a lot of Garcias in Mexico.”

Did you get the impression that you found more solutions from one final to the other against Bacsinszky?

“I won three games in Acapulco [6-3, 6-0] and I won more in Monterrey [4-6, 6-2, 6-4]—so, yes.  Like she disappeared for a bit and we didn’t know her game. She runs everywhere, she gets everything back.  She has this incredible backhand. You can’t tell where it’s going.  She shifts gears on her backhand [like Benoit Paire].”

You’ve never been ranked as high before as you are this week.  Is that important to you?

“Getting into the top 30, that means something.  Hey, there’s a 2 now in front of my ranking number! [laughs].  It’s one of those small peaks you need to climb over; it gets you seeded in the big tournaments [here she’s seeded 25].”

We saw that your left thigh was very well taped up…

“No, it’s OK. It’s nothing now.  [Her father and coach interrupts: ‘It was still a muscle pull.’]  Yes, but it’s gone now. [Louis-Paul: ‘You couldn’t hit for three days.’]”

When will Nathalie Tauziet, who’s been advising you for a few months, join you?

Louis-Paul: “We don’t have any finalised plans.”

But it’s still on?

Louis-Paul: “We’ve always worked in stages—with Nathalie like with others.  We have a base core, Caroline and me, which we add to.  But we have no finalised plans there.”