“He gives you nothing, not even the time of day.” Emmanuel Planque, Lucas Pouille’s coach, on the improved Milos Raonic by @flaberne of l’Équipe

Translation of the article by Frédéric Bernès on page 19 of the January 26, 2016 edition of l’Équipe.

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.”

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.” I told you that just after the match against Lucas (Pouille). I was a bit dazed coming off the court. I re-watched the match several times and the impression remained. OK, I wasn’t thrilled by the way Lucas started off sets … but Milos gave us nothing. That guy doesn’t even give you the time of day. Right now, I find him fit. We’ve been talking about him as a future Slam winner for two years. Like Dimitrov? Yes and no. I’m sure Dimitrov will come back. But he’s less formidable and less well prepared than Raonic. He he has fewer weapons.

“Second serves at 220, 224, 226 kph”

“He’s super confident with his serve. At Brisbane and Melbourn, he was hitting second serves at 220, 224 and even 226 kph. At some point you don’t know how to return them: if you back up, he hits a kicker that bounces really high; if you move up to cut down the trajectory, you get a bullet at 220. The average first serve speed is often mentioned as a way to judge a server, but don’t forget the second serve. He powers it but it doesn’t mean that many more double faults. That’s tied to his current confidence and the fact that he hasn’t played the top two best returners yet, Murray and Djoko, who can bother him. The idea is to make him run so he’ll serve at between 160 and 180. Because if he serves at 130, he’ll be more accurate, more coordinated, more relaxed. But it’s hard to make him run much when he’ll try and shorten the point quickly.”

“Before, he could miss a series of returns”

“He’s improved his base game considerably. Mainly because he doesn’t have any physical problems. Last year, he had a nerve in his foot operated on. Good health means more training intensity. You can tell he’s worked on his returns. He’s much more consistent. Before he could miss second serve returns in bunches. Today, he puts you continuously under pressure without taking any crazy risks. He returns hard up the middle which allows him to take a lot of second shots on his forehand. And then it’s difficult to escape. Facing him, you get tense and you lose 10-15 kph on your serve. I think Milos has assimilated the fact that the best players in the world aren’t the best servers. His goal is to get a ratio of quality of serve/quality of return that’s much better than the others.”

“To me he’s not a Canadian at all”

“He’s part of a very strong project. To me, he’s not at all a Canadian. He’s a Yugo (born in Podgorica, Raonic lived in Montenegro until he was eight). He reminds me of Djoko with his ambition and application. Raonic is upright, intelligent, a worker. The guy could easily have been an engineer. Now he’s a tennis player, that’s his job. He’s not emotional, he’s rational. He works on his mechanics. Ljubicic (gone to Federer) helped with his serve and second shot. He leaves and he takes Moya, who’ll help him with his returns and bring him the deep parts of the game. And above all he has Piatti (ex-coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet) who’s a super coach and who’s doing an admirable job with him.”

“It’s lousy, it’s not sexy? I don’t agree”

“Would it hurt tennis if Raonic became number one? I don’t agree with that sort of pessimism. I hear people say Raonic is dull, isn’t sexy, he’s boring … No! It wouldn’t be dull because those chasing him would be interesting. It would be really exciting. Sure, the tennis of tomorrow will be guys 1.95m moving like guys 1.75 and who can return too. Can these criticisms affect Raonic? I sense he’s there to win. The rest …”

Translated from the French by MAN

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Raonic, clay or not: “I want to be number 1” Interviewed by @VinceMartucci

Translation of an interview in La Gazzetta dello Sport, print edition April 15 2015 by Vince Martucci.

The Canadian lives in Monte Carlo, but he has yet to win on the red: “The surface doesn’t matter, my goal is to win Slams.”

Here, at the Country Club, he won his first match on clay in 2011. He was 20 and defeated Llodra 6-3, 0-6, 6-0. He’s made his home here in the Principality because it’s where his his Guardian Angels, Ivan Ljubičić and Riccardo Piatti, live, and they’re opening his eyes to the pitfalls of the red clay to bring him into paradise. “They believe in me and I believe in them: we push each other.”

Milos, this club has no secrets for you.

No, but I’ve never practised on the main courts, just under the rocks. But I feel at home, I have my own car, I know places, I don’t need a guide. I hang around with Bernard, Tomic, I’ve known him since juniors.

In Monte Carlo, the talented youth, more solid and consistent and at 24 ranked 7 in the world, is looking for his first high point on red on the heels of his 3 saved match points against Nadal at Indian Wells.

I like the place, and the surface challenges me. The difficulties are the higher bounces and the movement adjustments that follow. I don’t need to change my aggressive game – I need to dictate the points. But it’s not instantaneous, it takes time to learn to do it on clay too.

Surely one who has won 6 tournaments out of 14 finals, all on hard courts with that bazooka serve, thinks more of winning a Slam at Wimbledon, or even the US or Australian Opens, surely not at Roland Garros.

I’m looking to do my best, to improve. I’m making progress, and I haven’t shown my full potential yet.

What’s the biggest improvement apart from the backhand and movement?

I know myself and my game better, I know better how to manage the situations and choose the right shot.

Certainly, the word Wimbledon has a fascination all it’s own.

Wimbledon makes you think of prestige, history. My idol is Pete Sampras. I’ve recorded all his most important matches, but I couldn’t believe my eyes when I re-watched the Wimbledon 2000 final against Rafter.

Sampras won 14 Slams and became nr. 1 in the world. What’s Raonic’s aim?

To win Slams and become nr. 1. That’s been the objective from the beginning with Piatti and Ljubičić. That’s what I’m working for. But I need to raise my level first, and then keep it for the long run.

And the sleeve he always wears: is it protection or a good luck charm?

It began as protection, as a support for the arm that gets used so much. But I never use it in practice.

Raonic is a son of Montenegro, but a Canadian citizen.

“Canada gave my parents the chance to give us boys possibilities. I understood that when I was growing up and started to travel. I promised them that after tennis I’ll graduate like my two brothers, who have returned to Podgorica. I was born there, but I don’t have roots there – I left when I was 3 years old …”

Raonic seems too intelligent to only concentrate on tennis.

“I get obsessive. Now I’m trying different things to get my mind somewhere else. I’ve found there’s nothing better than visiting the tournament city.  In Paris I absolutely need to take a boat ride. I’ve visited some museums in Rome, but I’ve missed the Vatican. I love musicals, the theatre, music. They’re excellent to get my mind off tennis.”

“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