Milos Raonic: Creating Opportunities, Finding Ways To Win

WASHINGTON/PARIS, November 7, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

It’s been four years since Milos Raonic last won an ATP Tour title – 2016 in Brisbane to be exact – but it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. In that same year, he finished the year at a career-high No. 3 after reaching the Nitto ATP Finals semifinals and winning a whopping 52 matches.

Today, at age 29 and ranked 17th in the world, the introspective Raonic is at peace with himself and relatively healthy, which he hasn’t always been. It shows in his game and it’s one of the reasons he’s into the semifinal round of the Rolex Paris Masters, the third and last ATP Masters 1000 of the season, taking place this week in the Bercy neighborhood of Paris. It’s his best Paris result since reaching the semifinals in 2016.

Today, the 10th seeded Raonic will play World No. 5 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, seeded third, in the first semifinal inside AccorHotels Arena with the winner advancing to Sunday’s championship final against either World No. 2 and top seed Rafael Nadal or World No. 7 and fourth seed Alexander Zverev. It’s Raonic’s 12th career Masters 1000 semifinal.

After Raonic fought off two match points from 22-year-old No 34 Ugo Humbert of France during Friday’s quarterfinal to win 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7), the Canadian born in Podgorica, Montenegro, reflected on the moment of his 23rd victory of the season in 32 outings as well as the entirety of his week.

“I felt good. I played pretty good matches, my other matches,” Raonic said. “So, you know, I haven’t burned through too much. And today it was more I’d say emotional stress of just trying to get through it and the relief at the end of finding a way through. That, you know, gets to you rather than the physical.

“So, I’m happy with the way I’m doing my things, and I just got to turn things around and find the best in myself for tomorrow.”

During change overs, TV cameras focusing on Raonic often catch him enjoying a moment of quiet meditation – recharging his positive mentality – which this week has been simplified by the lack of spectators being allowed to attend matches due to a nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus in France.

“Well, I think I have just gone through a lot of matches where if I didn’t do that for myself the result was inevitably the other way. I had a bit of a negative spell in the last match. I came out, played a really good first set and then sort of slumped in the second and third against Coric in St. Petersburg.”

Raonic was pointing back to his 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 semifinal loss to Borna Coric in the semifinals at St. Petersburg on Oct. 18.

“I wanted to try to do at least something different than I did there and give it at least a chance,” he said. “I just tried to sort of, you know, encouraging myself after every point regardless of what the point was like, and just trying to get some energy out to try to keep myself in it.

“It was looking a little dark for me at the beginning, you know, triple break point at the beginning, but then I created some opportunities. It kept me around. And it’s something that, you know, it’s happened maybe too many times before that things have slipped because I haven’t taken that step forward mentally. And I just tried to do something better today.”

Win or lose in Paris, this will be the end of Raonic’s 2020 season. He’s declared he will not play in Sofia, Bulgaria, next week.

“You know, when I got hurt in my first match in Antwerp, we were sort of like let’s see where we are at. Obviously didn’t go the right way in the second match,” said Raonic, who withdrew before his quarterfinal match against Grigor Dimitrov due to an abdominal strain on Oct. 23.

“So, I was told about three weeks to recover. And I think we just went a little bit proactively, obviously very cautiously, but we tried, okay, let’s see if we can make something happen in ten days in a very conservative way without putting anything at risk.

“Yeah, I have played well this week. I know my plan was to play Sofia. I think that decision was made this morning [not to play]. 

“I’m happy that I can play [in Paris]. I’m happy that I have been healthy minus a minor slipup relative to the ones I have had before. And I’m just trying to make the most of each week, trying to find a way to win as much as possible.”

Earlier in the week, Raonic was asked by a reporter whether he was already looking ahead to Australia due to the potential obstacles with international travel to that part of the world as well as the lengthy time required for quarantining.

“Yeah, you know, we’re waiting to hear what the final decision is on Australia,” Raonic said. “Obviously, you hear little things through the grapevine, but who knows how much is rumors, how much is fact. From what I understand, we will have to be there quite early. I have three plans in place for the off-season. I have one that I’d really like to do, which would be good for my tennis and my mind, and then I have others that, you know, could be option 2 and option 3.

“Until the day or the moment, I say, ‘Okay, my season is done’ and I’ve got to figure out which of those is possible, which is sort of a gamble. It’s not about which of those is possible now but which of those is possible in whatever it is, four, five weeks to be able to get out of as well. So, you have to play the odds and hope those go to your favor.”

Click here for Friday’s results