Time to get it back and fast for Raonic

BRISBANE INTERNATIONAL – Milos Raonic has been oh-so-close to winning a major. He is very tall, can knock off his massive first serves with aces and nail gigantic forehands for winners. He is “only” 24 years old, so he is still relatively young, but it is time now, and he played the right way to upset Kei Nishikori 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 7-6(4) in the semis.

Raonic was very happy that he reached the final and guess who would meet there? The 17 Grand Slam champion, Roger Federer, who blew out Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 6-2.

nishikori 2012The world No 5 Nishikori was slightly better than the No. 8 Raonic last year. The Japanese was a bit more consistent, and went a little better deep into the big tournaments. Nishikori was faster, smarter and more confident, which is why, for example, that he overcame Raonic in five sets in the fourth round at the US Open. Nishikori kept on battling, eventually reaching the final where he went down to Marin Cilic. Nishikori then played Raonic in a couple more weeks, besting the Canadian, 6-4 in the final. Raonic was very close, but when he came into the crunch time, Nishikori ran around and went side to side, knowing that he could eventually out thought him.

But on Saturday in Brisbane, Raonic didn’t back off. Yes, he knows that Nishikori is substantially faster and has a more powerful backhand, but he served up huge and didn’t’ allow Nishikori to break him.

He lost the first set in a tiebreak, won the second set in a tiebreak and then went into the third. We all knew they were going to the tiebreak again. There was not other way.

Raonic could push the balls around and hope, but he didn’t. This time, he went for the balls early and often. He leapt as hard as he could with his forehands, winning with the contest when he crushed it into the corner 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 7-6(4).

“I felt like we both played really well,” Milos said. “The level of tennis was very high, especially the beginning. I felt I served really well. That’s held me around, especially in the beginning, because I felt he was getting more and more on top of me at the beginning from the baseline. That sort of kept me in it and sort of gave me a chance, and then I was able to create some opportunities in the beginning of the second. After that, it was pretty much straightforward holding from both of us. I felt like with my serve I put a lot of pressure on opponents in tiebreaks, and I was able to use that.”

Now Raonic has to go up against Federer, who he has beaten him only one time, in Paris last year. Federer has a 7-1 head to head, four ATP World Tours and two Grand Slams, in 2013 Australian Open in the fourth round in straight sets, and in 2014 Wimbledon in the semis, when Federer won 6-4 6-4 6-4. He absolutely has to find out away he can get some solid returns. Plus, he has nail one after another.

“I got to serve well,” Raonic said. “That’s always been a key. Last few matches I started poorly. I would get broken right in my first service game, which is not the way to really go about things, especially against a top player and especially against Roger. So I got to keep that pressure on him and then sort of step up when I can create my opportunities. I think that’s a good.”

Raonic didn’t spend much of the off-season, or much of a vacation either. He did go for six days on a beach vacation but after four or five days he was ready to go back.

“I wanted to get back into things,” he said. “I had a lot of things that I wanted to do more than I did in 2014, so I wanted to get back in the swing of

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