Raonic rises, upsets Federet to win Brisbane title: ‘Cherry on top’

Raonic SJ 13 3 TR

BRISBANE, Jan 10, 2016 – Milos Raonic had been tired about losing against the big boys. Here and there, he had won a few matches, but he had lost to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer so many times that it would make his head spin.

Last year, the Canadian was in the final in Brisbane against the Swiss and he was neck and neck. They split sets and he had a real chance there. But he couldn’t close. Federer knew that he could yank him around once Milos couldn’t place his bombing serves on the lines, allowing the Swiss to win the title 6-4 in the third.

But, this year in the final against Federer, Raonic out-hit and out-stroked him, winning the title 6-4, 6-4. This time, the normally stoned face Raonic even grinned side to side. Given how important it was to win a significant event against the greatest of all time showed him that maybe he can begin to win the ATP 1000s as well as the Grand Slams. Last season he was hurt for months and he was unable to take down the elite players. Now he is knocking at the door.

“It feels great considering how the last nine months have been. It adds a sort of cherry on top to all that,” Raonic said. “I feel like maybe there was some attention to other things brought in the off-season due to changes and so forth [he has hired his new coach, Carlos Moya], and at the end of the day, want to focus on my tennis and do better. I feel like I’m doing that. I stepped up and was able to show that to myself and everybody else. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

The 25-year-old Raonic was much more solid, much more directive against Federer, who was still recovering from being ill during the week, and the Swiss was a little slow and erratic, especially with his backhand. But Raonic was extremely clean, and he was so, so powerful. He bombed his first serves all day, even reaching 143 mph, while even twisting his second serves at an incredible 130 mph. As always, he crushed his big forehand, but his backhand has improved quite a bit. He rushed the net whenever he could, which is also intelligent. Federer wanted to drag him into long rallies, but he could not for the most part. Any time Raonic had a chance, he would go for it, hoping that he could kiss the lines. Good enough.

Moya has been talking with Raonic everyday. The former No. 1 told the Canadian not to back off Federer for one single second.

“It was, ‘Keep playing the way you’ve been playing this week. Pull your game together, and you can be better than him on the court,’ ” Raonic said.

Federer said that he even though he lost, he was pretty happy. He almost pulled out of the tournament because he had a high fever, and he wasn’t quite there, saying “definitely felt tired in my legs throughout the week, so then you feel that in defense. When you feel it in the most important moments, every time I had a chance to create some better plays, it just wouldn’t be happening. So it wasn’t going naturally. I had to force myself. When you force yourself things become more complicated. Often was also under pressure. How come I was so often under pressure was because of the serve. One leads to another. Yeah, he did well. It was a tough match. The legs were a little bit wobbly throughout the week.”

What Federer did say is that before Raonic became hurt last spring, he was getting better and better. He thinks that Raonic has added to his game and he hasn’t been stuck in the mud.

“I just think his consistent power is something that’s so impressive. The focus he brings to every single serve. I’ve always said it’s amazing that he can do that,” Federer said. “For a big guy he moves well, you know. He’s improved his fitness the last few years. Also tactically I think he’s better now than he’s ever been. He’s made a conscious effort of playing close to the baseline, which before when he was working with the Spanish coaches he was way back.

“It also may be an option, but if you really want to make it to the very, very top, maybe that’s not quite the play. You don’t want to hand over the play every time to the best guys. I think like this it’s more on his racquet and it’s probably not a bad thing. I thought he was playing really good tennis here last year and in also Indian Wells when I played him. [Federer beat him in straight sets in the semis.] I was quite impressed how good he was. Unfortunately he got injured and he had some issue, which then didn’t allow him to play anymore since. So it’s a great start for him. I’m very happy for him.”

Can Raonic win the Australian Open? Perhaps. He did reach the 2014 Wimbledon semifinal. Obviously, the nearly unbeatable Novak Djokovic is the big favorite, but at least today, Raonic is riding high.

“That’s maybe another step away, but I definitely feel I have it within myself to step up with play great tennis for two weeks,” Raonic said.

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