It's time for me to step up and shock big four, says confident Raonic

17 June 2017 09:09

Milos Raonic senses a chink in the 'big four's' armour at Wimbledon and is confident he can be the man to take advantage.

Raonic was 11 years old the last time someone other that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray lifted the men's singles trophy.

The Canadian got closer than most last year when he stunned Federer in the semi-finals before losing in straight sets to Murray.

Murray and Djokovic, the winner in 2014 and 2015, have struggled for form this year, while Federer and Nadal have dominated.

Nadal swept all before him at the French Open in winning his first grand slam title for three years, but has only won five matches in Wimbledon in the last five years.

Federer, meanwhile, skipped the clay season altogether and then lost his first match on grass in Stuttgart earlier this week to 39-year-old Tommy Haas.

Raonic told Press Association Sport: " I think there's definitely an opening. The two stand-out players this year were not really at that level last year. Rafa's playing better than maybe ever in his career.

"Andy the last few weeks has been playing much better, but he hasn't had a start of the season up to his standard and it's obviously something new to have the pressure of being number one and staying number one. And obviously Novak hasn't been where he was.

"The person that's going to win it is going to be the one who steps up and takes it."

Raonic could also be included among the players for whom 2017 has been a letdown so far, with a hamstring injury wrecking his spring.

Having finished last year ranked third, he has now dropped to sixth, but he began preparations for the grass-court season this week feeling very positive about his game.

The Canadian said: "I feel it's up there. I feel like I'm doing things better than I did last year.

"I think it's going to take some matches and dealing with some frustrating and tough, important moments just to get that sharpness. That's the only thing I really feel I'm missing."

There have been changes behind the scenes, with Raonic splitting from coach Carlos Moya at the end of last season and hiring former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek.

But that partnership ended after his fourth-round loss at the French Open and Raonic has now begun working with former world number one doubles player Mark Knowles.

Explaining the split from Krajicek, Raonic said: " Everything was good, it was just the feel. Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn't. It has to feel right all the time.

"Obviously I would have loved to have done better alongside him."

Riccardo Piatti, a hugely experienced Italian coach with whom Raonic has been working since 2013, remains on the team, while John McEnroe continues to lend a friendly ear.

McEnroe's presence as a short-term member of Raonic's team undoubtedly played a part in the 27-year-old's successful grass-court campaign, which included another loss to Murray in the final of the Aegon Championships.

Raonic begins his grass season at Queen's Club next week with the memories and lessons of last year fresh in his mind.

"It was some of the best memories I've had on court," he said. "Spending that time worked with John, who had a different approach to things, I definitely took that through the rest of the year and it helped me out significantly.

"It was obviously disappointing the way Wimbledon finished, Queen's as well, but it gave me a lot of confidence and helped build my character a lot so hopefully I can use those lessons this year."

Tennis is not a sport lacking in intelligent practitioners but, even so, Raonic stands out.

The man who once described himself as "the CEO of Milos Raonic tennis" has never been afraid to state his ambitions.

"People ask me a question, I try to be honest," he said. "I could keep it to myself, but it's accountability, I hold myself accountable for everything."

And the trend for players reaching their peak later does nothing to reduce the internal pressure he feels to achieve those ambitions.

"I always feel time's running out, I would have said the same thing at 22, 23. It lights the fire under me," he said.

Not that tennis is Raonic's only passion. He plans to finish his degree and complete a Masters in finance when his playing career is over and has a keen interest in contemporary art.

During down-time last summer, Raonic and McEnroe could be found immersed in London's art world.

"I try to visits galleries and exhibitions when I'm in big cities," said the Canadian.

"I haven't seen any shows yet this year in London. There were a few interesting things going on last year that I got to see - the Yayoi Kusama show at the Victoria Miro gallery and the new gallery at the Tate - and it was nice last year because John is very into that as well so we went and did that stuff together.

"I'd say he's got one of the more impressive art collections that I know of amongst any athletes. My collection has got a lot of growing to do."

Source: PA