Milos Raonic ready for Wimbledon test
Milos Raonic is doing all he can to prepare for the Wimbledon grass that he injured himself on last year.
The Thornhill, Ont., native had an abrupt end to his Wimbledon campaign when he slipped early in his second-round match and had to retire with a painful right hip injury.
This year, Raonic said only the rain has given him pause as he prepares for his first match Tuesday against No. 45 Santiago Giraldo of Colombia.
"I didn't think about it too much," he said. "Only when it would rain a little bit or if it was wet, we would sort of practise a little bit more cautiously. Outside of that, when the court conditions are how they should be, there were no second thoughts."
That he has confidence on the surface at all is a minor victory for Raonic. His fall last year led to hip surgery two weeks later. After a premature attempt at a return during a Davis Cup tie in Israel in September, Raonic was not himself again on court until October at events in Tokyo and Shanghai.
Raonic has been training at Wimbledon since last Monday and feels prepared despite some chilly, rainy weather. "I've gotten all the practice I was hoping for," he said.
That includes hitting with a variety of players. "Everybody from [Roger] Federer and [Novak] Djokovic to [Lukasz] Kubot and [Nicolas] Mahut — a bunch of different players, a bunch of different styles," he said.
Players usually don't look too far ahead in the draw, and Raonic is no exception. If he beats Giraldo, Raonic would play either Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., or American Sam Querrey. Possible matchups against No. 16 Marin Cilic and No. 4 Andy Murray could follow after that.
"I don't know whose section I'm in or anything," he said after the draw on Friday. "The thing is, over time, people are going to say things. I think Vasek is in my section, I heard somebody mention him. That would be nice to play."
Leading up to Wimbledon, Raonic reached the third round of the French Open where he was beaten in five tough sets by Juan Monaco of Argentina and then moved on to the grass in Halle, Germany, where he won two rounds before falling 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(3) to Federer in the quarter-finals.
Raonic lamented his performance against Monaco and said his effective serve kept him competitive against Federer.
"I didn't play that well, my serve kept me in it," he said. "That's a fortunate thing for me if I do serve well. I feel like I have been serving well and I'm just getting better and better from the baseline.
"At Wimbledon, conditions are a little bit slower so I'll have to play a little bit more from the baseline but I feel as if my serve is just as effective."
In his pre-tournament press conference on Saturday, Federer spoke about the No. 22-ranked Raonic being on the cusp of something big.
"Obviously, with that serve anything is possible," the six-time Wimbledon champion said. "I give him good chances that this year something special can happen for him."
Since the Australian Open in January, Raonic, seeded 21st at Wimbledon, has a record of 20-8. All 20 of those victories came in straight sets.
"I guess that's a good thing," he said. "I'm playing well and I'm getting the job done effectively."