Milos Raonic, Australian Open 2016

Lucas Pouille’s coach Emmanuel Planque talks about the Canadian’s improved game.

Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz

“Apart from Djoko, I don’t see anyone who can beat him here.” I told you that just after the match against Lucas (Pouille). I was a bit stunned after the match. I re-watched the match several times and the impression remained. OK, I wasn’t excited by the way Lucas started each set… but Milos gave us nothing. That guy doesn’t even give you the time of day. Right now, I find him fit. We’ve been talking about him as a future Grand Slam winner for two years now. Like Dimitrov? Yes and no. I’m sure Dimitrov will come back. But he’s less impressive and not prepared as well as Raonic. He has less weapons.

He’s really confident with his serve. In Brisbane and Melbourne, he was hitting second serves at 220, 224 and even 226 km/h. At some point you don’t know how to return them: if you step back, he hits a kick serve that bounces really high; if you move forward to cut the trajectory, he hits a 220km/h bullet. The average first serve speed is often mentioned as a way to judge a server, but don’t forget the second serve. He put power in it but it doesn’t mean that many more double faults. That’s tied to his current confidence and the fact that he hasn’t played the top two best returners yet, Murray and Djoko, who can bother him. The idea is to make him run so he’ll serve between 160 and 180 km/h. Because if he serves at 130, he’ll be more accurate, more coordinated, more relaxed. But it’s hard to make him run much when he’ll try and shorten the point quickly.

He has improved his game considerably. Mainly because he doesn’t have any physical problems. Last year, he had to undergo surgery to repair pinched nerve in his foot. Good health means more intensity at practice. You can tell he has worked on his returns. He’s much more consistent. Before he could miss a few second serve returns in a row. Today, he puts you continuously under pressure without taking any risks. He returns hard in the middle, that allows him to take a lot of second shots with his forehand. And then it’s difficult to escape. Facing him, you get tense and you lose 10 to 15 km/h on your serve. I think Milos has assimilated the fact that the best players in the world aren’t the best servers. His goal is to get a ratio of quality of serve/quality of return that is much better than the others’.

He’s part of a very strong project. To me, he’s not a Canadian at all. He’s a Yugo (born in Podgorica, Raonic lived in Montenegro until he was eight). He reminds me of Djoko with his ambition and application. Raonic is straightforward, intelligent, a worker. The guy could easily have been an engineer. Now he’s a tennis player, that’s his job. He’s not emotional, he’s rational. He works on his mechanics. Ljubicic (now Federer’s coach) helped with his serve and second shot. Ljubicic leaves and Raonic takes Moya, who’ll help him with his returns and bring him the deep parts of the game. And above all he has Piatti (former coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet) who is a great coach and who is doing a hell of a job with him.

Would it hurt tennis if Raonic became number one? I don’t agree with that kind of pessimism. I hear some people say Raonic is bland, isn’t sexy, he’s boring … No! Sure, tennis of tomorrow will be guys 1.95m tall moving like guys 1.75 tall and who can return too. Can these critics affect Raonic? I feel he’s there to win. The rest …

Milos Raonic, Australian Open 2016

The first Spaniard to reach the number one spot, Carlos Moya has joined Riccardo Piatti last fall to coach Milos Raonic. In this interview, he talks about Milos, Rafa and Stefan Edberg.

Interview by l’Equipe, translation by Tennis Buzz:

Q: In 1997, you reached the Australian Open final, even though you had previously only won two matches at Grand Slam level. Do you think we’ll see that again one day?

Yes why not? But perhaps not in the next five years, because of the top guys.

Q: That year you had beaten the defending champion, Boris Becker in the first round…

People tend to forget I was world number 25 at that time. But there were only 16 seeds back then, so this kind of first round was possible. What had really helped me is that I had beaten Becker (then world number 6) two months before in Bercy. And I had just reached the final in Sydney. I was feeling good.

Q: Milos Raonic just captured the Brisbane tournament and has yet to lose a set in Melbourne. Players are a bit scared to face him…

Good.. Having beaten Roger sends a strong signal. Not everybody can do it. Milos is the only player born in the 90’s to have beaten Roger twice (the first time was in Bercy 2014). He has also beaten Rafa at Indian Wells last year, and Murray three times. Only Djokovic misses.

Q: What misses too is to beat them at a Grand Slam tournament. That’s why his match against Wawrinka, who leads their head-to-head 4-0, is so much expected.

Milos is 25. He has to do it step by step. He won’t win a Grand Slam all of a sudden.

Q: So you don’t think he will win this tournament?

I did not say that (smiles). But Milos needs to prove he can beat these players one after an other in a tournament. And that’s a hard task.

Q: Why did you decide to join Raonic’s team?

It was a good proposal to start my job as a coach. Milos’ project inspired me. There’s a clear goal: to be number one. Milos could not reach its maximum potential so far, mainly because of injuries. What I like is that Milos is mature. He knows what he wants.

Q: On how many tournaments will you follow him?

15 weeks including the four Grand Slams. I did notant to be too much away from home. I have three young children. But I know that in my absence things will be done right because he has a solid team around him, in particular Riccardo Piatti (former coach of Ljubicic and Gasquet).

Q: What has impressed you most since you work with Milos?

He’s one of the most professional guy I have ever met. He is fully committed: on court, in the gym, after his training…

Q: When you were playing would you have liked that a former world number one works with you? If so, who would you have chosen?

Of course, I would have enjoyed it. I would have chosen Stefan Edberg, even if our playing styles were completely different.

Q: We often hear that Milos’ game is boring, that he looks like a robot when he plays. Could these remarks affect him?

No no no, I don’t think so. If you watched his game against Troicki, I don’t think it was boring. These comments don’t bother me. We should even use them. That our opponents expect a difficult game, with no rythm, can be a weapon for us.

Q: Before Raonic, how many players asked you to coach them?

A few. But either it was not at the right moment or these players asked me to travel with them for too many weeks.

Q: For the last two years, there has been a constant rumour about a Moya-Nadal collaboration..

It comes from the media and John McEnroe. But we’ve never spoken even once about that possibility. I’m sure Rafa will end his career with Toni and with the same team that’s been with him all these years. I know Rafa well and I think he’d think it unfair to split with Toni because things aren’t going so well. I’ve never looked to be a member of his team. We’re good friends, we often eat together, and we trained together at Christmas. That’s all.

Q: Do you think he’ll win another Slam?

Of course I think so. He’s not 30 yet. He needs to improve in certain areas and he knows that. He works. It’s a normal process: first of all, you try new things at practice, and then you apply them in matches, under pressure, and then you don’t think about them any more. It worked at the end of last season, but not here. You can see he wants to play more inside the baseline. Against Verdasco, he was a metre inside the baseline, but he wasn’t doing any damage. Positioning isn’t everything. Being a metre inside the baseline and pushing the ball, that’s not the answer. Right now, Rafa is a bit confused when he plays under pressure. He should develop this game without thinking. And now, we see him thinking.

Also read:
Australian Open 1997: Pete Sampras defeats Carlos Moya
Impressions from the 1996 Australian Open
Costa, Moya, Enqvist and Gaudio: fun under the sun

Photo credit: Andrew Robertson

Follow our Australian Open 2016 coverage.

Milos Raonic, Australian Open 2016

Viktor Troicki is the first player to break Milos’ serve since the beginning of this Australian Open, but he lost to the Canadian in straight sets. Raonic cruised into the fourth round for the third time in four years. His next opponenent: 2014 Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka.

He took time after the match to dedicate his victory to the La Loche community in Canada, affected by a school shooting on Friday.

Milos Raonic at the Australian Open 2016

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He will hit the courts in New York wearing this red and black New Balance outfit:

Milos Raonic US Open outfit

Get Milos’ gear here.

Also read:
Raonic, Watson and Gibbs star in New Balance commercial
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and follow our 2015 US Open coverage.