Novak Djokovic has accused critics of subjecting him to a “witch hunt” after his regional Adria Tour tennis event ended in a coronavirus fiasco and said he was still uncertain whether he would play at the August 31-September 13 US Open.
Remember the name Milos Raonic. If the six foot, five inch Canadian tennis player hasn’t caught your eye during this Australian Open summer, it’s because his explosive service game is yet to feature on one of Melbourne Park’s more high profile arenas.
But make no mistake, the 152 ranked player on the ATP Tour will almost certainly get his chance to shine on the big stage after producing arguably the biggest upset in the men’s draw to date, defeating the number 10 seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in four sets.
The 6-4 7-5 4-6 6-4 victory was a just result for Raonic, who dominated every facet of the game against Youzhny, who last year made the semi-finals of the French Open.
The 20-year-old fired 64 winners, including 31 aces against an opponent ranked more than 140 places higher in the ATP rankings.
No doubt the victory against Youzhny has rounded off a spectacular opening week for Raonic, who has certified himself as the most dominant server at the Australian Open, producing an amazing 79 aces in the tournament, which is the most of any player thus far.
Capable of generating speeds of up to 230km/h, the brutality of Raonic’s serve has paved the way for the Canadian to make his first fourth round appearance at a Grand Slam event – a terrific feat given he is participating in just his second major.
After losing at the first round of the US Open last year, Raonic’s profile gained a healthy amount of exposure at the Japan Open Tennis Championship, beating Florent Serra in the first round before losing to world number one Rafael Nadal in straight sets 6-4 6-4.
Indeed, only the poise and experience of Nadal proved to be the difference against Raonic, with the Canadian’s serve causing constant havoc for the five-time French Open champion.
The 20-year-old managed to get 67 per cent of his first serves into play against the Spaniard, winning 86 per cent of those points.
Regarded as one of the finest returners of serve in the men’s game, Nadal was able to only accumulate two break points against Raonic, while the Canadian himself managed to produce five break point chances.
However, Raonic failed to convert any of his break points as Nadal showed why his mentality is unmatched on court, converting both of his break point opportunities.
Despite the loss, Raonic has obviously taken a lot of confidence from his performance against the world number one and is well on his way to becoming the new fairytale story of an Australian Open, which has become accustomed to unearthing a superstar in the making.
Established players such as Marcos Baghdatis, Fernando Verdasco and Jo Wilfred Tsonga all made their name at the Australian Open at a time when they were not seeded.
Baghdatis and Tsonga in particular both managed to make the final before falling to Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic respectively.
Although it remains to be seen whether Raonic can repeat such feats, there is no doubting that this young Canadian has the potential to fight toe to toe with the game’s best.
With number seven seed David Ferrer standing in between Raonic and a quarter-final birth at the Australian Open, the sky is the limit for a young man who is capable of dropping a bombshell in more ways than one.