Milos Raonic may have grown up in Thornhill, Ontario but some of the most important moments in his professional career have happened in Montréal.
It was at the National Training Centre that he became the man and player he is today. And after coming so close to taking the title at STADE IGA against Rafael Nadal in 2013, he would love another chance to win Rogers Cup in front of the fans, coaches, friends and family members who watched him mature and evolve.
“It’s great being back here,” affirmed Raonic. “I know this facility much better than I know where the tournament is played in Toronto. It’s nice to be back here. I’ve trained on this court. This room used to be the classroom when I came here during the months I was at the National Training Centre. All those kinds of feelings are familiar. It’s nice to be here, where the fans hosted me for many years. Also, since they’re nearby, my family is able to come and to help me throughout this event.”
Seeded sixth this week, Raonic isn’t the only player who appreciates the welcome that the Montréal Masters 1000 extends: “Familiarity is the big thing,” he says. “Also, the close proximity to the centre. The men and women really appreciate that. The atmosphere, the energy on the court are unbelievable, so I have great memories here from four years ago.”
Following the phenomenal climb in 2016 that led him to the Wimbledon final and the world no.3 ranking in November, Raonic was slowed by injury and fell to no.10.
Still awaiting his maiden Grand Slam trophy, the 26-year-old has earned eight career titles but none this year despite playing in two finals (Delray Beach and Istanbul). Rafael Nadal believes that Raonic is very close to taking his game to the next level.
“All he has to do is win,” said the Spaniard. “Sometimes, you have to be patient and wait for the right moment. It happens to everyone. He was injured and that’s never easy but he still handled things very well. He’s a very talented player and I’m sure he’s a good candidate to win the title wherever he plays, especially at home.”
But first the Canadian will have to win his second-round match against either Daniil Medvedev of Russian or Adrian Mannarino of France, two competitors with very different playing styles. “One guy [Mannarino] tries to sort of play crafty and make his opponent feel uncomfortable. He’s also playing as a lefty. The other [Medvedev], I have seen him a little bit at practice once or twice, I believe. He tries to play big, hit big and take time away from his opponents. I’m going to have to do things well in either matchup.”