By Stephen Villatoro
Photo by Billie Weiss
The strong serving of Canadian Milos Raonic was on display in Indian Wells this weekend. The 23 year old, who broke into the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time in 2013, smashed a BNP Paribas Open record 33 aces in his second-round defeat of Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin.
We caught up with the World No. 11 to learn about his service game, his go-to hangouts in Toronto and more!
BNP Paribas Open: You have one of the biggest serves on tour. Take me through the process. What’s your focus as you step to the line?
Milos Raonic: I’ve stepped up to the line so many times, in so many pressure situations, that it’s almost automatic. There’s nothing specific that I think about, or what I want to do with it. I’ve hit many, many thousands of serves, and played many points getting thousands of aces. I don’t feel like I overthink my serve. I think more about what I would like to see as a return if it does come back, what my opponents’ habits are and trying to go the other way from that.
BNPPO: You won a tour-best 91 percent of your service games last year. Do you sometimes feel it would be more fair if your opponents had larger racquets?
MR: No way! I want to keep my high percentage.
BNPPO: Growing up, you used to record Pete Sampras’ matches. Have you tried to implement some of his game into yours?
MR: Yes, a lot, actually. I focused on his on-court demeanor, looking how he controlled and presented himself on the court. He also gave me motivation to work on my serve, because I saw how much he dominated with that.
BNPPO: You tweeted a picture earlier this week of you with hockey legend Wayne Gretzky in Los Angeles. Did you make your way over to the Oscars?
MR: I was in L.A. with friends. There were obviously a lot of Oscars things going on, but I didn’t go. I kept pretty quiet and stayed close to friends.
BNPPO: You visited Tokyo earlier this year. What were some of the highlights from your trip?
MR: I love the food and the people. They are very welcoming and try to make sure you have the best possible experience. It helps a lot when people are that open to tourists coming into the country.
BNPPO: What’s it like to be immortalized as a bobble-head?
MR: It’s cool. People use it in photos and I get to see other things. It’s kind of become a signature thing, so I like it.
BNPPO: If we were to go to Toronto or your hometown of Thornhill, Canada, what the one thing we have to check out? How you do enjoy “Milos’” version of Toronto?
MR: Go watch any hockey game at either Real Sports Bar & Grill or Wayne Gretzky’s Sports Bar. Especially for a Maple Leafs game, the atmosphere is pretty spectacular.
BNPPO: You’re currently the youngest player in the Top 15. What do you contribute to your fast rise in the rankings?
MR: Hard work, hard work and more hard work all the time. I also look to be patient and understanding, and focus on not only the result all the time, but the process of the development.
Thanks for your time, Milos!