Those sitting in the front row of the Royal Box this summer should consider bringing ice-hockey masks. If the great British tennis public isn’t already familiar with Milos Raonic, they certainly will be if he is given the opportunity to play on Centre Court; there are few more thrilling sights in tennis than someone serving at close to 160mph. Raonic promises to be “dangerous” at the All England Club this year; a threat to the safety of spectators, and to the ambitions of the top four.
“Raonic will be dangerous at Wimbledon – none of the top boys are going to want to see him on the grass at Wimbledon,” said Greg Rusedski, who suggested that the Canadian could go deep into the draw, to the quarter-finals and perhaps beyond.
This could be the first year that Raonic, a 21-year-old who this week moved to a career high of 23 in the rankings, makes an impression on The Championships. Last summer, at his first Wimbledon, he retired from his second-round match against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller because of a hip injury. That was a great disappointment, not just for Raonic, but for all those who had been hoping to see his projected third-round meeting with Rafael Nadal.
When the draw is made this June, none of the top four will want Raonic in their section. Raonic beat Andy Murray in the quarter-finals of last week’s clay-court tournament in Barcelona, and that serve will almost certainly be more effective on English grass than on the crushed brick of continental Europe.
Raonic’s serve has been recorded at 155mph, just one mph short of Ivo Karlovic’s record. “I’ve been impressed with Raonic for a while. He’s the most exciting young player on the tour,” said Rusedski, a supporter of the Barclays Ball Kids scheme. “You would have to go with him and John Isner as the players with the best two serves on tour. He’s hitting around 150mph on a regular basis. But you have to think about the second serves, and also results at the majors. I still haven’t seen him in a big match at the majors so don’t know enough about his second serve. That would be interesting to see.”
Rusedski said he would like to see Raonic attacking the net a bit more. “What Raonic needs to do, if he wants to add to his game, is to come forward at times. He should be serve-and-volleying once in a while, just to mix things up. If Raonic comes in occasionally, that would have his opponent thinking, wondering what he is going to have to do with his return. If Raonic doesn’t come in on his serve, that takes some of the pressure off the returner, even though Raonic has such a gigantic serve,” Rusedski said.
“I can see him getting to the quarters of Wimbledon this year. I’m not so sure about the semis as the top four guys move so well on the grass. He’s already had one operation, so it’s just a matter of that little bit of flexibility that’s missing from his game at the moment. He has such great ability, though. I can definitely see him getting to nine or 10 in the world, and then it would be interesting to see whether he could step up.”