Why The Math Adds Up For Milos Raonic
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on 7 March, and updated to remove references to the BNP Paribas Open, which will not be held as scheduled due to coronavirus concerns.
Milos Raonic has experienced some of tennis’ highest highs. A former World No. 3 and Grand Slam finalist, the Canadian has played on all the biggest stages against some of the best players in history. The eight-time ATP Tour champion owns multiple wins against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka. But the 29-year-old is still hungry for more.
“It’s hard to define success because it changes so many times. Once you achieve a specific goal, then you always want more and then you don’t feel you are successful,” Raonic told ATPTour.com. “I think everybody has a personal idea of it. But have I achieved success to this point? I don’t think so.”
Raonic has faced plenty of obstacles throughout his career, with injuries affecting almost every part of his body, including his right hip, right foot, left wrist, back, right elbow, glute, thigh, right ankle, right calf and right knee. Currently No. 30 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Raonic is far from where he wants to be.
But Raonic is healthy, and he says that’s a good place to start as he pushes for a return to the top of the sport.
“It just gives you peace of mind, especially with how much I’ve struggled over the past few years with injuries. Also, it just gives me continuity,” Raonic said. “I don’t have to stop to recover any kind of ailment and I can just have continuous training. I also don’t have to push as hard because I have that continuity and I can work more on sustaining and maintaining my level and making little steps here and there throughout the season.”
Raonic is meticulous and process-driven. He believes that stems from his childhood, as both his father, Dusan and mother, Vesna, are engineers.
“Math was a big part of our lives growing up and that’s a process as well. You try to look at things as rationally and as logically as possible. I think that kind of association, that perspective on things, made a big difference for me because there were moments where I would get very emotional and frustrated or positive or negative about things. But those moments were hard to always justify,” Raonic said. “It could just be a feeling and sometimes, if you can’t explain those feelings to yourself, it can get out of hand. It could get out of control. So for me, the rationalisation of a process has been a very grounding thing. It’s not just in my tennis. It’s in every aspect of my life that I perceive things that way.”
The 29-year-old isn't rushing for one deep run at a big event, although he'd be happy to earn one.
“What motivates me is the pursuit to improve and get better each and every day,” Raonic said. “I know if I could achieve those things on a day-to-day basis, I will achieve my goals.”
Raonic's Five Most Recent Indian Wells Results
|2019||SF (l. to Thiem)|
|2018||SF (l. to Del Potro)|
|2016||Final (l. to Djokovic)|
|2015||SF (l. to Federer)|
|2014||QF (l. to Dolgopolov)|
Step by step, day by day, the Canadian is trying to improve. Even if Raonic gets one per cent better at one stroke or aspect of his game per day, he feels that will add up to a noticeable improvement throughout the season.
“The most enjoyable parts are going out and competing, but I think the [key is the] process before that of becoming a better tennis player, becoming a better athlete,” Raonic said. “Whether that be on the court or in the gym or on the track, wherever that may be, I think [it’s about] that process that goes in day-in and day-out.
"[It’s] where you have an idea, you have a path you’re trying to take and you hope that could get you closer to those moments when you go step out to compete with players of all levels, the best at the big events or against whomever it may be. You could give your best and you could feel like you’re a better tennis player each and every day.”
Raonic hasn't always had the mindset he does today. The Canadian admits that early in his career it was the opposite before he realised he had to make a change.
“There were a lot of times that I lost matches that I was very disappointed about, where I would get emotional. I would get disappointed, I would get negative on court and the rationale behind it was [me thinking], 'Sometimes you’re just your own worst enemy,'” Raonic said. “I decided [that] to get the best out of myself I have to try to put that aside as much as possible and try to be able to identify things throughout a match, throughout my season, from week to week, and that’s sort of where that rationale kicked in.”
Raonic isn’t guessing that this mentality works; it’s proven successful for him in the past. Even if he goes through a rough patch of results, he’s still going to focus on the process.
“After you lose a match, you can sometimes get so narrowed in on what happened over the past hour and a half, two hours, three hours or however long it is,” Raonic said. “I think it’s important that you can step back and try to see the big picture of things. [It’s about] if you can be honest with yourself and tell yourself, ‘Hey, I’m playing better.’”
Fans saw glimpses of Raonic at his best at this year’s Australian Open. He didn’t lose a set en route to his fifth Melbourne quarter-final in the past five years. The big-serving Canadian did not lose serve in his first four matches — including wins against Cristian Garin, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Marin Cilic — and only eventual champion Novak Djokovic was able to stop him.
“It was an important and positive start for me, I think. I only played about three matches since Wimbledon last year to finish off the season. Came into Doha, lost early in that tournament. Was hoping to do better there,” Raonic said. “But then by the time I got into the Australian Open, practising with other players and these kinds of things, I started to feel more comfortable and I had a good run there.”
Raonic is now feeling good on and off the court.
“If you do the right things, if you do put in the work, if you do stay dedicated and disciplined, those good moments catch up to you and you sort of flip a switch,” Raonic said. “You aren’t sure exactly how it happened or why it happened, but everything just starts to feel a little bit easier. When you have those moments, you really appreciate them and you try to make them last as long as possible.”