TENNIS: teenager Raonic gives Canada hope
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Christopher Johnson, National Post · Friday, Oct. 8, 2010
TOKYO – Milos Raonic, perhaps Canada’s top tennis prospect in years, hit 14 aces and challenged world No. 1 Rafael Nadal to an exciting match before losing 6-4, 6-4 in the second round at the Japan Open yesterday.
Hitting booming serves at speeds up to 227 kilometres per hour, the 19-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., took early leads in both sets, frustrating Nadal and providing the most hopeful moments in recent Canadian tennis history. “Nobody expected much from me,” Raonic said. “It was a chance for me to show the world what I can do. It was televised around the world because Nadal was playing. It was a key step for me to see progress in my game. It gives me more motivation to train.”
Nadal, the reigning French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion, praised Raonic after the match. “He’s a very good player. He’s got a great future, “Nadal said. “He’s very aggressive and very young. His serve is unbelievable. He can do some things to improve how he plays the point after his serve. I think tennis is going to get better and better there [in Canada] because of him. I’m not sure when, but he is going to be in one of the top positions.”
Playing before about 7,000 fans in Tokyo, Raonic won 30 out of 35 points on his first serve, which landed in two-thirds of the time. At times resembling his idol, Pete Sampras , or young Argentine ace Juan Martin del Potro, Raonic hit several winners off hard flat forehands, and used his long reach to command the net. Nadal, showing signs of fatigue after a long tour, couldn’t lob or bounce smashes over the 6-foot-5 inch Raonic.