BY RYAN WELLICOME
Despite his heartbreaking three-set loss to the UK’s Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final, Canada’s tennis ace is far from defeat.
Milos Raonic, being only 25, has years left in his career in which to gain the experience and wisdom of a true tennis superstar.
Raonic has endured defeat before and will continue to endure it in his career.
Such is the life of sporting; a life of 100 ft. lows and 1000-foot highs.
Any athlete worth their salt has experienced these manic swings of elation and frustration.
What is learned from those experiences separates the good from the best.
Every year he plays, and loses, he makes strides with his on-court game and mental ability.
He has already learned much from past defeats and will compete with more wisdom and strength than before.
Following his defeat in the Australian Open semi-finals to Murray this year, he had performed admirably in a semi-final that he had struggled with in the past.
On the contrary, during the Wimbledon final, Raonic played well to his ability but he lacked a sort of conviction.
His game seemed to be lacking the passion that Murray’s clearly wasn’t (possibly because there wasn’t enough room).
It also seems that Murray is simply a more experienced player, particularly at playing into an opponent.
Murray played to Raonic’s game with the intelligence of an international veteran; meeting Raonic’s advances, driving when Raonic let off and returning (very well I might add) Raonic’s 147 mph serve.
Raonic will gain this kind of intuition by playing more matches against high-ranked opponents.
Despite it being almost impossible to tell what is going through Raonic’s head, It looked as though doubt began to creep into his psyche after the first set, a doubt that was cemented following the loss of the first tiebreaker.
This begs two questions:
Should Raonic’s loss be attributed to a self-psych-out?
And is Raonic’s head-game where his greatest improvements need to be made?
He played aggressively, served and returned well and stayed fairly mobile but failed to win a set.
Logically, one would think it’s the game in his head that requires the training.
Being aware of what factors influence an important match such as this, it would be impossible to surmise that one factor swung the match either way.
Murray’s stellar defence and calculated offence, his belly full of fire and brimstone, combined with his veteran intuition and the seed of doubt in Raonic’s mind is likely what swayed the match in Murray’s favour.
Alas, Raonic’s confidence should never be higher than now.
Beating the number three seed and 17-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer, accompanied by finishing with a 37-8 record on the season (not much different from Murray’s 39-6) and becoming the first Canadian tennis player to go to a Grand Slam final is hardly worthy of dismissal.
His coaches still have great faith in him, his confidence is still high and he is still in his athletic prime by most standards.
Raonic had a stellar season and an incredible run through the Wimbledon tournament and is deserving of much praise and pomp but as far as his mental game goes, he has steps to take.
Will those steps take him to glory?