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Confident Raonic optimistic about his chances

Milos Raonic downed Rafa Nadal in three tight sets in Brisbane.

By Val Febbo

Wednesday, 11 January, 2017

After a breakout performance at the 2016 Australian Open, world number No.3 Milos Raonic is as confident as ever to achieve another great result this year.

Raonic’s 2016 run to the semifinals was ended by Andy Murray in a pulsating five-set affair, with Raonic left heartbroken after an adductor injury prevented him from capitalising on a two sets to one lead.

His start to 2017 has been solid, reaching the semifinals at an exhibition event in Abu Dhabi before going down to Rafael Nadal in three sets. At the Brisbane International he would exact vengeance on Nadal on his way to the semifinals where he lost to eventual champion Grigor Dimitrov 7-6 6-2.

Despite being unable to defend his Brisbane title, the big-serving Canadian is still optimistic about his chances at Melbourne Park.

“I feel very good about it. I think, you know, I stepped up this week. I did quite a few very good things. Had a little hiccup in the way. It's about cleaning things up, and now I have some time to do that,” he said.

“I feel like I have done a lot of things to be a much better player. I feel like I'm on that right track. I feel like if I can avoid that hiccup, I can have a very, very good time in Melbourne.”

Despite reaching his career-high ranking, Raonic knows he must continue to develop his game if he is going to capture that elusive Grand Slam title.

His loss to Dimitrov was an eye-opener for the 26-year-old and he has targeted his second-serve returns as an area he needs to improve on at Melbourne Park.

“Well, I've got to come forward more. Obviously, it's going to be some attention, hopefully, to make this an isolated incident on that lack of performance on second-serve returns,” Raonic said.

“I don't believe he served that high of first-serve percentage, so it wasn't like, you know, you're playing some guy like one of the guys that serves 80 per cent just putting first serves in, and you get very few looks at second serves.

“I had quite a few looks, and I underperformed significantly in that scenario. That's where I've really got to step up.

“It's hard to keep up pretty much with everybody when they are serving firsts. It's that second-serve return. So that's going to take attention.”

Raonic believes that off-court initiatives are just as important when it comes to succeeding, and he will continue to put extra emphasis on recovery.

“It's going to be about recovering. I feel like I have done the work I needed to do, and it's going to be about sharpening up some things,” he said.

“But I think it's about really maybe putting in a few good days of work, and then after that, doing everything I can to be at 100 per cent. Start Monday or Tuesday.”

Raonic broke through for his maiden Grand Slam final at Wimbledon last year and he will be looking to go one better when he takes to the court in Melbourne. With his form towards the end of last year and his determination after last year’s heartbreak, the Canadian will be one of the strongest contenders for this year’s Australian Open.