Forget what you thought you knew about tennis in this country. It’s a new day. It’s a new conversation. And Milos Raonic has the conch.
Though his actions speak louder than words, and there is no doubt he is walking the talk, the confident 22-year-old of Thornhill, ON, will be stepping onto the court at the U.S. Open this week as the first Canadian man to have ever been ranked in the ATP top-10.
In fact, every career high Raonic has achieved since February 2011 (when he became the first Canadian man to earn a top-40 ATP singles ranking) has been a best-ever for Canadian men’s tennis.
Indeed, he can do it on the court.
But what’s truly impressive is not how Raonic’s accomplishments have helped to redefine tennis in Canada; it’s how he is helping to redefine Canada because of tennis.
HERE ARE 5 WAYS MILOS RAONIC IS CHANGING CANADIAN CULTURE:
1. He doesn’t play hockey.
MR: “I remember through elementary school and high school nobody would really ask how I was doing (in tennis). And even if they did, nobody would really understand like they would with hockey. I think the kind of recognition I am getting now makes me proud … A lot of kids from high school have reached out to me and now they understand about all those days I wasn’t in class because of training and they say: ‘well done’. “
2. His confidence is contagious.
MR: “I think it’s amazing for me throughout events when people say: ‘I want to be like you, I want to be like Milos, I want to achieve things like Milos.’ I think also for kids who are already playing tennis and already trying to compete at high levels, I think it gives them belief that Canadian kids can succeed at tennis. I also think it’s special to hear that not only it gives the kids the belief, but that it gives the parents the belief that Canadians can succeed in tennis. Parents want to enroll their kids (in tennis) … and the best way for me to promote it is through success.
3. The Maple Leaf matters
MR: “I think we as Canadians are doing a great job. You can’t ignore that. People in Canada and internationally notice it. It demands attention to Canada as a whole. I think everyone does it so respectfully and in a classy way, whether it be in music or sport. I think Canadians representing us on a large international stage are doing a great job at it.”
4. He is leading by example
MR: “As a Canadian I’m going into new territory and trying to achieve new things. I think I have higher expectations on myself than other people do for me. It doesn’t really create much pressure when I’m playing at the end of the day. Not because people don’t know tennis or because they haven’t had anything to compare to. I focus on things I can control. I can’t control what people think of me.”
5. He is more than just tennis
MR: (On how he would like his legacy defined.) “Respect. Whether it be for what I did on the court or off the court or with my foundation. Not only will that give me happiness within myself, but I think it will also give me a lot more opportunities later in life. I think that’s pretty special way to be remembered.”
The U.S. Open begins today.
Pronounced: MIL-osh Rau-nitch
Age: 22 (27.12.1990)
Birthplace: Podgorica, Montenegro
Hometwon: Thornhill, ON
Height: 6’5″ (196 cm)
Weight: 198 lbs (90 kg)
Turned Pro: 2008
Favourite surface: Hard court
Languages: Serbian and English