Photo: The Canadian Press

Athlete of the Week: Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic made history this past week — showing the world a glimpse of what’s in store for this country in the sport of Tennis. The Thornhill, ON native won two games in the Davis Cup quarterfinal matchup against Italy to clinch Canada’s first semifinal appearance and defeat the Italians in the best-of-five series 3-1. And he did it in style.

For this, he earns a Canadian Olympic Team nod as athlete of the week.

Raonic, a 2012 Olympian and the current 16th  ranked player on the ATP tour, captured Canada’s first point of the series when he defeated Fabio Fognini 6-4, 7-6(4), 7-5. The victory was followed by an incredible four-and-half hour win from the doubles duo of Daniel Nestor (Toronto, ON) and Vasek Pospisil (Vancouver, BC) over Daniele Bracciali and Fognini.

Needing only one more victory with to make history, Raonic served 35 aces and won 87 per cent of his first-serve points on his way to defeating Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

“I’ve been trying to pinch myself,” said Canadian Davis Cup team captain Martin Laurendeau. “Three years ago, Milos saved match points against a guy from Dominican Republic in Toronto, and now we’re in the final four … it’s a great honour.”

Born in Montenegro, Raonic and his family moved to Canada at the age of three and started playing tennis at eight. The 22-year-old was one of the first group of athletes to join Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre in Montreal when it was opened in 2007.

Photo: The Canadian Press

Milos Raonic celebrates with the rest of the Canadian team after defeating Italian Andreas Seppi to advance to the Davis Cup semifinal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Raonic burst onto the scene in 2011 winning the SAP Open in San Jose for his first career tour title and followed the win with a runner-up finish a week later at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis. His exploits that year earned him ATP Newcomer of Year honours.

Last year Raonic earned his first qualification to an Olympic team and reached the second round of the tournament. He also added a tournament win in Chennai, India and defended his title in San Jose along with two other runner-up finishes. So far in 2013, Raonic completed a three-peat and won the SAP Open for a third consecutive year.

His career high ranking of 13th  in the world is the highest ever reached by a Canadian.

Raonic and the rest of the Canadian Davis Cup team will play Serbia in the semifinal in September.