Photo: The Canadian Press

Going his own way on clay

Maintaining just one healthy, progressive relationship is a lot of work – for anyone, never mind superstar athletes. For Milos Raonic right now there are two relationships at top of mind: One with himself and one with clay.

The Thornhill, ON local recently split with his coach Galo Blanco after two and a half years together. This means when 14th seed Raonic steps on to the clay courts of Roland Garros for his first round match against Belgian Xavier Malisse at the French Open he will be looking to himself for the on-court wisdom once provided by Blanco.

“I’m very grateful for everything Galo has done with me and my tennis,” Raonic said in a statement. “I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

And why not start the process on clay, a surface on which Raonic believes he is improving tremendously and now plays on with more confidence.

This year on clay Raonic is 5-4, bringing his career record to 21-17. In late April he reached the semifinals in Barcelona where he lost to seven-time French Open champion and Rafael Nadal. Raonic has played at the French Open twice before, exiting in the first round in 2011 before making it as far as the third round last year.

The progression is coming at an opportune time.

After a historic Davis Cup performance in April, Raonic (with 35 aces in his two matches against Italy) lifted his Canadian team to a September date with host Serbia in the semifinal… on clay, the battle ground of Serbia’s choosing.

Coach or no coach, Raonic will need to continue getting cozy on the red courts while in Paris.

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