By Nick Mulvenney
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – If one of the key attributes of a champion is getting a result when you are not playing at your best, Milos Raonic can be pretty happy with his victory over Tommy Robredo at the Australian Open on Thursday.
The Canadian 13th seed is shaping up as a dark horse at Melbourne Park after beating Roger Federer to win the Brisbane international two weeks ago and hammering Lucas Pouille 6-1 6-4 6-4 in the opening round.
His second round encounter with the tough Spaniard was a far trickier affair and he mixed 59 unforced errors with 75 winners to take out Robredo 7-6(6) 7-6(5) 7-5 in just under three hours on showcourt two.
“I felt I was sort of forcing it a bit too much. I was trying to sort of lug the ball around more than playing a little bit more smoothly like I had in my previous matches,” he told reporters.
“I don’t think I played as clean as I would have liked … but at the end of the day, the most important thing is I got the win.”
The 25-year-old’s game has always been built on his powerful serve and he duly blasted 24 aces in the win, which secured him a date with another tough competitor, Serbian Viktor Troicki, in the third round.
Raonic has just started working with former world number one Carlos Moya and has high hopes for the improvements that relationship might bring to his game, even if to date the Spaniard’s input has mostly been on the mental side.
“It’s been quite brief,” he said. “We haven’t been able to necessarily add too many things other than really just the enforcement of when to make which kind of decisions.”
A quarter-finalist in Melbourne last year and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2014, Raonic’s breakthrough to a grand slam title-decider is perhaps overdue.
Rafa Nadal’s first round exit has weakened the bottom half of the draw but world number 14 Raonic is looking no further ahead than his meeting with comeback specialist Troicki.
“I feel like I’m playing well. I feel like I can put forth that tennis,” he said.
“But Saturday I have a big challenge ahead of me. I hope I can get through that one and just go one by one.
“The first week the most important thing always is to sort of find a way to win.
“Hopefully if I’m alive and around, I can play better and better each match. Hopefully that can take me far.”
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)