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Canadian Raonic a new star in men's tennis

Canadian Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic leaves the Australian Open as a fresh, new face in the ATP Tour's top 100, with a cheque for $93,000 (Australian) in his pocket.
That he couldn't keep the dream alive in yesterday's fourth round, where he lost 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to David Ferrer of Spain, had something to do with the legs finally getting a little heavy in his seventh match of the tournament, and something to do with the quality of his veteran Spanish opponent.
"I wasn't serving my best today. He did a very good job picking up on that, picking up on as many serves, making me play a lot more. Also keeping
the pressure on my serve. This took off a lot of pressure on his service games," Raonic said. "He was getting around me. This started earlier in the second set. My mind was ready to fight for every point, but the legs weren't following as much, and neither was the arm."
The match had a much different dynamic than Raonic's previous two wins, both upsets over seeded players.
Against No. 22 Michael Llodra of France, the points were short and Raonic served extremely well. Against No. 10 seed Mikhail Youzhny, the Russian broke his serve four times but couldn't serve well enough himself to keep pace.
Against Youzhny, Raonic had 31 aces; against Ferrer, he could manage only 15.
Ferrer served well himself; in fact, he had far better serving statistics than Raonic even though the Canadian's average serve speed was about 30 kilometres an hour faster.
And he kept the unforced errors down to such a bare minimum, the 28-year-old made an increasingly weary Raonic have to earn every single point.
Still, the 20-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., managed to sneak out the first set.
"I play very, very consistent all the match, no? When I lost the first set, I did one mistake. It was unbelievable, no, that one mistake can lose the set. He plays really good," Ferrer said.
Ultimately, crunch time was a five-minute period in the third set, with the two tied at one set apiece.
Raonic had a really good look at a break at 3-3. He couldn't make it happen. And as so often happens, he was broken in the very next game.
That was the set. Given that Ferrer quickly went up two breaks in the fourth set, it was essentially the match.
"I think it was very tough match. Milos I think is an unbelievable player. He serves really good. And maybe in the third set was the key, no? He had a lot of chances, he doesn't make. When I won the third set, it was more easy," Ferrer said. "He was more tired in the fourth set."
The official numbers have Raonic with 68 unforced errors, and Ferrer just 10.
Raonic kept fighting. He got one of the breaks back late in the fourth set, kept the body language positive, and competed well throughout.
That was just one of the positives he'll take out of the best tournament of his life.
"There's a lot to learn from today and from the whole two-week experience. The biggest thing is I'm not that far away from this level on a week-to-week basis. So this is a great motivational thing for the work I've done paying off and everything," Raonic said. "I'm going to play a few weeks now consecutively. I'm going to try to maintain this level. These next upcoming tournaments, I feel like I can go in and do a lot of damage and keep improving my ranking a lot."
The kid whose negative attitude was all over the court when he played the qualifying at a tournament in Chennai, India, the first week of the season, who was down a set and a break of serve in the final round of qualifying here just a week ago, leaves here having made an impact that ensures he'll no longer sneak up on unsuspecting opponents.
Raonic's next stop is Johannesburg for the qualifying at an ATP tournament there. He'll then head to San Jose, Calif., where he received a wild card into the main draw. Next will be Memphis, then to Acapulco on red clay to prepare for Canada's upcoming Davis Cup tie against Mexico in Metepec, just outside Mexico City, March 4-6.
As his reward for reaching the quarterfinals, Ferrer gets his countryman, top seed Rafael Nadal.

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