“This is where I’ve always wanted to be and this is what I’ve always looked forward to.”

For a young man who has rocketed up the tennis ladder, single-handedly put Canadian men’s tennis back on the map and drawn praise from the best in the game, Milos Raonic seems to be taking it all in stride. On the remarkable run that pushed him from No. 156 in the world rankings a year ago to No. 34: “A lot has happened the last three months, that’s for sure, and a lot has changed.”

On drawing raves from some of the biggest names in the game: “It’s sort of nice to have that kind of attention … The main thing is not to let that go to your head.” As if. Handling his first news conference at home after his meteoric rise through the tennis ranks, the 20-year-old Thornhill resident with the booming serve came across as someone who wasn’t about to let anything go to his head. If anything, he seemed more like a young man amazed with the way his life has changed in the past three months but hardly overwhelmed by life at the top. He’s still thrilled by the thought of playing the tournaments he watched as a kid, and lining up against some of the players he idolized as a young teen. “I get to go to nicer tournaments and come to events like this,” he said when asked how his life had changed since his breakthrough performance at the Australian Open. “It’s really amazing.

Though he’s only been back home a few days after being knocked out in the first round of the Sony Ericsson Open last week, he’s already tasted the rarefied air of celebrity life. He was a featured guest at Wednesday’s Toronto Raptors game, hitting balls into a cheering crowd that a year ago might have assumed he was a team ball boy. Facing a media horde much bigger than any Canadian tennis player has seen in some time, Raonic talked about the importance of not letting all the adulation and publicity go to his head. “I have all these experiences and it’s easy to get carried away,” he said. “It’s easy to get your ego too big. I just want to stay humble about everything.” If he doesn’t, he says his friends and family will act as a safeguard. “They’ll be the first to tell me if anything does change,” he said. Raonic is enjoying a few days off, but will soon get back into the grind of training for the start of the clay court tour that starts April 9 in Monte Carlo. He says he has only one goal: to get better.

He says he’s happy with his performance, but not satisfied. “It’s not where I want to be,” he said.

Chris Zelkovich

Sports Reporter Toronto Star



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