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January 26, 2012

Milos Raonic

THE MODERATOR:テつ Milos, as everybody knows is the ATP Newcomer of the Year.テつ Came into last year's SAP Open ranked 84.テつ Milos did not drop a set throughout the week en route to his first ATP World Tour title.テつ He caps off his week in San Jose with a two tie break victory over number nine ranked Fernando Verdasco.テつ The following week at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis Milos reached the final losing to Andy Roddick in an exciting three‑set final.
Milos went on to finish the season ranked No. 31.テつ He was 156 at the end of 2010.テつ Just a little recap on 2012, Milos began the season by capturing a second ATP World Tour title in Shehnai, India, beating Top 10's Nicolas Almagro in the semis and Janko Tipsarevic in three tiebreaks without a break of serve in the final.
He then followed with a third round showing at the Australian Open.テつ Prior to making his ATP season indoor debut in San Jose, Milos will lead Canada in first round Davis Cup Tie versus France in Vancouver.
Before we begin, I'd like to introduce SAP Open tournament director Bill Rapp, and Regions Morgan Keegan Championship tournament director Peter Lebedevs.テつ Bill, want to start us off with a few comments.
BILL RAPP:テつ Good morning, Milos.
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Good morning, how are you?
BILL RAPP:テつ Good, good to hear your voice, and thank you for joining us today.テつ Last year, Milos, you came to San Jose a relatively unknown Canadian player with a huge serve, and you won your first title here at the SAP Open without dropping a set.テつ And you had the opportunity to meet your long time idol, Pete Sampras.テつ If you would, Milos, talk about your week in San Jose and some of the highlights, also complete the rumor that your daily training table includes a healthy dose of Canadian maple syrup?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I think that bottle is getting close to empty, so I think I'm going to have to get a new one there.テつ But last year really coming to Memphis, sorry, San Jose, was really amazing especially after Australia and having that long trip also through South Africa.
Really everything just came together really well.テつ I felt like the Australian Open was a really big surprise for me, but also gave me very good insight into my potential.テつ I felt like I came in to San Jose a lot more confident as a player and confident to play with the top guys and to be able to win matches and not just squeeze through them.
So it was sort of the first time I really felt I was stepping into a tournament and feeling like I truly belonged.テつ But not only like I belonged, but that I can win a title.テつ It really meant a lot.
I remember I flew the night right after I won the title.テつ I flew through Memphis and there was a lot of tournament fellowship on the flight.テつ But I remember I couldn't sleep that night.テつ It was really a special memory.
It was great winning this year so far in Shehnai, but in San Jose it really stood out.テつ And it's really the one I look back to.テつ It just brings back a lot of great memories.
I have my routines that I followed last year, eating at Morton's close to the hotel, which I'm sure I'll follow through this year as well.テつ So it's nice to build up those superstitions and come back there and looking for another successful week hopefully.
PETER LEBEDEVS:テつ It's great to hear about how well you've done already and how things are looking.テつ But you have long lines.テつ You had a great week in San Jose and got off the plane in Memphis and had to play the guy you just played a couple of days ago in Fernando Verdasco, and you became the three‑set match King in Memphis.
All of your matches going three sets.テつ Then you being involved in arguably the greatest match point ever.テつ Unfortunately, you're not on the good end of that.テつ But tell us how it was to come back after your weekend in San Jose, and perform so well in Memphis and tell us about your thoughts of being on that intimate stage in Memphis that week?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ In Memphis, I really had a different feeling.テつ In a way I felt a bit more pressure I put on myself because it's really special to win a tournament, but it means a lot also to be able to back it up with another successful week.テつ To be able to beat Fernando again, especially only after two or three days after playing him.
Really it all came together really well.テつ It was a great week in the aspect that I felt like I was pulling through a lot of matches, and I was getting through, and I was getting through against a lot of good players and there was a lot of good tennis going on.テつ I was happy that I wasn't being dissatisfied with having my first title the week before.
I really wanted to push for another good week, and I was able to do so.テつ So it really meant a lot to me.テつ I also think it gave me a great respect from other players to see I wasn't just for that one week.テつ I was really able to back it up and play constantly good tennis.テつ I think not only from other players, but also in the tennis world, it made a big effect doing it back‑to‑back weeks.

Q.テつ Talk about making it through the injury last year and how long it took you to recover?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ From the injury last year, correct?

Q.テつ Yeah.
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Yeah, the injury was something tough to deal with, for sure.テつ But I was very fortunate in the aspect that from the day I decided that that was the route I was going to take, I really never had any setbacks.テつ Everything was always positive progress.
So for me, really the recovery stage didn't take too much of a mental toll nor a physical toll.テつ My days were long, for sure, but everything was always going well.
I was able to heal up in about two months, and I wanted to make sure that I had a base before I started playing again.テつ So I took about three weeks to get really ready, three or four weeks.テつ But really I found the toughest part was getting back to the tennis court and sort of the unknown.テつ You don't know how well you're going to play, how long it's going to take you to start playing well.
You know how hungry other tennis players are.テつ They're all going to look at this and try to take advantage of it and try to get ahead.テつ That is a part of the sport, and you respect that.
But you gain respect from other players, and it's easy to lose it very quickly.テつ This was very important to me to be able to come back and not only just come back to come back, but come back and play well.
I was fortunate that I was playing some okay tennis at the beginning and I was able to win matches.テつ So it worked out really well considering the situation I was dealing with.

Q.テつ Looking at men's tennis right now, it's become such a big man's game and you're a great example of that, 6'5", 200 pounds.テつ The days of guys like Michael Chang or Lleyton Hewitt seem to be in the background now.テつ Lleyton being 5'11", 170.テつ How surprised were you to see the kind of tennis that he was able to play in Australia?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I think for Lleyton, he can play great tennis, for sure.テつ But I think his biggest strength is how competitive he is and how good of a competitor he is.テつ You can see him many times not play for many months and he can come back and he can find ways to win matches.
I know he didn't play much before he played Davis Cup against the Swiss.テつ He took Federer to four sets and he was able to take Wawrinka to five sets, both top 20 players.テつ One being considered the greatest of all times.
I think that was the biggest aspect and the biggest event that he has.テつ I think nowadays, it's tough to get by on one thing.テつ A lot of the guys are really well rounded and really to sneak up, you have to be able to do one thing I think really well or exceptionally well.
To play him was tough because it was, in his situation, it was in a situation he thrived off of.テつ And I think it was also a big learning experience on how he's able just to put his tennis level aside if he's playing well or not and just forget it all and compete and just try to find a way to win.テつ So I really took a lot from that match.

Q.テつ Looking at your jump in the rankings last January, you were 152, now you've worked your way into the Top 25.テつ But when you look at that group of the Top 4 guys right now that have become so dominant, do you still feel like even as soon as this year there is some room for players like yourself to crack in there and maybe find themselves deep in the second week of a slam?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Yeah, I think so.テつ I think so, for sure.テつ I think the thing that they do so well is they do it constantly.テつ They play a high level of tennis and they play better than the rest, for sure.テつ But even when they're not playing their best, they're always figuring things out and they believe a lot in themselves.テつ Also, they have a mental edge over everybody.テつ A lot of players respect them a lot.
I'm not saying as a tennis player, you don't respect your opponents, but you have to try to put that outside and put it aside and just try to find a way to win.テつ I think there is definitely space.テつ I think right now there are a lot of guys that can beat the Top 5 guys.
But I think it's a matter of a few guys coming up that can beat the top guys constantly.テつ That's really going to take‑‑ it's going to take a few steps of improvement, I think, from the rest of the group.テつ But I don't think there are really guys that are too far off.テつ I feel there are a lot of guys that can compete with them, but it's a question of can you compete with them week‑in and week‑out.

Q.テつ What part of your game are you going to need to improve on to take the next step in your career?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Obviously, return of serve is a big part of it.テつ But I think another part is going to be my mental aspect of my game, a big part.テつ I feel like I'm always improving constantly because, for me, the work ethic is never an issue, especially during training week.テつ I'm always able to improve constantly my tennis and my technical aspects, my movement and my speed.
But I feel that the mental aspect you can work on in practice, but the chances you have to improve on it the most come through match experience.
Obviously, I've only had one full year on tour, and this is my second year starting now.テつ I know the more I play it's going to get better and better.テつ Obviously, it's not going to get better on its own.テつ It's something I'm going to have to keep working on not just on the practice court, but also spending much time thinking about and watching other players and learning how they deal with situations.
But it's something that will get better with time, and hopefully sooner than later.

Q.テつ I have a quick question how early the SAP Open is in the year, and to win like you did, did that catapult you confidencewise for the rest of the season?テつ Because you had a good year after the win.
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Yeah, it's good.テつ I think it's very beneficial if you can start the year well, because it's after a period off, and you do a lot of work in the off‑season, and you try to develop a lot of things, and it gives you a lot of confidence in the work you did during the off‑season, but also when you see it able to be implemented and take effect right away, it sets the rest of the year for good things, and it's good in that aspect.
Fortunately for me, I played quite well on hard courts in and the year does start on hard courts.テつ Really, I play also well indoors and there are a few tournaments there, both San Jose and Memphis, being indoors, really helps me out.テつ It just helps me get started on the right track.テつ Hopefully I can do the same this year.

Q.テつ Minus the hip injury, can you give me an idea how satisfying the year was?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I think really the year goes into three sections, maybe even four sections.テつ But the first part of the year, just gaining that respect and having those amazing results and those amazing feelings and going through everything quite well felt amazing.
Then I would put the clay court season in another aspect because it was something I was really entering with a big unknown.テつ I played a lot of weeks, but I was looking at it more as a learning experience rather than a way to really, for my ranking to shoot up even more.テつ But I was able to win quite a few matches at the beginning, and really it's something I learned from because now I understand I can win on clay, and I wouldn't book as busy of a schedule.
So that was a big learning process, and I feel I improved a lot during that time period.テつ I was really looking forward to getting back on hard courts and being able to incorporate those things as well as being able to use my serve more on hard courts.
I got, unfortunately, hurt at Wimbledon.テつ It was something I dealt with.テつ It wasn't the funnest of times, but it was something that went really well.テつ And the end of the year was just getting back into it.テつ Fortunately I got back into it really well and really quickly.
To win the Newcomer of the Year also meant a lot in the aspect that I was out for a big part of the year, and I was out with something not fun to deal with, but I still have that respect from the other players.テつ It just meant a lot to me, and it was motivating in the off‑season after that.テつ I went to London to accept the award, and the next day I was in Barcelona starting training for my off‑season.テつ So it was motivating, because I knew there was a lot I could improve and only good things would come from that.
I really did put a lot of good work in this last off‑season.テつ It's already been showing in my tennis I feel at the beginning of the year.

Q.テつ You seem to be one of several younger rising stars, 22 or younger, talk about being part of that group?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I think it's good.テつ I think there's a lot of potential, for sure, in the group.テつ It's good to be all coming up.テつ I think the results sort of push one another because when one does well, it's not like you're wondering anymore how long it's going to take you to get up there.テつ You sort of feel that kind of confidence thing that if he can do it, I can do it as well.テつ You feed off of it.テつ And guys feed off one another, especially coming from very close‑‑ a very little age gap between each other.
It really does help.テつ It's good.テつ I think it's going to help the sport, and I think for us at the same time, it's very exciting being on the tour, but also having some‑‑ we do meet a lot of people and get along with the guys on tour.テつ There are now some familiar faces that we saw in the juniors that helps a lot as well.テつ So it's good.

Q.テつ I would like to know what do other players tell you, you must talk to them because you've won the Rookie of the Year, what do they tell you?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Oh, they congratulate you.テつ It's a great thing I feel right now between every single‑‑ pretty much every single player.テつ Everybody gets along really well on the tour.テつ They really leave everything out on the court, and that's sort of where it all ends for everybody.
It's good.テつ We're able to train with each other, and it's a fun environment, especially in the locker room.テつ It helps.テつ Tennis can be quite rough on the psyche from all the travel and being away from home and familiar places.テつ But when you have these guys you feel comfortable with and you can get along with not just at the club but for dinners and so forth, it definitely helps.
I remember when I got hurt, a lot of the guys sent me messages right away asking how I'm doing and wishing me all the best.テつ So that helps in the rough times as well as in the good times.テつ Everybody congratulates you.テつ It's a really great environment that we have between the players.

Q.テつ Do the older players mentor you or give you advice?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ A little bit.テつ I get most of my advice, I guess, talking very specifically with Nestor, because ‑‑ but we're still very competitive with each other.テつ Obviously we sometimes get tips from the top guys or just little things.テつ But it never goes into detail too much.テつ It's a few things here and there, but it's good.

Q.テつ What would be your biggest dream this year, being realistic?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I hope if I can not finish in the Top 10, be really close to the Top 10.

Q.テつ Is there any difference going into this event as a defending champ?テつ I know you said you were a little nervous in Melbourne.テつ Do you feel any different just because you won it before?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I guess right now really I look forward to it.テつ I think I have that excitement for that event because I did play well.テつ I don't feel the pressure of coming in there as the defending champion, but I feel like I have more so that excitement to go back there and to know that I have that kind of‑‑ those good feelings and those good memories there.
I think it will probably change when I do step up to play the first time or when I get to San Jose to start training and all of that stuff.テつ I feel that might change.テつ But in the moment right now, I think I'm anxious to play the tournament as well as excited.

Q.テつ Thanks for doing this today.テつ Before the SAP, obviously, you have another pretty big event, the Davis Cup Tie in Vancouver.テつ Where are you right now?テつ When will you get to Vancouver?テつ How excited are you about a pretty big event against a pretty tough French team?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Right now I'm home in Toronto, spending some time with family and really after the off‑season and the first few weeks of the year, just clearing my mind a bit and just relaxing.テつ I'll be arriving to Vancouver about one week before the first match.
I'll do some training here as well with my coach.テつ He'll be coming in from Spain.テつ It's exciting to play especially at home in a big Davis Cup Tie against a world renowned team with big named players.
It's exciting for me on a personal note the opportunity, but also on a national level for tennis to grow to see that it's not only one guy doing really well.テつ But as a team, the Canadian Davis Cup team can do really well.テつ And I feel we do have an opportunity to really do something well.
The opportunities will come up, it's just for us to grasp them and to take them.テつ Hopefully we're able to do that enough that weekend coming up.

Q.テつ Can you just talk a little about the French team?テつ Obviously this is going to be a huge challenge for you guys.テつ They've got three or four guys in the Top 15.テつ How much of a challenge is it going to be to upset the French team?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I think you have the four guys, I'm assuming you're mentioning are Gasquet, Simon, Monfils, and Tsonga.テつ You have four guys that play quite differently from each other.テつ It's going to be quite a challenge playing all of them.
I've only played two of them previously, and really, it's going to be about us coming together as a team, not only on the courts and helping each other out, but also off the court.
These teams that do well in Davis Cup, they have a camaraderie, really, all year round.テつ I feel it's going to be something we're going to need to build off the Canadian team.テつ It's going to help us.
I think we're going to have our opportunities for sure.テつ We have the level to win.テつ The opportunity will come up.テつ We don't know how many, but the whole goal will be to capitalize.
It's going to be interesting to see what the lineups are.テつ But for myself and my focus, whoever I play is on my own tennis.テつ I have the kind of tennis to dictate as much as possible, and I try to impose myself.テつ I feel I try to make the other guy adjust more so to me than I have to to them.
So I'll be focused on myself and what I need to do.テつ And I'll be there to help out my teammates as much as I can.

Q.テつ If it's not too early have you thought about representing your country in the Olympics?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Yeah, for sure.テつ If everything comes together meaning that I get in and all this, I'd love to.テつ It will definitely be up there on the priority list.テつ It would be an honor to have that opportunity.テつ It's one that not many tennis players get considering how rare of an event it is.
It really would be an honor to have that opportunity and not only play for the nation, but be there with so many great athletes, Canadian athletes and sort of feed off each other and hopefully have a really successful two weeks.

Q.テつ Who are some of the athlete that's you would like to have at the Olympics not just Canadian, but there would be a lot of great athletes out there.
MILOS RAONIC:テつ For sure.テつ I'm quite a big basketball fan.テつ I would love to meet Steve Nash, and also other basketball players for many, many different nations.テつ But, really I've actually spoken a few times with Donovan Bailey who is a former Olympic champion.
Really just it's a great atmosphere that you get being around other athletes who really thrive off each other.テつ For me when I meet other athletes, it's more special than meeting other people because to an athlete maybe they've been really successful the last few years and their name has been out there the last few years.テつ But there is a long, lifetime story.テつ Nobody just picks up and becomes a great athlete.テつ There is a lifetime story behind it.
Really to me I appreciate that and how much work has to go into achieving what they achieve.テつ Just hearing those kind of stories means a lot to me.

Q.テつ So all these years have you ever crossed paths with Steve Nash?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I haven't.テつ But hopefully I will get to there, and I would love to meet him and have a chance to talk with him.

Q.テつ I know you really want to help build Canadian tennis and build their image.テつ In the future, what kind of things do you think you'd like to try to do to kind of develop interest and also develop some of the talent?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ I think what I did last year was also help with an event that was played here in Toronto.テつ I think it would be something that could be a national thing, a few events a year just for the country and for the city and the areas that don't get to see the two Masters Series live.テつ Just to have an event one night really that's very interactive.
I think also seeing that those things are possible will motivate kids.テつ Also seeing that as a Canadian you can succeed in tennis and you can succeed very well would be motivating to kids and to parents.テつ Then also hopefully it would lead into something helping out little kids and helping out to get the name across and helping just more kids pick up tennis racquets and giving the sport a try.
I know if they do that, there will be many, many talents that will fall in love with it and just really pick it up as more of a recreational thing and try to make something of it.

Q.テつ You've got quite a lot of experience in the past couple of years.テつ You've won the first two tournaments this year, you're Rookie of the Year on the ATP Tour.テつ Do you feel like the other players are looking at you now more than just the new kid on the block, basically?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Yeah, it's a respect I've gained for sure.テつ It means a lot.テつ It's really everybody now has seen me play.テつ They know what to expect so I don't go out there surprising really anyone.テつ My job is to keep improving and keep getting better.テつ Sometimes obviously I'm going after the big guys and I feel like I'm trying to go for them.テつ But a lot of times also when I play there are a lot of guys hunting, trying to hunt me down.
It's great to have that feeling that you have that kind of respect, but I feel like a lot of the time against guys, some guys are playing their best tennis against me because they don't feel like they have pressure.テつ It's tough to deal with, but I feel like I deal with it quite well.テつ So it all comes together really well, and I'm really happy with it.

Q.テつ Coming back to the SAP as a defending champion, that's got to be a first for you on the pro circuit?
MILOS RAONIC:テつ Hopefully it will go well, but hopefully it's not a last.テつ It's a great feeling.テつ I think it's just something to build off of.テつ It's going to be obviously a big learning thing for me, just learning how to accept it and deal with it.
Really I'm going to have my eyes and ears open, and really just try to do the best I can with it, and hopefully have another good week there.
THE MODERATOR:テつ I might add that Andy Murray won his first ATP title in San Jose in '06, and came back in '07 and defended his title.

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