It’s been an exciting couple of months in tennis, and Milos Raonic has gotten lost in the shuffle. He hasn’t beaten a top-40 player since Barcelona in April, and he remains outside of the top 20. His five-set battle at Wimbledon against Sam Querrey was a high-class, hard-fought effort on both sides, and naturally, Querrey got most of the press after that one.
This isn’t a sophomore slump. It’s the calm before the storm.
Much like Juan Martin del Potro, Raonic has been stunted in 2012 by the juggernaut that has been Roger Federer. Of Raonic’s 10 losses this year, three have come against Roger, and all three have gone three sets, two of them to a third-set breaker.
More importantly, Raonic’s ranking doesn’t tell the whole story. The Canadian missed almost the entire second half of 2011, coming back after the US Open at half-strength. He has almost no points to defend between now and the end of the year.
Even a modest projection for Raonic suggests that he’ll move into the top 16 by the end of the year. And as he climbs the ladder, he’ll get better seedings, avoiding roadblocks like Federer in the 2nd round of Madrid.
If all Milos does is play up to his seed at this year’s three remaining Masters, reach the third round of the US Open, and defend his semifinal points from Stockholm, he’ll ascend to approximately #17 in the rankings. (I’ve ignored the Olympics, since that event will inflate almost everyone’s point total. Raonic may also further pad his total this week at Newport.) One decent run, like a Masters quarterfinal, a 500 semifinal, or even a fourth-round finish in Flushing, puts him at the edge of the top 15. Based on his skill level, that’s where he belongs right now.
And that conservative path is almost certainly not all that the Canadian will accomplish. On paper, his grass season is a bit disappointing, but a three-set loss to Federer and the five-setter against the resurgent Querrey is hardly a disaster. And Raonic’s clay season exceeded expectations, including wins over Nicolas Almagro, Andy Murray, and David Nalbandian.
A couple of rough draws have made it easy to forget about one of the game’s future stars. Don’t be surprised to see him persistently climbing the rankings, pushing aside top-tenners, for the rest of the 2012 season.