The 2016 ATP season was a strong one for Milos Raonic with some major career highlights. The Canadian finished the season as the World No. 3 and, still only 25, there is some potential for Raonic to hold the World No. 1 ranking at some point in his playing career. However, he’ll need to turn a better record in against the very best players, and he will need to get more adept at closing out tournaments, two glaring weaknesses from his 2016 season.
However, let’s first look at what has made Raonic the World No. 3, the highest ranking that he has ever held. The Canadian started the season off in Brisbane back in January where he claimed what would actually be the only title of his entire season. Raonic defeated Roger Federer in the Brisbane final to pick up 250 ranking points at a time when the Canadian was outside of the Top 10. He then entered the Australian Open where he made it all the way to the semifinals before losing to Andy Murray in a five setter. Raonic would also make it to the Indian Wells final (l. to Novak Djokovic), the Canadian made the Aegon Championships final (l. to Murray), and then he made the Wimbledon final through Roger Federer.
It was Raonic’s ability to consistently beat Federer, Gael Monfils, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, and David Goffin that made the Canadian the third best player from the 2016 season. Many of the matches he played against those players were mid-to-late-round matches, and he went 11-1 in them combined for a dominant winning percentage.
However, those that saw the Australian Open semifinal match against Murray may remember both Raonic’s ability to hang with and beat Murray in the early going of the match while completely fading from ailments in the late going. At this point in Raonic’s career, it’s very clear that he is not the most enduring athlete on tour and it’s his injury/cramping proneness that makes him a questionable bet in any late-round match. One title on the season from a 250-level event is not generally the standard set by a player that finishes third in the world.
Furthermore, Raonic went 0-9 against Murray and Djokovic combined in 2016 (plus a walkover), a futile record that blocked Raonic from big titles. It’s clear that Raonic is not a distinguished talent like players from the Big Four. However, 0-9 against the best can’t be his goal going forward. Something like a 20% to 30% winning percentage against Djokovic and Murray in 2017 seems like a realistic goal. In truth, Juan Martin del Potro against Djokovic or Murray seems like a more interesting match right now than Raonic heads-up against either of those two players.
But on the positive side, Raonic is probably still getting stronger as an athlete. He’s only 25, his muscular strength may still be improving, and if that’s the case, then that might help him become more resistant to injury in the future. Furthermore, Raonic spares no expense when it comes to training and preparing for big tournaments. The way he signed John McEnroe ahead of Wimbledon shows that the Canadian is entirely dedicated to finding success.
Raonic is four years younger than Murray and Djokovic, he is six years younger than Wawrinka, Raonic is 10 years younger than Federer, and the Canadian is five years younger than Rafael Nadal. Federer and Nadal have already lost a step while Murray and Djokovic might in 2017 or 2018. The similarly-aged players with comparable talent are Thiem and Nishikori, the latter of which is injury prone too and the former of which is a clay courter. Raonic has No. 1 potential in the 3-4 seasons ahead, even if he’s just a flash No. 1 like his coach Carlos Moya. 2017 should be interesting to see if he maintains his standard, falls, or improves.