Toronto through the eyes of Milos Raonic
Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic has been blazing up the ATP World Tour rankings with three titles in the past two years, and has quickly become the talk of the tennis world wherever he goes. Receiving well-deserved hype for being the next big-time player to challenge the likes of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, many observers believe that this local talent is one breakthrough away from a grand slam title. Raonic took some time out of his Wimbledon preparations to discuss what he likes to do when he's home in Toronto and what the Canadian system needs to do in order to produce more world class players.
You grew up in Thornhill. What do you like best about that neighbourhood?
I like the area in general. It allowed my family to feel comfortable whenever I was out and about. I also like the varieties of food, from all you can eat sushi, to Korean barbecue, to shawarma — you have everything you want and it's very good quality. You are close to downtown Toronto, but also far away enough from it so that you don't get caught up in the wrong things.
As a kid/teenager, did you venture much to downtown Toronto? What were some of your favourite places?
I went downtown mostly for tennis when I was younger, to play at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club or the Cricket Club, but when I did go for other things it was mostly for my friends or to go to the Eaton Centre. Now I go more to enjoy a night out.
How often do you make it back to Toronto during the year? What do you like to do when you're back?
I make it back a few times a year, but never for more than two weeks. I just like to relax and forget about tennis for a little when I'm outside the Rogers Cup. I try to do different things every time to learn more about the city. I tend to go down to the Lakeshore a bit to walk, and to the west side of the city for good food.
Where in Toronto did you learn to play tennis?
I started at the Blackmore Tennis Club in Richmond Hill. I spent many years there. I also attended many different clubs — I trained for a few years at the Cricket Club. Now when I come home I normally go to the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club and the Rexall Centre.
Do you think Toronto is well-equipped to breed tennis players?
Yes. I think the weather is not the best for tennis but there are definitely the facilities. I think the only problem can be the fees for both court times and memberships. But I hope the clubs lower this for kids they see have potential and try to support them like the clubs I attended did for me and my family.
What advice would you give to Toronto kids aspiring to play on the ATP World Tour? At what point should a junior think about getting instruction elsewhere?
Hard work always pays off. In tennis as in all sports there are always up and downs, but stick to it. Surround yourself with people you trust and believe in the work you do — that will get you far. The rest takes a bit of good fortune and luck. I ventured out of Canada for the competition and because I wanted to surround myself with people I knew could make the best of my abilities.
Where does the Rogers Cup rank in terms of your favourite tournaments? Do you feel the home court gives you an advantage over other players?
I think it's one of my favourites. I think the only tournament that trumps it for me is Wimbledon and only because of its prestige, and the fact that it's a grand slam and the ultimate dream for me.
What are your three favourite Toronto restaurants?
I like All Star, for its amazing selection of wings. I make sure to go there at least once when I am home. I like a lot of different all-you-can-eat sushi places. I can't name one because I think they all differ a bit — some have better sashimi and some have better rolls, so I try to change spots often. I also enjoy Lee. I've been there once before and was impressed.
What's something you've experienced in other cities you'd like to see in Toronto?
Better weather. Also, internationally, you see a lot of success in many different sports and I think Toronto and Canada should become more passionate about sports other than just hockey. We have great athletes and talents.
What do other ATP tour players like about coming to Toronto? What don't they like about the city?
They like a lot of things. Sometimes they feel Toronto is so big and it's easy to get lost in the city, or they wish there was more culture and history like in European cities. They think Toronto girls are beautiful.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Hard courts, clay or grass? Hard court
Toughest opponent? David Ferrer
Favourite post-match meal? Sushi. Or, if I play the next day, then steak
Federer or Sampras? Sampras
Best tennis court in Toronto? Centre court at the Rexall Centre
Favourite Toronto landmark? ACC because I love to attend other sporting events. But the most meaningful is the CN tower...
Bikes, cars or subways? Cars
Dogs or cats? Dogs
Hockey or soccer? Basketball
Writing by Nima Naderi. Photo courtesy of Milos Raonic.