Performance Matters for Milos Raonic against Jan Hajek

Al Dannity | Updated Jan 14, 2013

Canada’s Milos Raonic opens his Australian Open campaign in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Al Dannity looks at what the #13 seed needs to do to kick his season off.

It’s been a rough start to 2013 for Milos Raonic. The Thornhill, Ont. player looked sluggish in his two warm-up tournaments for the Australian Open. A straight-sets loss to Grigor Dimitrov (who has already been knocked out in Melbourne) in Brisbane was far from the ideal way to kick off a big year. Another unimpressive display in Kooyong meant Raonic arrived in Melbourne without any sense of momentum.

The larger draw in the Australian Open should aid the World number 15 greatly. The first round draw has been particularly kind, with Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic set to face the Canadian. Hajek’s 27-60 record in ATP Tour matches is exactly what a 104 ranking is made of. Lukas Rosol’s win over Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon tends to be the exception not the rule when players separated by 89 ranking places meet. Victory is expected, what Tennis fans want is a comprehensive display from Raonic. The Canadian needs to use this game to hone his game for the bigger challenges that should lie ahead. Nothing less than a straight sets win in fewer than three hours will do to meet that standard.

Speaking of Rosol, either he or Britain’s Jamie Baker will be waiting in round two, should Raonic dispatch Havek. The Czech should be heavy favourite to beat Baker and his form so far this year suggests anything other than a Rosol win would be a huge upset. If Raonic and Rosol meet in the second round, expect plenty of talk about that upset of Nadal. The problem is, Rosol has done little since to suggest he can repeat that giant-killing performance. Still, the attention given such a match-up would be perfect for tuning Raonic up for what will likely be his first big test down under.

Philipp Kohlschreiber was the destroyer of dreams at Wimbledon last year, knocking out both Rosol and Brian Baker. The #17 seed is off to a solid start this year and will fancy his chances of a deep run in Melbourne. Remarkably, the German and Raonic have yet to meet on tour. That, combined with the vast differences in how the two play, would make such a match-up hard to predict. This makes paying close attention to both players through the opening rounds critical. This could be a huge match for Raonic. The probable reward for victory? Another shot at Roger Federer.