There are plenty of high hopes for Canada's Milos Raonic.
Even just a quick Google search of his name uncovers phrases to the tune of “the next big thing” and “the greatest threat to the Big Four”. It’s a level of pressure that could affect many, who may crumble under the great expectation hoisted upon their shoulders.
But what does the world No.15 think of these bold statements?
“I’m honoured to hear those kind of things,” he said frankly.
“And to hear not only from journalists but from former players and people that I looked up to as a kid. But at the same time it’s great to hear, it doesn’t mean it just comes to you. I’ve got to keep working away and keep plugging away and stay within myself, and not over-think it.”
While many believe success is just around the corner for the 22-year-old Canadian, it’s interesting to see when the current crop of top-notch players made their first major statement on the world stage.
World No.1 Novak Djokovic won his maiden Grand Slam title at 20 years old at the Australian Open in 2008. Roger Federer grabbed his first at Wimbledon in 2003, aged 21. Rafael Nadal was even younger, at 18.
What about Andy Murray, people may ask? Well, while the Brit won his maiden title at 25, he made the US Open final in 2008 when he was only 21.
And yet, at 22 years old, Raonic hasn’t advanced past the fourth round of a Grand Slam. But the Ontario native is in no great rush, nor is he impatient. He ended 2012 ranked No.13 – in a year that included two ATP singles titles – and is rapidly rising up the tennis ranks, highlighted by his jump of 143 spots between 2010 and 2012.
And if you ask Raonic, he has no doubt his moment will come.
“The thing is, I don’t know what the time frame will be,” Raonic said.
“But it’s going to happen, I feel like I’m a lot closer. But you can’t place time on confidence, on belief, on getting through a few tough matches. But I know as far as ability goes, as far as skill sets go, I’m getting closer and closer.
“I’ve done a lot of good work, I feel like I’m playing much more improved (tennis) than I was, just really getting match-ready. When that happens, hopefully sooner than later, I think I’ll be taking good care of myself.”
Raonic plays his third round match of Australian Open 2013 on Saturday against German Philipp Kohlschreiber in the pair’s first meeting. A win would put the Canadian into the fourth round – equaling his best effort in a Grand Slam – and would open up the opportunity to announce to the world he’s ready to take the next step.
And so while Raonic keeps grinding on the court, trying to reach the expectations bestowed upon him, he’ll continue to fly his nation’s flag for the Canadian fans who are patiently waiting for their first men’s singles Grand Slam champion.
“The fact (Canadian fans) come out means a lot and I think it’s a good thing for tennis in general in Canada,” Raonic said. “It’s great to see them not only (during my matches) for example, but through my practices and stuff there’s a lot of people coming out so I enjoy the appreciation I’m getting from my tennis.”
“I’m very proud of it and I’m very honoured.”