‘Ex­cited’ Mi­los Raonic ready to ful­fil his am­bi­tions in 2017.

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The world No 3 and 2016 Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist once again be­gins his new sea­son in Abu Dhabi at the Mubadala World Tennis Cham­pi­onship. He takes on Rafael Nadal to­day.

Win­ning for­mula

Raonic, 26, reached the MWTC fi­nal last year be­fore em­bark­ing on his most suc­cess­ful sea­son so far, reach­ing his first grand slam fi­nal and a ca­reer-high rank­ing. “It was a great for­mula for me to come here last year,” he said. “It led to some great things so it seemed like a for­mula that worked. And if some­thing works you try to repli­cate it the best you can. I’m grate­ful to be back in Abu Dhabi.”

Mov­ing for­ward

Ranked only be­hind Andy Mur­ray and No­vak Djokovic, Raonic is aware that, with Nadal and Roger Fed­erer re­turn­ing from lengthy in­jury ab­sences, he must work harder to main­tain his rank­ing and chal­lenge for ma­jor honours. “I need to keep mov­ing for­ward, and to do that I have to step up and try my best to win a slam,” the Cana­dian said. “I got close last year and I think I can do even bet­ter. I’m a bet­ter player now even com­pared to the end of the 2016 sea­son, so it’s an ex­cit­ing time for sure.”

Kra­jicek on board

To help achieve his grand slam goal, Raonic has added 1996 Wim­ble­don cham­pion Richard Kra­jicek to his team. “It’s about step­ping up my game against the top guys,” Raonic said of Kra­jicek’s ap­point­ment. “I can be a much bet­ter ag­gres­sor, but it’s also about hav­ing the men­tal­ity to do that. That is why I made the choice of work­ing with Richard. To take those things on, and to give my­self the best chance of win­ning my first slam this year.”

‘My best phys­i­cal shape’

Raonic en­ters the new sea­son with his con­fi­dence at an all-time high, fol­low­ing not only an im­pres­sive 2016 sea­son, but a suc­cess­ful pre-sea­son train­ing camp. “Ev­ery­thing went very well, much bet­ter than ex­pected, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the short time off,” he said. “I’m in bet­ter phys­i­cal shape than I have ever been and I feel like I’m play­ing bet­ter tennis than ever. Now it’s about step­ping up and bring­ing that to matches.“

Break­away

Billed as one of the so-called “next gen­er­a­tion” of fu­ture tennis stars, Raonic broke away from the pack in 2016. Asked if he stood the best chance of win­ning a grand slam among his ‘Nex­tGen’ peers, he said: “I be­lieve so. I was one match away last year, and I’m the most con­sis­tent week-in, week-out. So I def­i­nitely be­lieve so.”

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Jon Turner

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