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Raonic Targetting Strong Clay-Court Run

Madrid, Spain

Raonic© Getty ImagesMilos Raonic made a good start to his Madrid campaign Tuesday.

Milos Raonic is hoping that with the guidance of coaches Ivan Ljubicic and Riccardo Piatti, he can produce his best clay-court season yet. The Canadian has made a solid start, reaching back-to-back quarter-finals in Monte-Carlo and Oeiras, and opened his campaign at the Mutua Madrid Open Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy.

"I played really well," said Raonic, who fired 11 aces and won 80 per cent of his service points to improve to a 4-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head record over the Frenchman. "I did the things I needed to. I was able to get the breaks. I was able to execute on the opportunities I created and, as is always the most important thing for me, I was able to take care of my serve."

This season saw Raonic bring on board Piatti, former long-time coach of Ljubicic in his playing days, and the Canadian has benefitted greatly from Piatti’s experience and expertise. 

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"Riccardo has helped a lot on the psychological side, how to deal with different situations,” Raonic told ATPWorldTour.com. “He's been on tour 30-plus years with many different players and he knows how to talk to me in the right situations. He and Ivan have a good history; they know each other almost like father and son, so they work well together.”

Clay has been a work in progress for Raonic, but this season the 23 year old is feeling more confident on the dirt: a product of experience and the advice he’s been receiving from Ljubicic and Piatti. With the altitude and conditions in Madrid, the Toronto native is hopeful of causing some damage in the Spanish capital. He is due to face 10th seed Kei Nishikori for a spot in the quarter-finals.

"I'm feeling very good. I've got a lot more comfort and understanding [on clay] than I've had in previous years. That gives me a lot of confidence. Experience has helped, but Ivan and Ricardo have both given me guidance and instruction on how to deal with different situations and how I need to approach my game on clay.

"Because of the altitude [in Madrid], the courts are a little bit quicker and bouncier as well, especially as it can get quite warm. They’re conditions I've played well in in the past and felt comfortable in.”

An ankle injury sustained in January set Raonic back following his Australian Open campaign, but the right-hander returned strongly on the North American hard-courts in March. Successive quarter-final efforts in Indian Wells (l. to Dolgopolov) and Miami (l. to Nadal) have helped propel him back into the Top 10 at a career-high World No. 9 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. This time, Raonic intends to remain a permanent fixture among the game’s elite.

“[To stay in the Top 10], you've got to play well and bring your best tennis, especially to the big tournaments that are mandatory and counting in the Emirates ATP Rankings. You've got to keep getting better. If you start to stagnate with your level, other people will surpass you. You've got to always keep making progress.”

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