Don't be afraid to aim high
Over the last dozen years, only a handful of men on the ATP tour have won Grand Slam titles or reached No. 1. For most players, the goal is just to make the semifinals or win smaller events. Many are talented enough to do more, but they struggle to believe that it’s possible in the era of the Big Four. That has never been a problem for Raonic. From the time he made his breakthrough in 2011, he has aimed for nothing less than the No. 1 ranking. And despite a fragile body, Raonic has steadily progressed toward that goal. As a tennis player, you’re only going to become as good as you believe you can be.
Raonic proved that even if a shot doesn’t come naturally, you can still learn and benefit from it.
Have a plan
Roger Federer was once asked which of the ATP’s young players he thought had the best chance of success. He backed Raonic because he thought the conscientious Canadian was the most organized. The 26-year-old leaves nothing to chance: at various times, he has employed two coaches and a trainer, and has brought in specialists like John McEnroe for specific parts of his game. It has worked. Raonic has focused on his weaknesses and made surprising strides in shoring them up. While you’re probably not going to have one—let alone two—full-time coaches, you can still follow in Raonic’s footsteps. Set goals for your game, work hard to meet them and never think you can’t make a weakness just a little stronger.
Learn to volley
Raonic has always had the serve, but before 2016 he didn’t have the volley to back it up. And it didn’t appear that he ever would. At 6'5", Raonic isn’t as quick or sure-handed as most net-rushers; he may be the least agile player in the Top 10. But last off-season he and his then-coach, Carlos Moya, set out to add a volley to his arsenal. By the time the Australian Open rolled around in January, Raonic was closing out points with deft touch volleys that had fans rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Armed with that new weapon, he upset Stan Wawrinka and reached the semifinals; six months later, at Wimbledon, he reached his first Grand Slam final. Raonic proved that even if a shot doesn’t come naturally, you can still learn and benefit from it.
Raonic’s rise has hardly been meteoric. He’s endured his share of setbacks and disappointments over the last five years, mostly due to the raft of injuries he has suffered. Despite that, Raonic always gives off the appearance of a man who is steadily and methodically ascending the sport, one long, loping step at a time. Whether he wins or loses on a given day, Raonic is rarely euphoric or crushed for long. That’s the best way to be: wins and losses, ups and downs, surges and setbacks—they are all to be expected, and they can all be part of your master plan.