Forgive Milos Raonic for a case of the jitters ahead of the Hopman Cup.
The Thornhill, Ont., native, who turned 23 on Friday, said he knows he’ll need to use his huge serve at the mixed teams event when Canada opens round-robin play against Australia.
Raonic opens the Australian Open tuneup on Saturday against Bernard Tomic, while Montreal’s Eugenie Bouchard plays former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur.
Eventually Stosur will have to face Raonic’s serve in the mixed rubber match.
“The mixed is what I’m most concerned about,” said Raonic on Thursday. “I’ll have to crank up the serve, because it will be more distressing if I see some winning returns coming back at me.
“I’ll have to go all out. I try to always serve hard, but it’s more about the serving numbers than the speed gun.”
Canada is playing the Hopman for only the second time after Frank Dancevic and Maureen Drake competed in 2004.
Raonic, ranked No. 8 in the world, said he’s optimistic heading into the eight-day event. Canada plays in Group B with Australia, Italy and Poland while Group A comprises the Czech Republic, France, Spain and the United States.
“I feel in good from after the work we did leading in at Monte Carlo,” Raonic said. “I’m really focused on the event. You are guaranteed three matches and play with days off. It’s the ideal way to prepare for the Australian Open. It’s almost an identical situation to playing on the big courts in Melbourne.”
Raonic was also looking forward to playing with 19-year-old Bouchard, who has risen to No. 32 in the world.
“Eugenie plays well and has some mixed experience, she’s very athletic and is not shy at the net. She pushes her opponents and that’s ideal for the mixed.”
Saturday’s match will mark the first meeting between Raonic and the 51st-ranked Tomic, who both made their ATP breakthroughs in 2011. Raonic is hoping the tournament provides a good start to the 2014 season.
“This will be enjoyable for me, I play well in conditions where I put a bit of patriotic pressure on myself,” he said. “I enjoy being in the team atmosphere. This is also a bit of a change, but being the first week of the year it’s a good way to get it all started.”
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