Waking up in Melbourne the morning after being eliminated from the Australian Open by a masterful Roger Federer, Milos Raonic wasn't blaming anything on his sore foot. It was Federer playing like his extraordinary self, the young Canadian said. There were many glaring yet constructive things to learn from the loss.
The 22-year-old Raonic was suffering significant pain in his left foot during Monday's fourth-round 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-2 loss. The native of Thornhill, Ont., has since learned that there is no damage to the foot, it's simply from overuse and will be fine with a little rest before the coming Davis Cup tie in Vancouver.
Federer, world No. 2 and winner of 17 Grand Slam titles, was exceptional and Raonic learned much from the loss. The 31-year-old Swiss advances to his 35th Grand Slam quarter-final.
Raonic is 0-4 versus Federer, and 2-7 against the top four players (Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal).
"It's about bringing a high level week in and week out through every week of the year," said world No. 15 Raonic by phone from Melbourne. "I had a lot of good results last year, then I had mediocre results, and poor results. I was going up and down, but it's about putting up a high level every week and every match."
Against Raonic, Federer was stellar in his return game, limiting the 6-foot-5 Canadian to winning just 50 per cent of points behind his second serve. He broke the missile-serving Raonic three times and didn't face a single break point himself. Raonic had undergone a magnetic resonance imaging test on the foot before the match and had an injection to dull the pain. Still, Raonic said Federer is playing well enough to win it all in Melbourne.
"I learned quite a bit," Raonic said, lamenting some easy backhand volleys he didn't put away. "I have to be a lot more effective in coming in, I struggled there a lot. I need to get better with my transition game forward. I need to get fitter and quicker."
The youngster regretted the unforced errors that plagued him – 41 in the two-hour match. He had worked particularly on his return game, backhand and volleys during his off-season training camp in Barcelona, and had felt his early matches in the Australian Open were starting to show his progress. While the foot pain, which just came on about 48 hours before the match, had him unable to move at 100 per cent, he admitted that Federer's level sharply displayed how little room there is for error against top players.
"He's a really good front runner, and as soon as he got ahead, he started playing more freely," Raonic said. "And when Roger plays freely, it's dangerous, because he can do so many things."
Federer is trying to become just the second man in history, after Roy Emerson, to win five Australian Open titles. He won at Melbourne Park in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010.
Federer next faces world No. 8 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
"He's making age look just like a number," Raonic said of Federer. "He's doing it better than anyone else."
Raonic plans to focus on rehabbing the foot with his physiotherapist for a couple of days in Melbourne before flying to Vancouver ahead of the Davis Cup tie versus Spain. Canada's Davis Cup team will be announced on Tuesday.
"I know I'll be ready to play my best tennis," Raonic said.