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Milos Raonic hits a backhand on his way to defeating Pete Sampras 7-6, 6-1 in a celebrity tennis event in Toronto on Thursday November 17, 2011.

FRANK GUNN/The Canadian Press

Being named ATP Tour Newcomer of the Year didn't really register for Milos Raonic until his parents began to celebrate.



The 20-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., was on his way home for dinner when he learned that he was going to be honoured Saturday. The award slipped Raonic's mind until his family finished their meal. When he mentioned the award to his parents, it was their reaction that helped the accomplishment in perspective.



"They were really excited and we just sort of enjoyed the moment and celebrated a little," Raonic said Monday on a conference call. "They really helped it sink in to me how big of a deal it is."

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The Newcomer Award, voted on by players on the ATP World Tour, is given to the athlete whose move up the rankings had the biggest impact on the men's tour.



Raonic began the season ranked No. 156 and peaked at a career-high No. 25 in May. That rating made Raonic the highest-ranked singles player in Canadian history.



Past winners of the ATP's Newcomer of the Year award include Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Andy Roddick, Patrick Rafter and John McEnroe.



"It's something you can only really be up for once and to win it that one time, it really means a lot to me," said Raonic. "It's a great moment that means a lot to me, it will be one of those things I cherish the most in my career."



To win the respect of his competitors on the ATP Tour was also important to Raonic.



"It's a big thing," said Raonic. "It's guys I spend most of the year with, so it means a lot to me to get that kind of respect from them, to get that kind of appreciation.



"It's a nice way to end the year. It's really been a year of a lot of ups and a few downs."

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Some of those highs include Raonic's first singles title at San Jose in February and then facing Roddick in the final at Memphis a week later.



"San Jose meant a lot to me because tennis is difficult in a way because you play so many weeks a year and unless you're winning a tournament you're pretty much losing every week," said Raonic. "To be able to go through a week at the top level of tennis and competing with these guys and go without losing and winning a title just means so much to me.



"It's something you don't forget."



Raonic was unable to play a full season due to a hip injury at Wimbledon in June. He reached two more semifinals and one quarter-final after recovering from surgery.



Now he's preparing for the 2012 season where he hopes to build on his early success.



"A big part of the off-season coming up is going to be to get into shape," said Raonic. "Even though I was hurt and injured, I came back I think playing a better level of tennis, but the thing is I came back a little quick because it was important for me to get more matches before finishing the year.

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"Hopefully, I can achieve something where I'm competing with the top guys for the bigger tournaments."



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