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Raonic back to winning ways

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Originally published on 04/07/17 00:00

Last year’s Wimbledon finalist was beaten in two tie-break sets by Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis at Queen’s, derailing his tournament preparations and forcing a rethink of his schedule ahead of the Championships.

“I spent a lot more time training,” said Raonic, who opened with a 7-6(5) 6-2 7-6(4) victory over Germany’s Jan Lennard Struff. “It got to the point where I was spending a lot of days practicing. I was just getting more and more eager for this tournament to start because there were a lot of days in a row.”

Having parted ways with former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek last month, Raonic is now working with Mark Knowles, who partnered fellow Canadian Daniel Nestor to three Grand Slam titles on the doubles circuit and reached No.1 in the rankings.

“He's helped me out on a lot of things,” Raonic explained. “Especially from how other players perceive different changes of rhythm that I may be able to enforce throughout a match.

“[There are] things that I can do to help benefit myself throughout a match, not only looking at it from the perspective of how do I feel, but also paying attention to the aspect of how does my opponent feel in these situations, trying to feed off that, as well.”

Raonic became the first Canadian man to reach a Grand Slam final when he defeated Roger Federer in the semis 12 months ago, but the 26-year-old knows he will have to improve both mentally and physically with each passing round to meet the challenges that await him over the next two weeks.

“On grass, the margins for concentration [are such] that you can’t really let slip up because the opportunities are further apart,” said Raonic, who will face Russia’s Mihail Youzhny on Thursday for a place in the third round. “It's a bit more demanding.

“If you play good tennis, you'll have your opportunities. Then it's about having the courage to really step up and take them. I think it's really about, for me at least, focusing on myself, trying to play the matches on my terms, trying to dictate and control. That's where I tend to have the most possibility for success.”

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