Milos Raonic serve front of mind for Alex de Minaur in opener

Alex de Minaur says he will have to “problem solve” his way through the first round of the Australian Open after drawing one of the most dangerous possible opponents.

Canadian former world No. 3 Milos Raonic is the first obstacle in the Australian star’s path to a maiden grand slam final and returns to Melbourne Park for the first time in three years in damaging form after he upset 17th seed Frances Tiafoe in straight sets in the Kooyong Classic on Friday.

de Minaur said the 33-year-old boasted “one of the best serves on tour” and would present a difficult challenge, but the newly minted world No. 10 said he was not caught off-guard by drawing a former Wimbledon finalist in the opening round.

“I had a feeling (before the draw) it was going to be a tough match coming up,” de Minaur said on Friday.

“(Raonic) is a very tricky opponent – the type of person who can take the racquet out of your hand.

“He has an unbelievable serve and is very aggressive, so it’s a tough match … but I’m playing some good tennis so I’ll be ready for the challenge.”

de Minaur said he would simply have to “guess the right way” to combat Raonic’s serve if he could bring his trademark power on Sunday.

The Canadian clocked a serve at 249.9 km/h at the SAP Open in 2012, which was only just shaded by American John Isner’s 253 km/h thunderbolt during a Davis Cup match four years later.

“He’s got one of the best serves on tour, so it’s going to be very difficult to get a read on that serve,” de Minaur said.

“I’ve got to try and focus on my side of the court, do what I’ve been doing really well, make a lot of balls, stay patient and if the opportunity is there, just go for it.

“Ultimately against these types of opponents, if you can get the serve back, then you’re putting yourself in a decent position.

“More importantly you’ve got to look after your own serve. You can’t give a cheap game at any stage because that could almost mean the set.”

After beating top 10 opponents Taylor Fritz, Alexander Zverev and Novak Djokovic in this month’s United Cup, de Minaur said he backed himself against any player in a drawn-out slog, but was wary Raonic would try to keep the rallies brief to take away his strengths.

“I know the amount of work I put in off the court to be in this shape … if it does become a physical battle, I think I back myself,” he said.

“But he’s got the game style to take the racquet out of my hand and keep the rallies nice and short so then we might not get to that point, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

de Minaur said his plan was to entertain the Melbourne Park crowd with his own attacking tennis and not just play retriever to Raonic’s powerful shots.

“I’m trying to be more aggressive and bring a lot more variety into my game,” he said.

“I think a lot of people have watched me run side to side endlessly, but I do have a lot of other layers to my game which I have been able to show at the start of the year, so that’s the plan moving forward.”

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