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Big-serving Raonic confident as US Open looms

© AFP/File / by Jim Slater | Canada's Milos Raonic returns to Switzerland's Roger Federer during their men's singles semi-final match on day 11 of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 4, 2014Canada's Milos Raonic returns to Switzerland's Roger Federer during their men's singles semi-final match on day 11 of the 2014 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 4, 2014

Milos Raonic matched his career high in the ATP rankings Monday by rising to sixth after his first victory of the year at the Washington Open, boosting his confidence ahead of the US Open.

"That number I have beside my name is no coincidence and I would not be surprised if that number gets smaller," Raonic said.

The 23-year-old Canadian won in his first event since reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final last month at Wimbledon, in which he lost to Roger Federer and departed the court angry and frustrated at his performance.

Those feelings have sparked motivation that spurs him forward into the ATP Toronto Masters this week with only three weeks until the start of his next Grand Slam opportunity at the Flushing Meadows fortnight.

"I started taking that anger and disappointment and using it," said Raonic. "There's still a certain pain and discomfort. To change things around, it's good.

"But there's still a fire in me because of how I played that match."

Raonic fired 83 aces in his title run at Washington, the lightning serves of "Supersonic Raonic" helping to humble countryman Vasek Pospisil on Sunday in the ATP's first all-Canadian final.

"There aren't too many solutions with his serve. I think it's the best serve in the game right now," Pospisil said.

Raonic mixes power and speed near that of the only men who rank ahead of him in ATP aces, Ivo Karlovic and John Isner, with the deceptive placement skills of Federer.

"He has all the serves. You can't read his serve at all," Pospisil said. "You have to play the guessing game. It's a powerful serve. You have to react. You can't just stand there. If you do he will ace you. He's serving very well."

But, Raonic warns, his serve is not yet at its best.

"It can improve a lot more, not only the serve but how I back the serve up," Raonic said.

Strategy has been part of the improvements Raonic has put into his game in the past year and winning at Washington is simply the start of the payoff.

"It gives me a lot of confidence and a lot of understanding," he said. "I'm really excited. For that to be showing up right away is great."

Raonic says there is a great difference between the attitude he had winning other events such as Bangkok last year and the confidence he now enjoys.

"Now I go into every tournament for the next few months believing I can win every tournament," he said. "Then it had to be specific tournaments. Now I believe I can win any tournament."

by Jim Slater