New York: Fireball-serving Milos Raonic, who blasted 29 aces Saturday in becoming the first Canadian in 24 years to reach the fourth round of the US Open, is ready to send Britain's Andy Murray packing as well.
Raonic matched his best Grand Slam result by defeating American wildcard James Blake 6-3, 6-0, 7-6 (7/3) to reach the US Open's last 16, a feat not done by a Canadian since Martin Laurendeau in 1988.
The victory ensured the 15th seed would reach a career-high 14th in the next ATP rankings and set him up for a chance to make a statement that he is ready to reach the next level with a victory over third seed Murray.
"I wouldn't feel comfortable being here if I wasn't. I've done my work," Raonic said. "I haven't been there before. Doesn't mean I don't belong. It's just more I haven't made the most of my opportunities before."
Raonic, 21, was born in Montenegro but moved to Canada in 1994 and began playing tennis at age eight.
He missed last year's US Open due to hip surgery and is playing one of the biggest matches in his life in only his eighth Grand Slam event.
"The fact that it's a Grand Slam adds a little bit more to it. At the same time it's sort of a situation I feel very comfortable in," Raonic said.
"I know I can create my opportunities. I know what I'm capable of. I know what I can do. I just have to really step up and do it."
That means making Murray as uncomfortable as possible every time he faces a Raonic serve.
"If I serve well, if I hit the lines, it's tough to get my serve back," said Raonic.
"It's really him adjusting more to me than myself to him. If I'm serving well, I'm hitting my spots, it's about making him feel as uncomfortable as possible. If I serve well that's what happens. It's a ripple effect.
"I have the ability to be more dangerous than most players when I have the ball on my racquet. It just puts a lot of pressure on my opponents if I'm serving well."
Raonic beat Murray 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) in a May quarter-final on Barcelona clay but two other meetings, one in March at Miami and another last month in Toronto, were walkovers.
"I sprained my ankle the day before practicing in Miami. He had a bad knee," Raonic said. "But we've played before. Gave me a lot of insight into what he likes to do.
"Before that, you sort of have an understanding, but especially the top four guys, you give them big respect. This humanizes them quite a bit. If I do the things right, I know the opportunities will be there."
Raonic won last year at San Jose to become the first Canadian to win an ATP-level title since Greg Rusedski, who went on to represent Britain, in 1995 at Seoul. He defended at San Jose this year and also won the crown at Chennai.
"He's definitely going to be dangerous," Murray said. "He has a huge serve. He has improved a lot from the back of the court. He goes for his second serve. He can serve some doubles but also get free points from his second serve, too.
"This is his best year on the tour so far and it will be tough."
Raonic said he has improved with every match this week and Blake could not disagree.
"That serve, it can take him a long way because that can take the racquet out of another guy's hands, completely take the rhythm out of a match," Blake said. "Obviously it's pretty darn effective.
"It's a big weapon to have in big times when you can serve 140-something-mph and then change it up by hitting a big kick out wide. It makes it tough for me to know where he's going. Even if I guess right, there are times it's going to be in the right spot or just too big."