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In the world of professional tennis, there is no such thing as home-court advantage. But when Thornhill, Ont.-raised men’s singles star Milos Raonic lands in Toronto for this year’s Rogers Cup, expect a roaring”Milos! Milos! Milos!” from the crowd.

Two years ago, the last time Raonic played Toronto (he sat out last year’s tournament recovering from hip surgery), he was a rising but minor player on the ATP men’s singles tour, home to perennial superstars Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. But then came 2011, and suddenly – with the fierce speed of the serve the six-foot-five Raonic is known for – he ascended to No. 37 ranking, making him the highest-ranking men’s singles player in Canadian history.

Not yet 21 years old, Raonic suddenly became the future face of tennis, a player who now represented a new generation of contenders – or, as tennis legend and sportscaster John McEnroe put it on Twitter, “the real deal.”

Now ranked 22nd in the world (as of press time), Raonic returns to Toronto for this year’s Rogers Cup, held August 4-12 at the Rexall Centre (women’s matches are held simultaneously at Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium). The two-city, weeklong tournament – the third-oldest tour stop behind the U.S. Open and Wimbledon – has grown to become one of the sport’s premiere events. “It’s a very special tournament to me,” Raonic tells Connected. “It would be a huge honour to win in Canada. Toronto is my home, and to be able to lift that trophy there would be a dream come true.”

With past champions including Andre Agassi, Nadal and Federer – and, on the women’s side, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams – winning the Rogers Cup would be a major deal to Raonic. And he just might do it this year. After all, Raonic took down No. 4 seed Andy Murray at the Barcelona Open in April. Karl Hale, Rogers Cup Toronto tournament director, believes Raonic could be ranked in the Top 10 by the time the Rogers Cup gets underway.

“We really expect him to go deep,” agrees Tennis Canada president and CEO, Michael Downey. “He already gets so much coverage now, and that’s playing international tournaments. Wait until he plays in his backyard.”

Complementing his serve is a monster forehand that Tom Tebbutt – a veteran tennis writer who has written about the sport for The New York Times and has covered more than 100 Grand Slam events – believes is Top 5 calibre. Like an ace pitcher, Raonic also has the ability to keep opponents off-balance by mixing up his shots and picking his spots with laser-like precision. “He’s pretty intelligent for a guy as young as he is,” says Tebbutt. “He knows how to use other things besides brute force.” Raonic is at his best when he’s dictating a match with his big serve and big shots. A potential No. 1 and future Grand Slam winner, says Tebbutt: “He’s got the goods.”

Thanks to Canadian players such as Raonic and Aleksandra Wozniak, tennis in Canada has grown by about 30 percent over the last six years, says Downey, both in terms of players and spectators watching on their TVs, tablets and smartphones. Combined attendance for the Rogers Cup is expected to surpass 365,000 this year, says Downey, who is predicting that the event will break attendance records in August, with even more younger fans coming out to cheer on their cherubic hero, Raonic.

“It’s great if my tennis can influence the younger generation to get involved in the [sport],” says Raonic. “I hope tennis continues to grow in popularity.”

Fans attending the matches in person can expect more than just hard-court battles. The world-famous Harlem Globetrotters are among several additions planned for the 132nd Open. In Montreal, fans can take in the Legends Event featuring former tennis stars. And, of course, fans in either city can follow the entire tournament on an array of live-coverage TV screens situated throughout the stadiums.

Rogers Cup on Smartphones For fans not able to attend in person, the tournament can be experienced in all its glory livestreamed online at Rogers Anyplace TV and on your smartphone with the Anyplace TV Live app (for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone).”The narrow world of ‘we’re a tennis event/sporting event’ just doesn’t cut it anymore,” says Downey. “Entertainment spending is discretionary, and we’re in the entertainment world.” The more bells and whistles, believes Downey, the better.

Check out Milos Raonic’s answers to our questions, as we go inside his mind and learn more about him.

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