Milos Raonic says he is primed to make a grand slam breakthrough in 2016 despite receiving a Brisbane International second round scare from a qualifier.
World No.14 Raonic had to dig deep to avoid becoming the second men’s seed to fall on Thursday.
Fourth seeded Canadian Raonic – who held a career-high No.4 ranking in May – held on for a 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-4 win over Croatian qualifier Ivan Dodig at Pat Rafter Arena.
He booked a quarter-final showdown with up and coming Frenchman Lucas Pouille who upset Belgian sixth seed David Goffin.
World No.78 Pouille upstaged the Belgian Davis Cup hero 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-3.
And ex-Brisbane finalist Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria stared down defeat before overcoming Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 6-2 in a second round match lasting almost three hours.
Raonic’s main weapon is his booming serve and he fired down 17 aces on Thursday at speeds of up to 230kph.
The 2014 Wimbledon semi-finalist believes he has added to his arsenal under new coach and 1998 French Open champion Carlos Moya.
And it has him primed for a landmark 2016, starting at the Australian Open.
“I think I want to make a true breakthrough at a slam,” Raonic said.
“I think my level is there that I can really have a big affect on the top tier tournaments – I just need to put it together.”
And it seems Raonic’s confidence is contagious.
Raonic claimed “his generation” including the likes of Japan’s Kei Nishikori were ready to step up against the old guard led by dominant No.1 Novak Djokovic in 2016.
“I believe we are. It’s hopefully something that will change sooner than later,” he said.
Raonic is using the Brisbane International as an Australian Open warm-up after a 2015 season ended prematurely by back problems.
And he got a work out from dogged world No.87 Dodig after receiving a first round bye.
Meanwhile, former world No.8 Dimitrov is primed to make more headlines in Brisbane after outlasting a determined Troicki.
World No.28 Dimitrov has turned most heads in Brisbane by the side of pop singer girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger.
Dimitrov slid down the world rankings in 2015 with indifferent form he partly attributed to a mid-year break-up with five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova.
But the initial signs in 2016 are good – he also downed fifth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon in the first round.
In the quarter-finals Dimitrov is expected to face defending champion Roger Federer.
The 17-time grand slam winner opens his campaign against German qualifier Tobias Kamke on Thursday night.
Organisers are confident Federer will take the court despite speculation about a forearm complaint.