Canadian Milos Raonic had the best result of his young tennis career at any non-hard court event this week, reaching the semifinals in Rome. However, the great result means much more than just a new career-high ranking for the 23-year old - it comes with a golden opportunity for to solidify himself in the top 10 of the sport. By reaching the semifinals in Rome, Raonic clinched the No. 8 seed at Roland Garros and likely in Wimbledon as well.
Since Juan Martin del Potro is off the tour with a wrist injury for the foreseeable future, the No. 8 seed at the next two slams was up for grabs. At the start of the week, Kei Nishikori appeared to have the No. 8 seed locked up. However, an injury caused him to lose to Rafael Nadal in Madrid and pull out of Rome. Then with a semifinal appearance, after having never won a single match in Rome, Raonic swiped the No. 9 ranking from Nishikori and the No. 8 seed in Paris.
Although Raonic is lacking much help from Wimbledon's seeding formula, he only has 90 points to defend in Paris this year, compared to 180 for Nishikori, meaning Raonic has a great chance to be the No. 8 seed at SW19 too. But how important is the No. 8 seed really?
Well, in grand slam events in his career, the Canadian has reached the second week four times, but has never reached the quarterfinals. In those four losses in the round of 16, the average ranking of Raonic's opponents (Ferrer, Murray, Federer, & Gasquet) was 5.5 and he won a total of three sets off them. With a top eight seeding, if Raonic reaches the round of 16 now, he is guaranteed to face a lower-seeded player in that match.
Even though they are not on his preferred surface, these next two slams are still great opportunities for Raonic to reach his first career grand slam quarterfinal if he can dodge any early-round upsets. A quarterfinal appearance would be a great chunk of points to make Raonic a mainstay in the top 10.
After Wimbledon, Raonic has 600 points to defend at his home tournament, so good results at the next two slams are even more crucial to maintain his ranking. Raonic is currently ranked No. 14 in the Race to London rankings.
Every current member of the top eight right now has been at the top of the game for at least five years now with Del Potro being the most recent player to burst onto the scene back in 2009. Although Stanislas Wawrinka has achieved a new level of success this season, Raonic can be the first player in five years to break into this elite eight. It all starts with getting a big result on the clay of Rome.