Tennis: New guard ready to step up at Aussie Open

Tennis: New guard ready to step up at Aussie Open

MELBOURNE - Big-serving Milos Raonic is tipping one of his new generation to step up and topple the established guard and win this month's Australian Open.

Marin Cilic beat Kei Nishikori in last year's US Open final, while Stan Wawrinka was another first-time Grand Slam winner beating Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the previous Australian Open.

Nishikori, Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov have been hailed as the flag-bearers of the next generation beneath the old order of Djokovic, Roger Federer and Nadal.

Raonic, the 24-year-old Canadian serve-volleyer, said Sunday he believes the time was ripe for the new guard to make an impact, starting with Monday's Australian Open in Melbourne.

"I think we can step up and give ourselves a possibility to win at the bigger tournaments," Raonic said.

"But I don't think there's going to be somebody stepping up like Roger, Rafa and Novak did a few times winning three out of four slams.

"I think there will be an opportunity for one of us to step up and have an opportunity to win their first slam." Raonic said it wasn't necessarily the case of the big three getting older or suffering a greater incidence of injuries for the rise of the younger brigade.

"No. I just think we're getting better," he said.

"We're all getting older. We're all getting closer and closer to peak maturity.

"I think we're believing more also. So I think there's a lot of factors to it. You can't pinpoint one thing." Dimitrov lost to Federer in Brisbane in the lead-up to the Australian Open but said he is far from discouraged going into the year's first major.

"It was a tough match that I lost last week," the Bulgarian said.

"Definitely didn't perform the way I wanted to.

"But that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm discouraged to keep trying and keep believing that any of us is going to make it through, so to speak.

"But on the other hand, the year has just began. We have already the Australian Open, anything can happen out here."

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