MELBOURNE, Australia -- The topics at tennis postmatch news conferences can be wide ranging, interesting and surprising. Monday at the Australian Open was a good example. During Victoria Azarenka's conference, the Belarusian player talked extensively about her passion for the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, and how the Super Bowl between the two will be a "dream matchup."
Then there was Milos Raonic, the Montenegro-born Canadian who talked about how he will be playing in the celebrity game during NBA All-Star Weekend in Toronto next month.
"I think meeting Steph Curry would be great, especially the stratosphere that he's been in the last 16 months with his game," Raonic said after beating Stan Wawrinka in five sets to advance to the Australian Open quarterfinals. "Also, he wasn't the biggest prospect growing up. He was a later draft pick. He went to a smaller school in Davidson. He wasn't picked up by the Duke-type schools and so forth. And I wasn't a great junior myself. I think there's a great perspective if I could learn a little bit about what it took for him to get himself to where he is right now."
Raonic is off to a great start this year -- he has won all of his eight matches, including the final in Brisbane against Roger Federer -- but hasn't had nearly the success Curry has enjoyed in the past year. While Raonic did rise as high as No. 4 in the rankings last May, he also suffered a foot injury that sidelined him from a number of tournaments, including the French Open. He eventually fell to No. 14. The injury often left him depressed, but it also helped because it gave him time to consider working on improving different aspects of his game.
"When I was injured," he said, "and I wasn't so caught up in playing a lot of matches, traveling from tournament to tournament, when I was sort of sitting there maybe a little bit annoyed with the physical situation I was in, I was asking myself all the time, 'What can I do to get better?'"
Raonic, 25, already had one of the game's better serves, but he started working on attacking the net more. That was a big factor in his fourth-round victory against Wawrinka, a match in which the Canadian won 54 net points.
"I think it's what helped me win in Brisbane," he said. "It's what helped me win my first three matches here, that comfort and confidence of going forward. But not even just that. In the offseason, I spent a lot of time up at the net. So it's not just about a confidence, it's about an understanding of what I need to do, where you go in certain situations, how not only to finish the points, how to defend a little bit better at the net and how to cover and move better to make the opponent think."
Raonic needed that after winning the first two sets (6-4, 6-3) and then dropping the next two (5-7, 4-6) with Wawrinka gaining momentum. But Raonic rallied to win the fifth set 6-3 and beat Wawrinka for the first time in five meetings. By doing so, he also became the first Canadian man to reach the quarterfinals at all four Grand Slams.
Perhaps it's time to transfer troops from the Genie Army to the Milos Platoon.
"He's a really good player, you know," Wawrinka said. "He's been top five already, made the semifinal in a Grand Slam, winning a lot of tournaments. Since the last two years, he's really good. Today he did what I was expecting. Maybe he changed a few things in his game, but in general he's the same tough player to play."
Monfils injured his right hand diving on a shot, cutting himself so badly that he needed a 10-minute medical break. Monfils said he could not grip anything an hour or so after the match. If the hand doesn't heal, Raonic might have a better chance to advance to the semifinals, where he would play No. 2 seed Andy Murray or No. 8. David Ferrer.
But Wawrinka said that's looking too far ahead, that it takes someone special to reach the finals. Raonic agreed it was too soon to start thinking about that. First, he has to beat Monfils, and then his next opponent in the semis. After that, there could be a likely meeting against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final. Maybe then Curry or LeBron James will be talking about him during their postgame news conferences.
"We'll see how special I am," Raonic said.