Milos Raonic sunk into his chair on the changeover. He stared blankly. His face expressionless. It was a reality that the Canadian has become far too accustomed to. Pulling out of matches and tournaments due to lingering injuries.
Raonic’s back has presented him with problems throughout his entire career. In the Citi Open, he bowed out in straight sets in the round of 16, pointing to the back as the focal point factor for losing. After a smooth first-round match, Raonic stated that he “began to feel back pain during the night” before his battle with compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Winning the second set 6-3 to force a deciding third set, Raonic and his team made the executive decision to pull out in order to preserve his health for the rest of the hard court season.
“The last 30 minutes of that match, just because of the situation we’re playing in, being prime time night match here in Montreal, was probably the least enjoyable 30 minutes I’ve spent on a tennis court,” stated Raonic after the match.
Milos Raonic Back Poses No Serious Risk, Despite Pain
The 2019 ATP Tour season has been a challenging one for Raonic. He has not won any tournaments, nor made the finals. The farthest he has got is the semifinals, but in the case of the Stuttgart Open, he was forced to withdraw due to the back injury.
“It hasn’t necessarily been the most enjoyable season so far,” stated Raonic.
Wednesday night was supposed to be different for the 28-year-old. For starters, it was a unique opportunity to take on his fellow countrymen. But also prove that his veteran experience can still translate to success and victories.
In the first set, Auger-Aliassime was dictating the pace of the points. For someone who has struggled to serve in previous matches, the 18-year-old raised his level for the primetime stage. In the opening set in which Auger-Aliassime won 6-3, the teenager had 5 aces, won 83% of his service points and 89% of his first-serve points.
Given the lingering back issues from the night before, it was not surprising that Raonic’s play was declining. And reached an all-time low in the second set, when he was given treatment by the trainer and doctor. Raonic fought valiantly to win the second set, despite not knowing where the source of the pain was in his back.
“I just keep trying to pinpoint, figure out what the right step is. I keep getting assured there’s nothing extensively serious about the back in that sense,” stated Raonic.
Raonic’s Withdrawal Evidence for Frailty of Tennis Career
No one was more disappointed to see Raonic go down than Felix Auger-Aliassime. Despite eventual relief that he had reached the third round of the Rogers Cup, it was ultimately secondary compared to the feeling of hurt for his fellow Canadian teammate.
“What was tough is to see Milos’ face. He’s a good friend of mine,” said Auger-Aliassime. “I remember when we crossed after the second set, I could feel he was pretty sad about something. It wasn’t fun to see him like that.”
— Félix AugerAliassime (@felixtennis) August 8, 2019
Raonic also expressed his high praises for his young friend, who is now up against the World No. 8 Karen Khachanov in the third round.
“You could see he was trying to be the aggressor,” said Raonic. “I thought he served quite well.”
Raonic’s withdrawal once again represents the painful realities of a tennis player’s career. It is not infinite and at any moment it can decline into the annals of history. Milos was once considered the next great Canadian tennis talent. Reaching the Rogers Cup final as well as a Wimbledon Final in 2016, it was a career that was on the path to legendary status.
But injuries, MRIs (of which Raonic has had four already this year) has steered Raonic on a different direction. One where every match is holding your breath, hoping that no further damage is done.
For now, Canadian tennis fans hope for the best regarding Milos Raonic. But recognize that the end might be closer than originally anticipated.
Lukas Weese is at the Rogers Cup this week on behalf of Tennis Canada.
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