Milos Raonic ending up a Canadian may have come down to something as simple as the immigration forms used by Canadian and Australian governments.
During Tuesday’s introductory media conference for the AAMI Classic, an eight-player exhibition held at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club starting Wednesday in Melbourne, Raonic told of a decision his parents made to emigrate from Montenegro almost 20 years ago.
He said that it basically came down to the application forms, the Canadian immigration form was just one page while the Australian form was 16 pages. Milos’ parents, Dusan and Vesna, didn’t speak English so it was easier for them to fill out the Canadian form.
A mischievous Australian journalist at the media conference asked Raonic, “would you want to be an Aussie, would you prefer to be an Aussie?”
“I’m very happy being a Canadian,” Raonic said with a smile (see picture at top).
As part of the tournament launch, the Kooyong Club president said a few words, repeating the phrase that is often invoked about his club, site of the Australian Open up until 1988. He called it “the spiritual home of Australian tennis.”
He then added, “feel free to have an epiphany while you’re here.” I thought that was a pretty funny line but I suspect it went over the heads of most of the players.
The eight players in the draw were Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic, Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Marcos Baghdatis, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Lleyton Hewitt. Mathieu was a last minute substitute for Juan Monaco who had to withdraw with a hand problem.
Nishikori, who pulled out of the semifinal against Andy Murray with a knee problem last Saturday, has not played since then and didn’t sound that optimistic that the injury will allow him to play. (Late Tuesday, he did indeed pull out and was replaced by Ivan Dodig of Croatia.)
On Wednesday, the action starts at 11 a.m. (7 p.m. Eastern Standard time in Canada Tuesday) with del Potro playing Mathieu followed by Raonic against Hewitt, a rematch of their third-round encounter at last year’s Aussie Open won by the Aussie veteran. Then it’s Tipsarevic – Baghdatis and finally Berdych – Dodig.
Here’s a picture of the hospitality area at the Kooyong event – and on the left are some of the Club’s 26 grass courts and further in the background are its red en-tous-cas courts that are basically a clay-type surface.
Just to add a little fun to the proceedings of Tuesday, yours truly asked Milos during the question period about his feelings regarding the end of the NHL lockout.
“It will be hard for me to watch with the time difference,” replied Raonic, a Maple Leaf supporter, “but it’s great for a lot of friends and for a lot of people.”
Raonic later talked briefly about his disappointing loss to Grigor Dimitrov last week in Brisbane, saying that he was trying to introduce some new things in his game and had not done a good job. But he insisted he is not overly concerned and declared that he will continue all his preparation routines, including having a steak the night before each match.
Raonic currently has a significant growth of hair going on and I couldn’t resist inquiring about his future plans in terms of haircuts. “You can check day by day,” he joked. Standing beside him, his public relations man Austin Nunn chimed in with “not soon enough!”
A DAY AT MELBOURNE PARK
On Monday, Australia had its highest average maximum temperature across the whole country. It was calculated at 40.33 degrees (104.6 Fahrenheit).
But things weren’t nearly that bad in Melbourne, with the mercury just barely getting over 30.
By Tuesday evening, it was downright chilly in Melbourne and the anticipated high for Wednesday, the beginning of the men’s qualifying event, is a shockingly low 20 degrees.
It was Sydney that took the hit on Tuesday, with players at the Sydney International battling real extreme heat, the temperature reaching a peak of 42.5.
Maybe that affected Grigor Dimitrov. He was brilliant last week in beating Raonic and playing a competitive and entertaining match against Andy Murray in the final of the Brisbane International.
But against the not so fabulous Fabio Fognini on Tuesday, he lost 6-3, 6-1 and, in the immortal words of ESPN announcer Cliff Drysdale, he “put on the goggles and flippers” – i.e. he went into the tank. It was not pretty and the 21-year-old Bulgarian made no effort to even pretend he was trying for almost all of the second set.
I watched it on television in the Aussie Open media room after doing some scouting around Melbourne Park.
I was looking for the eight Canadians playing in the qualifying but only came across Sharon Fichman practicing with Marie-Eve Pelletier, shown below with Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau.
Pelletier is here with her boyfriend, former NHL goalie Pascal Leclaire, and he has a tournament badge that says he is her coach.
Walking back towards the locker room with Bruneau, he began looking over to his left but I was distracted talking to him. It turned out that RF (no name necessary) and four members of his group were looking at pictures on a wall (see below) of the future development plans for Melbourne Park, plans that are not that far from completion.
I also learned that Eugenie Bouchard, the Wimbledon girls champion and current WTA tour player, was to be involved in a photo shoot on Tuesday afternoon with none other than fellow Nike pros RF and Maria Sharapova. Bouchard is wearing Sharapova’s line at the tournament and is certainly keeping impressive company.
Along with Fichman, Pelletier and Stéphanie Dubois, Bouchard will start in the women’s qualifying on Thursday.
On Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m. (6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday), this will be the line-up on Court 14 for the first round of qualifying:
Steven DIEZ (CAN) vs. Pavol Cervenak (SVK)
Peter POLANSKY (CAN) vs. Christopher Rungkat (INA)
Erik CHVOJKA (CAN) vs. Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (ESP)
And on Court 15 at 10 a.m. it will be:
Frank DANCEVIC (CAN) vs. Daniel BRANDS (GER) 
Dancevic, who set a record two years ago by qualifying for all four Grand Slam events, appears to have the toughest opponent. The 6-foot-4 Brands played through the qualifying and won a total of six matches – including over Frenchmen Jeremy Chardy and Gael Monfils – to reach the semifinals of the ATP 250 event in Doha, Qatar, last week before losing 7-5, 7-5 to eventual winner Richard Gasquet.
A final late afternoon tour around the Aussie Open site turned up no more Canadians but I did see Tomas Berdych practicing on Showcourt 3, not looking too happy with his game as he worked with his coach Tomas Krupa.
The ATP and WTA joint Media Guide book is out, and here’s an interesting little anomaly.
Usually, they cut off the players who will get a full bio page with picture at somewhere above a ranking of No. 100.
So, how come Vasek Pospisil, who finished at No. 127 in the final ATP rankings at the official year-end date of November 19, 2012, does not have a bio page and a player ranked 12 spots below him does? That player would be the immensely talented, eminently inscrutable and obviously charismatic Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, who was No. 139.
By the way, ‘Ernie’ is not in Melbourne for the qualifying, he is reportedly playing a Challenger tournament in Europe in two weeks.