If there’s something called reading between the lines then there must also be something similar involving listening between the words.

The latter was the case on Sunday after Milos Raonic was beaten in the round-of-16 at the French Open by Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

After the first game of the third set of his previous match, Raonic lay on the court receiving a vigorous massaging of his left hip and was able to continue to complete a straight-sets win.

Going into Sunday’s match there were doubts about how the hip would be, even after lots of treatment and a day off between matches.

“I don’t think it really had any effect on that,” Raonic said in his post-match media conference about the 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 outcome. “Going forward, it’s not on my mind at all.”

Maybe you had to be in the room to sense that his response was not an unequivocal denial that the hip may have been a factor in his performance.

A little later in his meeting with reporters, he was asked about his plans to get ready for Wimbledon and answered, “Queen’s (Club),” – referring to the London grass-court ATP 500 event beginning June 13.

Asked if he might consider adding another grass-court prep tournament, he responded in a mostly serious mien, “no, my body doesn’t handle probably more than two weeks in a row. Let’s just keep it at that and let’s spend time on the court (practicing).”

wide court

Ramos-Vinolas is having the tournament of his life, at least of his Grand Slam life. The 28-year-old current world No. 55 has not won an ATP title over his career, and his career-high ranking was No. 38 in 2012.

Most remarkable is that in 18 previous Grand Slam appearances – had a record of 4-18 and had never been past the second round. Now he has won four matches in seven days to set up a quarter-final meeting with defending champion Stan Wawrinka on Tuesday.

In English translation from his original interview in Spanish, the mild-mannered Barcelona native said about Raonic, “I feel quite humbled to have won against him.”

Ramos-Vinolas also acknowledged that the cool, damp weather created decidedly slow playing conditions that took something away from the Raonic power game.

Still for Raonic to have his serve broken twice in the opening set for the second match in a row – lucky loser Andrej Martin also achieved the feat in Friday’s third round – is remarkable, especially because neither opponent is a Novak Djokovic or an Andy Murray when it comes to service returning.

Certainly Ramos-Vilolas and Martin got a little help. “I lost, main reason was because the foundation of my game wasn’t there,” Raonic said about Sunday’s match. “I didn’t serve well. I think when I look back probably at a stat sheet my numbers were probably pretty poor when it comes down to that.”

He’s right – he won a lowly 64 per cent of first serve points and measly 47 per cent of second serve points. Ramos-Vinolas, a lefty, did better in the latter category, winning 48 per cent.

The humid air and heavy conditions didn’t help, but Raonic emphasized that it was the same for both players.

“I gave myself opportunities on his serve (only one of seven BPs converted compared to five of 14 for Ramos-Vinolas) but the day is a lot easier for the other guy when I don’t serve well.

“I fought as hard as I could. That’s probably the thing I will be the most proud about, but now it’s just about sort of resetting and putting the attention on what matters most and move forward.”

Raonic did give it a max effort, scrambling like mad in the very last game, saving two match points, and never giving up.

That’s always a good sign but in this instance it also appeared to show that his hip wasn’t an issue to point of making it difficult to move on the court.

It’s also a positive in that he will be able to head into the grass-court season reasonably healthy, assuming the hip issue is something that subsides in a matter of days.

milos raonic
Photo: Peter Figura

Raonic was unlikely to win Roland Garros where there were at least 10 players with a better chance to be holding the Coupe des Mousquetaires at the end of the quinzaine (fortnight) on June 5. But it’s another story at Wimbledon where, except for previous winners such as Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, who would be a more plausible winner? The answer – Stan Wawrinka is currently the fourth favourite at 16/1 with the Ladbrokes booking firm followed by guess who? – Raonic at 18-1.

In that quest, he will be helped by three-time (and it should have been more) Wimbledon champion (1981-83-84) John McEnroe.

It never takes much to get the British tennis beat writers to swing their attention to The Big W while they’re in Paris and several were at Raonic’s media conference on Sunday to grill him about an unexpected and extremely high-profile appointment.

McEnroe, 57, will work with Raonic in the three weeks leading up to Wimbledon, which begins on June 27, and in a less structured way during The Championships because of his other multi-media obligations.

“I was sort of just looking for another set of eyes to be a bit more efficient on grass,” Raonic said. “I think people are seeing it as just on grass. That’s what it’s far from. It’s about generally improving. I want to improve putting more pressure on my opponents.

“I feel like I was a lot more efficient at the beginning of the year coming forward. And it just works out with grass that’s probably the thing that will benefit me the most. There are going to be the three weeks leading to Wimbledon that we are going to work, and really put some attention to that and just find that sort of groove, that efficiency.

“I’m going to try to do everything I can to sort of maximize that myself and maximize giving myself that opportunity to achieve those goals.”

Raonic, who played injured after foot surgery at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon last year, winning two matches at both events, said by way of putting a fine point on the highly-topical addition (Carlos Moya will also be at Wimbledon) of McEnroe, “I’m the CEO of the Milos Raonic Tennis. That’s it. I take everybody’s consultations very personally. I know everybody I have around me wants to help me to the fullest.

“I work very hard and it’s going to be about putting the things together right. At the same time, it’s not a focus for just Wimbledon. It’s John coming along to help me improve in general.”

milos raonic wave

The plus side of McEnroe coming on board the Raonic team is that he is arguably (with Roger Federer) the most gifted player in the history of the sport, and a man with a sharp mind. The negative might be that his superstar status attracts all kinds of attention and his presence with Raonic could create a media circus.

Whichever, it should make this year’s edition of Wimbledon just a tiny bit spicier.

Nestor farewell to Roland Garros? 

nestor qureshi

Following his third-round elimination at the French Open on Sunday – a 7-6(4), 6-4 loss with partner Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi of Pakistan to Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and Marcel Granollers of Spain – Daniel Nestor was asked if had thought that this might be his last Roland Garros as he walked off the court.

“No, but now that you brought it up it could be,” the 43-year-old replied with a smile. “I don’t know. We’ll see it’s ranking-dependant and partner-dependant and all that.”

About the result of the match on Court 3 on a cool, muggy, overcast day, Nestor said, “It’s not that disappointing. I think they were just better, especially in these conditions. It’s heavy, it’s hard to get free points and they have so much time to set up. They’re a really good team and I thought they played well.

“I actually enjoyed playing with Aisam – we played well together and had good chemistry. I don’t know what the future holds as far as partners but there’s definitely potential there.”

nestor qureshi

As far as the upcoming weeks go, Nestor will play with Qureshi in s-Hertogenbosch (Holland) on grass in two weeks and then with Dominik Inglot at Queen’s Club and Wimbledon. 

“He approached me last week,” Nestor said about playing with Inglot, a 30-year-old Brit ranked No. 29. “I guess with what’s gone on with partners in the last couple of weeks people know that I’m available. I thought it made sense on grass and the opportunity to work with Louis [Cayer, the former Canadian Davis Cup captain and now employed by the (British) Lawn Tennis Association], he’s one of Louis’ pupils. It made sense. We’ll see how it goes.”

The second-round loss Sunday would seem to put an end to the No. 14-ranked Nestor’s hope of reaching the top-10 and thus giving himself a chance to play the Rio Olympics in August. “To be honest, I kind of gave up on that a while back and didn’t think about it,” he said.

“It’s not a goal. I’ve been many (five) times. I’ve gotten over that.”

Would he be ready to go if either Milos Raonic or Vasek Pospisil was unable to play for whatever reason? “I suppose. But I’m not sure the conditions there are good for me – it might be humid. Honestly, if I had a chance to carry the flag, that would be something exciting to look forward to. But other than that…”

jack sock vasek pospisil

On Saturday, the seventh-seeded team of Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock were beaten in the third round 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5 by Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

While Pospisil and Sock have had success at Masters 1000 events – one title and five runner-up finishes) since winning Wimbledon in 2014, they have only twice made it as far as the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam event.  

Canadian juniors debut

felix auger-aliassime

Promising 15-year-old Félix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal (above between Tennis Canada coaches Ruben Alcantara and Guillaume Marx) moved into the second round of the French Open junior boys event on Sunday with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Jeffrey John Wolf of the U.S.

Already No. 619 in the ATP rankings, Auger-Aliassime was runner-up in a Futures event in Spain earlier this month, earning himself 10 points.

“First rounds in Grand Slams are never easy,” Auger-Aliassime said about his Court 5 match on Sunday. (It was on at the same time as the Raonic – Ramos-Vinolas match and actually Ramos-Vinolas can be seen above in the left video screen in the background being interviewed after the match). “I think I managed the nervousness and pressure better than him (Wolf). I had a good start and things went well from there. I served well in the important moments.”

Auger-Aliassime, seeded No. 11, has grown a couple of inches in the past year and is now at least 6-foot-2. “For sure it helps on the serve,” he said. “You have to make a few adjustments when you’re young and growing but right now I’m healthy.”

shapovalovHaving been in Europe playing tournaments for several weeks, he was asked about the quality of the clay courts at Roland Garros. “The courts are at a completely different level here. They’re like a silk carpet, it’s really amazing. I think the grounds crew do an excellent job.”

Also advancing with relative ease was No. 5 seed Denis Shapovalov of Mississauga, Ont. Playing on distant Court 16 just before the rains came, the 17-year-old lefthander took out French wild card Maxence Broville 6-1, 6-3. Shapovalov already has an ATP ranking of No. 400 and has won three Futures titles in the United States since the beginning of 2016.

Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Blainville near Montreal got off to a poor start and was beaten 6-0, 6-4 by Olga Danilovic of Serbia in her opening round match on Sunday.

charlotte robillard-millette

“She’s a good player but I didn’t play my best tennis, so that makes it tough,” a very disappointed Robillard-Millette said.

“It wasn’t the best conditions but it’s the same for both players. Maybe it didn’t help me because the court was slower and I have a fast game and I try to finish the points. So it might have disadvantaged me and also it started to rain when I served (the final game). But it’s the kind of thing that I’ve got to learn to live with and rise above.”


Danilovic, just 15 and already close to 6-feet tall, is the daughter of Serbian basketball great Predrag ‘Sasha’ Danilovic, now 46. The 6-foot-7 Danilovic was one of the best shooting guards in Europe and was Mister Europa player of the year in 1998.


His thin, long-limbed daughter trains in Barcelona and shares a manager with Feliciano Lopez, pictured below watching with Marc Lopez.

Alex Corretja, the 1998 runner-up at Roland Garros, was also in the crowd watching Danilovic.

Paris post card

eiffel tower

The very top of the Eiffel Tower shimmers every hour on the hour at night adding yet another magical dimension to the City of Light. This is how it looked out a window in the Paris 7ieme when the clock struck 12 Saturday night.

NOTE: No blog Monday, back on Tuesday. Monday at 11 p.m. – second edition of ACES with Carlos Moya as guest on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto.

Feature photo: Peter Figura