Milos Raonic and Genie Bouchard have allowed the world to discover intimate, personal sides of themselves over the past two weeks – although in decidedly different ways.

Raonic wrote a “Letter To My Future Self” for The Players’ Tribune website on February 8th revealing some of his deepest thoughts about his voyage through tennis over the past two decades.

With Bouchard it was more public and publicized as she appeared in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, revealing her 22-year-old physique set against the backdrop of beaches in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the northern Caribbean.

In the Players’ Tribune piece, Raonic begins by invoking Andre Agassi when he was No. 3 in the world and was asked about his ranking. “I can’t stand mediocrity,” a young Agassi responded.

Though ranked No. 4 at the moment, Raonic knows something about No. 3 – it’s where he ended the 2016 season. His implication in citing the Agassi example is obviously that he’s not satisfied with No. 3 or No. 4 – the top spot and winning Grand Slams are what drives him.There are some interesting musings by Raonic, particularly about his early days on the tour.

“Remember those two off-seasons in Barcelona in 2011 and 2012 — living by yourself in that 250-square-foot dorm room near the university?” he wrote. “You found yourself wanting for nothing. You weren’t surrounded by other players, or coaches, or the constant chatter about rankings. It was just about you and your game and no one was there looking over your shoulder.

“You loved Barcelona, even if the late-night culture didn’t fit your training schedule. You’d always be the first to arrive for dinner at a restaurant, which would open at 9 p.m. at the earliest. You’d eat alone, and then walk home, alone, just as everyone else was starting to go out into the street to start their night.”

Photo: Mauricio Paiz

Coming up to the present, he writes, “I’ll admit — it pains me to think about how I might feel if I don’t accomplish my goal. But my tennis career is what gave me the means to follow my deepest curiosities without fear of failure or financial ruin. It’s a blessing.

“Right now, you are No. 4. I wonder how, in your old age, that makes you feel. I wonder what’s going to happen in the future. I wonder if I’ll climb the last three steps to No. 1. There’s a lot I can’t control. I guess that’s why I’m so meticulous about the things I can — my work ethic, my persistence, my energy.”

Some observers wonder if he may actually be too meticulous, that his fixation with trying to control everything is excessive and that, as the recent Australian Open showed with Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic out early and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the final, some things are beyond a player’s control.

Think about it – of all the Grand Slams (a total of 52) Federer has entered since his first win at Wimbledon in 2003, the 2017 Australian Open might be the one he least expected to win – and he pulled it off!

Maybe Raonic should adopt a bit more of a laissez faire attitude. Since the start of 2017 he has been overshadowed by contemporary Grigor Dimitrov who won two titles (Brisbane and Sofia) and reached the semifinals of the Australian Open and maybe even by 19-year-old Alexander Zverev who’s looming as a real threat to all the top players.

But it’s early in the year, things can change quickly, and Raonic’s best chance at a 2017 Grand Slam title, Wimbledon, is still to come. He could do something at the French Open – beat almost anyone on a given day – but seven matches on the slow (power-blunting) red clay is a tough ask. On the other hand, Wimbledon, where he is one of only six active players – the so-called Big Four, Tomas Berdych (2010) and himself (2016) – to have reached the final, would appear tailor-made for his big game.


In the meantime, Raonic (above with golf legend Jack Nicklaus in Florida on Sunday) returns to action this week for the first time since the Australian Open where he lost 6-4, 7-6(7), 6-4 to Rafael Nadal after failing to convert six set points in the second set. The top seed at the ATP 250 event in Delray Beach, Fla., Raonic takes on qualifier Tim Smyczek of the U.S. in his first match in the early afternoon on Tuesday. At world No. 4, he is the top seed while the ranking of the second seed drops all the way down to No. 20, Ivo Karlovic.

The wild card in the draw could be No. 7 seed (No. 36-ranked) Juan Martin del Potro who returns to action for the first time since leading Argentina to the Davis Cup title in December.

According to the seeding, Raonic should play No. 4 Sam Querrey (rank No. 29) in the semifinals but del Potro could be there, although he faces a testing opening round against injury-plagued Kevin Anderson, now ranked No. 75.

After the Delray Beach Open, Raonic will play next week’s ATP 500 event in Acapulco before the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells where, with a first-round bye, he will not start until Saturday the 11th of March or Sunday the 12th.

Photo: Sports Illustrated/Emmanuelle Hauguel

Bouchard was supposed to play this week’s WTA Premier 5 event in Dubai but withdrew apparently because of her activities associated with last week’s launch of the SI Swimsuit Issue in New York.

Bouchard has not played since her 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 loss to Coco Vandeweghe at the Australian Open on January 20. That means that when she returns in Acapulco next week she will have been out of action for about 40 days.

The concern about the lay-off is that she had started out the year well. Sure there was an opening-round loss in Brisbane to No. 59 Shelby Rogers in her first tournament of the year, but that was her only her fifth match since losing to Katerina Siniakova last August at the US Open. The following week in Sydney she had a strong performance, beating No. 23 Zhang Shuai, No. 6 Dominika Cibulkova and No. 27 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova as the then No. 49-ranked player in the world. She wound up losing 6-2, 6-2 to No. 10 Johanna Konta in the semifinals but the 25-year-old Brit was playing lights-out tennis and went on to blow away world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

At the Aussie Open, Bouchard beat both No. 65 Louisa Chirico and No. 83 Peng Shuai efficiently in two sets before losing out to a late surge by the explosive Vandeweghe after leading 4-2 in the final set. Many people at Melbourne Park thought Bouchard could upset defending champion Angelique Kerber in the following round, which is exactly what Vandeweghe proceeded to do.

Until Sydney, she had not won two matches in a row in a WTA main draw since Rogers Cup in Montreal last July.

The obvious improvement she had shown since reuniting with coach Thomas Hogstedt this year has now been put on hold. There will be questions about this extended absence from the tour and about her outside activities such as the Swimsuit Issue appearance.

She has heard it all before and said, during a CBS radio show appearance last week in New York along with Swimsuit cover girl Kate Upton, “any time I do a photo shoot anywhere it’s like ‘oh my God get back on the tennis court, what are you doing? Go practice.’ And I’m like ‘I practiced for six hours today and I did this like two hours after and I’m practising six hours every day this week. What are you talking about? Do you work 24 hours a day?’ So you just have to deal with that hate and not take it personally. It’s been a couple of years now so I’ve learned to.

“But I just think there’s nothing wrong if you have success and it opens doors for other opportunities like being in Sports Illustrated. Why not? I’d be crazy not to take advantage of that.”

It will be interesting to see how the No. 45-ranked Bouchard does once she returns. She has some significant points (350) to defend from last year through the end of Indian Wells next month – 105 (Doha R16), 180 (Kuala Lumpur F) and 65 (Indian Wells R32). Worst case scenario, she could drop to below No. 65 if she failed to win a round in Acapulco or Indian Wells.

But her form of earlier this year allows for optimism that she can pick up where she left off.

Speaking of left off – while her highly-publicized New York City date with University of Missouri student John Goehrke seemed to go well, the 20-year-old better not get his hopes up. Though Bouchard originally said that “for sure” there was a possibility of a second date, she later remarked about that during the CBS radio interview, “there’s a chance. He was so sweet. I didn’t want to ruin his dreams.”

Sounds like Goehrke, a marketing student, would be smart not to really expect another rendez-vous with Bouchard. It probably makes more sense for him to concentrate on the young women who surround him in this picture from his Facebook page.


Roger Federer looked to still be on an Australian Open high when he recently took the Norman Brookes trophy to the top of a Swiss mountain.

The current world No. 9 returns to action next week at the ATP 500 event in Dubai. He has a residence there and has won the tournament seven of the 12 times he has played it – including a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic in the final in his last (2015) appearance.

Djokovic isn’t entered, neither is Rafael Nadal – No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 3 Stan Wawrinka are the only top-5 players in the field.

The three tallest players on the ATP tour were in Memphis last week and posed for this picture. Unless Opelka, 19, grows a bit, tennis is still waiting for its first world-class seven-footer.