Milos Raonic was operated on his right foot for Morton’s Neuroma on Wednesday, May 13 in Strasbourg, France. A neuroma is a thickening of the nerve tissue in various parts of the body. The most common is in the foot between the third and fourth toes. It’s also sometimes known as ‘intermetatarsal neuroma.’
Lindsay Davenport, a former world No. 1 and gold medalist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as well champion at the US Open (1998), Wimbledon (1999) and the Australian Open (2000), has ‘been there, done that’ twice – surgeries for Morton’s Neuroma once on each foot.
She was probably one of the first laypersons to identify Raonic’s actual foot issue. The very painful condition goes back many years for Raonic – including before a round-of-16 match versus Roger Federer at the 2013 Australian Open (he needed an injection), at the World Tour Finals last year (he withdrew before his third match) and again this year.
“When I saw him (Raonic) in Monte Carlo, he was struggling and he took his shoe off,” Davenport said. “I said to whoever I was working (TV commentary) with – it might have been Mary Carillo – and they’re saying it’s with a nerve. I’m like ‘oh I know what he’s got.’ It’s hard because sometimes you can play for a certain amount of time and other days – it’s a nerve – it’s just inflamed from the moment you wake up. For me it got so bad I couldn’t put my shoe on anymore. But they would numb it and I would get a couple of hours of a numb foot and it would be better but…”
Davenport, 38, recalled the origins of her Morton’s Neuroma at Roland Garros this week where she’s working for Tennis Channel. “It was actually here at this tournament in 2003,” she said. “I’d had little pains in my left foot and all of a sudden it was getting worse and worse. After a few minutes on court I’d have to take my shoe off on court and it was incredibly painful. I finally got diagnosed, after this tournament, with what was going on and they thought it was a stress fracture and some other stuff. I tried to tough it out four or five more months and it just became too much. I played the entire US Open that year with the doctors numbing my foot just to try and get through it. It was right after the US Open that I had the surgery and started back up again at the (2004) Hopman Cup.
“It’s incredibly painful. For me it was a timing thing. In the beginning it would come in an hour of wearing tennis shoes and then it was 45 minutes, then half an hour and then it was every time I put a tennis shoe on.”
Raonic withdrew from the French Open on Thursday, May 21, the day before the draw was done. “I had surgery on my other foot last October, so eight months ago,” Davenport said. “They have to cut it open, it’s not done arthroscopically. You have a certain incision, whether it’s half an inch or a full inch and mine was a full inch of stitches. (Davenport shows her right foot and there’s a scar on the top of her foot right where it joins with her middle toe.) They didn’t take my stitches out this time for about 19 days. So every doctor’s different, the way they treat it. But, having gone through it, I would be very surprised if he is playing, practicing, able to do all that stuff at 100 per cent for a couple more weeks.
(Raonic had the surgery in Strasbourg, France, and is scheduled to make his comeback at the Queen’s Club event beginning on June 15.)
“He’ll be able to play Wimbledon but I don’t know how hard he’ll be able to train going in,” Davenport said.
“I’m sure he’s doing all the biking and the stuff you can do to get ready, but it’s really tough to put weight on your toes and start changing directions – that’s the last piece of the puzzle. So as sure as I am he’s doing everything else he can to get in shape, obviously you need that to play tennis. But what they allow you to do last is to really get on your toes.”
About the cause of Morton’s Neuroma, Davenport said, “sometimes it’s tight shoe boxes, if you have a wide foot and you’re wearing narrow shoes. Obviously for tennis players in our profession, you’re on your toes and you put your toes towards the front of your foot. You put more weight on that and it starts to inflame the nerve over time. And once the nerve gets inflamed it starts building up this mass or whatever and it keeps getting fired up and inflamed.
“I heard Azarenka had one (Morton’s Neuroma) but I never heard she had surgery.” Davenport is correct, the former No. 1 has had the problem but did not have the operation.
Like Davenport, Raonic knows the extreme pain of the condition. But the good thing is that the surgery should take care of the problem once and for all – at least in his right foot.
Young and old Canadians advance
Vasek Pospisil, 24, and Daniel Nestor, 42, reached the third round of the French Open doubles on Friday with straight-set wins.
Pospisil and Jack Sock, seeded No. 2, beat Robert Lindstedt of Sweden and Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-4, 6-4 while Nestor and Leander Paes navigated a tricky first set before pulling away for a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory over Andre Begemann of Germany and Austrian Julian Knowle.
“It was a lot better this one than the first one, more energy, ready for a battle, ready to play,” Pospisil said comparing Friday to an opening round on Wednesday when Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos and Joao Souza of Brazil took him and Sock to a third-set (7-4) tiebreak. “We still can play better but we played a solid match today overall for sure.”
Pospisil and Sock are just playing in their 10th event together, a partnership that famously began with a Wimbledon title last July. “I wouldn’t say we’re that different – we know each other a little bit better,” Pospisil said about how they may have evolved since then. “It’s still more or less the same team. When we’re playing well and we’re into it and we have the chemistry going, have the energy and the will to win, then we’re a really tough team to beat on any surface. But it’s always tough with the singles as well, always a tough balance.”
Sock, 22, missed the first two months of the season after hip surgery and since then he and Pospisil have just played Indian Wells (title), Miami (runner-up) and Madrid (retire in quarter-finals – Pospisil ankle).
On Court 6 on Friday, it often looked like the younger team just had too much heavy artillery for Lindstedt, who is 38 and Melzer who is 34. They were also enjoying themselves. “The more fun we have the better we’re playing,” Pospisil said, “We’re having fun because it’s a team, it’s not individual so we’re there together. On the changeovers we’re chatting and having fun but when we’re playing it’s down to business. From the get-go when we started, we’re having a lot of fun – but when we’re playing we’re super-focused and we’re competitive and we’re all in.”
On Friday, still getting over the left ankle injury from Madrid, he was wearing ankle braces on both feet. “It’s because,” Pospisil laughs, “I have problems with both ankles. I’ve been putting tape and a brace on my left one but I started getting some muscle tightness and pain on the bottom of my (right) foot. So the physios told me to do one or the other and I chose the brace.”
In the third round, Pospisil/Sock will face the French pairing of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, who are seeded No. 14.
Before that, Sock has an important date in singles when he takes on fast-rising 18-year-old Borna Coric of Croatia in a third-round singles match on Saturday. Sock has yet to reach the fourth round in nine previous Grand Slam appearances.
On Court 3 on Friday, Nestor and Paes got off to a slow start against Begemann and Knowle. Nestor had two break points in the opening game and returned poorly as he did on two more in the third game. But he and Paes finally got the break in the seventh game on their sixth break point only to surrender it when Nestor served for the first set at 5-4.
In the decisive tiebreak, Nestor and Paes got a gift double fault from Begemann on the first point on the way to a 4-0 lead that was never really threatened. The second set was clearer sailing.
Now, after losing four matches in a row on the European clay, Nestor and Paes have strung together two wins.
Against Begemann/Knowle, their exceptional skills around the net – hardly diminished by a combined age of 83 years – were clearly superior to the German/Austrian pair. Paes is still an electrifying athlete when taking the ball out of the air while Nestor has the precise touch of fencing master.
But they remain vulnerable when serving will be severely tested in their next round when they face the reigning Australian Open champions – the funky but often-efficient tandem of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini of Italy.
There will be a lot of firepower on the opposite site of the net and the 10th-seeded Nestor and Paes will need all the grit and savvy if they are to beat the sixth seeds.
Nestor remains in the mixed doubles as well after he and partner Kristina Mladenovic of France edged the French pairing of Mathilde Johansson and Adrian Mannarino by a 4-6, 6-3, [10-8] score in a first-round match later on Friday. Nestor and Mladenovic, who have won two mixed Grand Slam doubles titles – Wimbledon in 2013 and the Australian Open in 2014 – are the sixth seeds.
Mladenovic, an upset winner over Genie Bouchard in the first round of singles last Tuesday, is into the third round of singles and will play Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck on Saturday.
A peeping Tom
Arguably, the very best moments at a professional tennis tournament are when a match reaches its climax and throngs of people try to get into the court to watch its denouement. That was the situation on Thursday on Court 7 at Roland Garros when two Aussies, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Bernard Tomic, played a thriller “extra-innings” five-setter. Kokkinakis prevailed 3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 8-6 in front on a jammed packed crowd that was very pro the 19-year-old from Adelaide.
Yours truly managed to get a vantage point on a staircase behind the court but, as you can see in the picture above with Kokkinakis at the far end in the penultimate game, it was a decidedly restricted view.
Paris… Paris… Paris…
Every year thousands of people pass by the Boulangerie Bonneau on avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil on their way to Roland Garros. A week ago, during the qualifying, this woman was adding a playful artistic touch to the shop’s front window.
NOTE: Our blog will return Monday.