TEBBUTT: MILOS – SADLY FULL CIRCLE
After a runner-up finish at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris two weeks ago, hopes were high as Milos Raonic entered his first ATP World Tour Finals in London this week.
He was beaten in his first two matches and did not play well, but still his 6-1, 7-6(0) loss to Roger Federer and his 6-3, 7-5 defeat by Andy Murray were the two most competitive matches on a first three days of deadly one-sided results.
Unfortunately, before he got a chance to play his third match on Thursday against Kei Nishikori, with still a faint hope that he could qualify for the semi-finals, he had to withdraw because of right quadriceps tear.
So a year that began at the Australian Open (above) when he tore a tendon just above his left ankle – which eventually kept him out of action after Melbourne Park for six weeks until Indian Wells in March – ends with another setback.
Throw in a virus that diminished him for three tournaments in the autumn ATP season beginning at the Masters 1000 in Shanghai through the Basel ATP 500 event, and Raonic certainly left some ranking points (at tournaments) on the table.
He said the problem with his quadricep first cropped up late in the first set of his match with Murray on Tuesday. “To be honest,” he said, “it originally felt like cramping. Then I only had more of an idea of what it was when I sat down on the changeover and then had to stand up.”
Sometimes thorough to a fault, during a media conference before David Ferrer replaced him in the afternoon match against Nishikori, Raonic explained that his injury is “a slight tear on the vastus medialis on my quad – just a large area of swelling, about five centimeters long, three centimeters wide, and one centimeter deep of swelling and bleeding.”
Raonic appeared determined to show that the injury is a genuine concern but, after what happened at the beginning of the year when a seemingly harmless tear in his lower leg led to an extended period of inactivity after affecting him during a four-set loss to Grigor Dimitrov in the third round at the Aussie Open, caution has to be the watchword.
“What I was consistently told with this is if I was to step out on court, I’d sort of be walking a tightrope where I can play obviously not at 100%, but with a significant risk of losing up to six to eight weeks if things go badly,” he said.
“So losing six to eight weeks of solely rehab sort of means you lose 12 weeks of getting back into shape and everything, those are definitely significant factors in my decision.
“I didn’t want to accept it and listen to it. But it is what it is. I, alongside my team, all the staff with the ATP, made the best decision.”
Daniel Nestor, 42, has been competing in ATP events dating back 25 years to 1989. He said the following about his Davis Cup teammate’s injury, “it’s never great, I don’t think there was that much at stake for him. He couldn’t qualify and he’s got to take care of his body. He wants to be a top-five player again next year, hopefully higher for his sake, and there’s no sense taking any chances when you’re him.”
So Raonic’s 2014 is over and he summed it up quite well when he said, “the year was consistent. I wish I would have had a few more breakthrough moments throughout the year. But I feel like I did a good job in giving myself an opportunity to do well and to pretty much play every weekend of the big tournaments that I entered. So, I’m happy with that. I know it’s only going to get better.”
The highlights of his fourth full year on tour included reaching his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon (losing to Federer), winning his first ATP 500 title (over Vasek Pospisil in Washington), and reaching an impressive seven quarter-finals of Masters 1000 events – including the final in Paris (Djokovic) and the semi-finals in Cincinnati (Federer) and Rome (Djokovic). (And it might have been eight of the nine if he hadn’t been ill in Shanghai.)
His match record for 2014 was 49-20 and he earned $3.23 million (US) in official prize money.
As he noted, he was very consistent – through the US Open the only ‘bad losses’ he had were to No. 62-ranked Carlos Berlocq in Oeiras, Portugal, in May and No. 120 Peter Gojowczyk in Halle in June.
He only played two Davis Cup matches (after being hurt in Tokyo in early February), but defeated Colombians Alejandro Gonzalez and Santiago Giraldo in Halifax in September to help maintain Canada’s World Group position for 2015.
Not least of all, he finally beat one of the big three of Novak Djokovic-Rafael Nadal-Federer when he outplayed Federer 7-6(5), 7-5 in the Paris indoor quarter-finals two weeks ago.
Next month on December 27th, when he blows out the candles on his 24th birthday cake, Raonic will be wishing for a little more luck when it comes to health and fitness in 2015.
Despite everything, he will end 2014 ranked No. 8, which means he has gone from No. 13 (2012) to No. 11 (2013) to No. 8 (2014).
That’s progress, but he will certainly want a more significant jump next year as he enters the prime years of his professional tennis career.
NESTOR – ZIMONJIC FINISH ON WINNING NOTE
The Daniel Nestor – Nenad Zimonjic partnership that has produced three Grand Slam titles and two ATP World Tour Finals championships came to an end on a winning note on Thursday when they defeated Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez of Spain 6-7(5), 6-3, 11-9 in the final match of round-robin action.
Splitting again for 2015 after re-uniting for the 2014 season, the No. 3-ranked Zimonjic and No. 4-ranked Nestor new that the loss of the first set against the Spaniards meant they could not qualify for the semi-final phase of the event after having lost their first two matches.
It was Nestor’s best match of the week, and he was definitely the more solid player, something that had not always been the case in earlier straight-set losses at the O2 Arena to Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo last Sunday and to Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin on Tuesday.
Nestor and Zimonjic broke Granollers in the opening game and led 3-0 in the first set before Zimonjic played a sloppy game to lose serve in the sixth game.
In the tiebreak that would eventually decide the set, Nestor-Zimonjic led 4-3 and Nestor hit a very aggressive, deep service return. Granollers pulled of a semi-circus shot – wheeling around and clocking an inside-in forehand that flashed past Zimonjic.
The second set was basically all Nestor-Zimonjic. They led 4-1 when Lopez strained his left thigh and had treatment at the changeover.
At times it seemed to be bothering the diminutive (5-foot-9) Spaniard but, after losing the second set, he and Granollers rolled to an 8-3 lead in the match tiebreak. Things looked bleak for Nestor-Zimonjic but they took advantage of some sketchy play by their opponents and won five points in a row to even things at 8-8. The Spaniards had a match point at 9-8 but Lopez misfired with a forehand return into the net off a Nestor second serve.
The end then came quickly, and appropriately, considering all the success Nestor and Zimonjic have had since first joining forces in 2007. First Nestor dispatched a backhand volley winner through the middle for 10-9 and then Zimonjic struck a forehand cross-court volley winner for the match.
Nestor and Zimonjic shared $76,000 (US) for being part of the eight-team field and divided $30,000 for the match win – sending Nestor home to Toronto with a tidy sum of $53,000. They also received 200 ATP ranking points.
“We knew after the first set (that they could not qualify for the semis) but at the same time there’s still points at stake and we wanted to finish the year strong,” Nestor said. “I thought I was playing well and “Ziggy” was playing well, too, and we were a bit unlucky not to win the first.
“The turning point of the match – of our (WTF) chances – was that 4-3 point in the first set tiebreak. I thought I hit a good return and I followed it in and Granollers hit a (February, 2013, Vancouver) ‘Dancevic Davis Cup-like’ shot and just ripped it down the line for a winner. When someone hits that kind of shot you just tip your hat.
“I played much better,” he said about his form on Thursday. “I thought everything was really solid. The first match (a loss to Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo)…I’ve been trying to do some different things with my second serve and under pressure, when you’re not that confident, it’s never a good thing. I kind of gave that match away on two shots: The double fault, and I hit a couple of good shots on a break point and I had a very easy backhand – not to hit a winner but to make them play – and I missed it. That was basically our tournament right there. I thought the French guys (Benneteau and Roger-Vasselin in the second match) played well. I played better than in the first match but they were just a better team that day.
“Today, I thought they played really well, especially at the end. In the tiebreaker, we played well together, perhaps more than the whole tournament. There were times when he (Zimonjic) was playing well and me not so well, and maybe more today when I was playing well and maybe him not at his best. That’s how it is…that’s doubles.”
About the Lopez injury, Nestor said, “I don’t think it affected their game, considering they were up in the (match) tiebreaker and playing really well.”
So now Nestor turns his focus to 2015 and teaming up with 34-year-old (No. 30-ranked) Rohan Bopanna of India. “Yes,” Nestor affirmed about that partnership for next year.
He admitted there had been another possibility. “I thought about Melo (the 31-year-old Brazilian who ranks No. 10) and he expressed some interest to play with me,” he said. “It’s never an easy choice. You don’t know until you play with someone. The matches that I played with Rohan so far (1-3 at Winston Salem, Basel and Paris), he’s played very well. I haven’t played well enough. I played well in Paris the first match that we won but the other matches I haven’t played a great level. I need to pick up my game and then we’ll see what happens.”
After a brief stay in Toronto, Nestor will be off to Asia to play in the new International Premier Tennis League. “I’m going to Asia for team tennis. I’m playing for Manila for two and a half weeks. It’ll be something to try. I’m sure it’ll be fun, there are a lot of good players playing. My off-season is going to be shorter, but one good thing is the season starts later next year – it starts well into January. Leaving Christmas Eve this year as opposed to December 30th for next year is a big difference.
He will be on the Manila Mavericks (Dirk Nowitzki is not a teammate). Some big-name players will be making cameos for the ‘Mavs.’ “Andy Murray is playing in Manila, that’s the time when he’s playing for us,” Nestor said. “Tsonga’s playing, Sharapova also just in Manila, Flipkens and Treat Huey (an American who ranks No. 51 in doubles), who’s from the Philippines.”
With typical Nestor humour he added about Huey, “so I might be on the bench the first few days.”
DANCING ON THE JOB
These two sales persons/greeters work at the Reiss boutique on the Kings Road in Chelsea. One afternoon this week they could be seen dancing together at the entrance to the store. When asked to re-create the scene by a Canadian reporter – they obliged.
Christmas is approaching and this window at the Peter Jones department store is attracting a lot of lookers – including this young girl who had an amusing reaction for her mother.