The Milos Raonic – Ryan Harrison match was unfolding as it should. There was a close first set with Raonic prevailing in the tiebreak – just the way a player who has been as high as No. 4 and currently ranks No. 6 should win against someone who’s No. 120 and whose best ranking has been No. 43 (in 2012).

The way Harrison sort of capitulated in the tiebreak – hitting a second serve way long to double fault on the ultimate set point seemed to confirm that the Raonic pedigree would be the telling factor in their second-round match at the US Open on Wednesday.

But no one could have known what came next – as Raonic would later reveal. After dropping the second set, when he rallied from 2-5 to 5-all before losing it 7-5, Raonic seemed to have restored order in the third set after a long Harrison bathroom break. He broke the 24-year-old American in the first game and soon led 4-2.


There had been treatment for what looked like a wrist injury when he led 2-1 but all seemed good until he made a strange movement after a long service game that got Harrison back to 4-3 on serve.


Raonic got a second treatment, this time for his left thigh and from that point on it was clear that he was a wounded warrior, that he couldn’t bend and flex as he normally would and that playing the way he usually does was no longer possible.

He soldiered on but it was painful to watch and Harrison pulled out the third set and then basically put it on cruise control against a diminished version of the world No. 6 in the fourth set. The final score was 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1.

At his post-match media conference, Raonic said that cramps began “halfway through the second set.”

He then proceeded to be very candid about possible reasons for the problem. “A little bit of stress,” he said. “I don’t think it was a hydration issue. I always take that precaution. Probably just nerves and stress – a mental sort of over-exuberance.”

It turned out the cramps were not just in the left thigh, as he explained: “the left arm, the right forearm towards the end of the third (set), both quads and a little bit of hip flexor on the left.”


Asked if he could have maxed out on treatment or anything else that might have helped, he said, “(the) sort of really painful cramps started to pass at some point in the third set but then I started getting small ones where I couldn’t hold the racquet. I couldn’t switch grips from one shot to the next. There were a few points where I would hold the racquet with my left and try stretching out my right hand in between shots – and that’s not going to work.”

Regarding any history of cramping, Raonic insisted, “I can’t recall a single time when I lost a match because of cramping.”

He also couldn’t think of anything he could have done to combat the cramping. “Everything I do I do with very careful, as much as possible, calculation,” he said. “I count how many glasses of water I drink. I pay attention to what I eat, what I consume, what going to be good for me. How much before I consume it. All these things.”

There will definitely now be speculation about whether Raonic is simply putting too much pressure on himself – probably starting with the high-profile hiring of John McEnroe as a consulting coach before and during this year’s Wimbledon.

Then just on Monday, Raonic contributed to The Players’ Tribune – a site founded by retired baseball star Derek Jeter – and wrote the following:

And that’s why this year’s U.S. Open is one of the most important tournaments of my career.

I have to bring mental intensity from the first day of the draw. When I watched a replay of the (Wimbledon) semifinal match against Federer, I felt like I was putting every ounce of energy into it, and that showed in my play. But I could see a big difference in my on-court intensity between the final and the semifinal — it was absent in big moments against Murray. I kept those emotions bottled up, and I never let them out. That’s the biggest regret I have from what otherwise was a huge moment in my career.


It appears he may have to have a bit of a re-think after the disappointment of Wednesday in the new Grandstand stadium, which incidentally was only about half full (over 8,000 seats) in the early part of the match but was overflowing with standing room only by the end (above).

Earlier this week this reporter was having a conversation about Dalibor Sirola, Raonic’s fitness coach, with someone who suggested that he was the best in the business – emphasizing training routines and exercises that were specifically geared toward Raonic’s movements on the tennis court. And if there is one thing many observers agree on it is that his footwork and speed have noticeably improved this year.


You had to feel for Sirola – in the middle above between coach Carlos Moya on the left and physio Claudio Zimaglia on the right. He had surely done all he could to have Raonic as fit as possible.

So the 2016 Grand Slam season is over for Raonic and he will think of what might have been. At the Australian Open in January, he suffered a right adductor tear in the third set of a semifinal match he would lead two sets to one before fading in the fourth and fifth against Andy Murray. That injury ruined what was arguably Raonic’s finest tennis of the whole year.

At the French Open, he injured his left hip in a third-round match against Andrej Martin of Slovakia and then went out in the round-of-16 to Carlos Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets.

He appeared healthy all through Wimbledon on his way to reaching the final against Murray (beating Roger Federer in the semifinals) but now the US Open is over for him because of another physical issue.

The good news for Canadian tennis is that he should definitely be ready for the Davis Cup World Group play-off to be held in Halifax from September 16-18. Asked if Davis Cup was next for him, he answered in the affirmative “yes.”

In the Players’ Tribune piece, Raonic began by writing the following about his conversation with McEnroe during a rain delay when he trailed David Goffin by two sets in their round-of-16 match at Wimbledon in July:

“Show me you have balls!”

John McEnroe screamed that at me in the little locker room behind No. 2 Court at Wimbledon.

I had never heard anybody doubt my intensity before.

On Wednesday, he was asked if McEnroe might have been able to inspire him through his travails against Harrison (about whom it should be said that he played better than many people might have expected) if the 57-year-old American legend had been permitted to talk with him.

“I don’t believe so,” Raonic said. “I was my own worst enemy today. I tried my best to find my way out of it. My body wouldn’t let me.”

In hindsight, the Players’ Tribune contribution by Raonic was probably ill-timed, particularly with the way he ended it, writing: “I arrive in New York, there’s one thing that keeps me going: I hate losing. I can never really find a way to accept it. I can be sportsmanlike about it but I can’t find a way to accept it.

“That’s the message I’m going to send.”

Pospisil beaten by Anderson


The new Grandstand stadium at the US Open has not been welcoming to Canadians with Genie Bouchard, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil all exiting this year’s US Open in the confines of that new arena.

Pospisil, playing right before Raonic on Wednesday, was beaten 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-4 by No. 23 seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa.

The match was competitive in the first set with Pospisil breaking serve in the opening game, hitting a nice backhand passing shot winner on break point.

It couldn’t have been more promising for the No. 123-ranked Canadian except that Anderson broke back in the very next game and from there it went on serve to a tiebreak.

Similar to the beginning of the match, Pospisil got a mini-break on the first point of the tiebreak only to have Anderson win the next two points on his way to winning five points in a row. Pospisil will regret a badly missed forehand on the second point and another at the end of a long rally that gave Anderson a 5-1 lead. The tiebreak ended 7-3 and on a hot (more than 30 degrees) day, specifically with high humidity, it was probably vital for Pospisil to take the opening set.

Anderson broke serve for a 3-2 lead in the second set and twice more in the third before Pospisil got a break back to 3-5. But it was too late even if the sometimes nervy Anderson did double fault on consecutive match points leading 40-15 (double match point) in the final game.


“I felt the difference today was his serving and my lack of (good) serving,” Pospisil said afterward. “I wasn’t serving the way I should be or even the way I served in the first round. Even when I made a first serve, it wasn’t zipping through the court and he (Anderson) was putting me under pressure.”

Pospisil only made 50 per cent of his first serves to 56 per cent for Anderson. The 6-foot-8 South African had more break points with 15 (converting four) to just four (converting two) for Pospisil. Overall the winners to unforced errors ratio was not one-sided – Anderson was 37/30 while Pospisil was 32/28.

It was odd that Pospisil only served-and-volleyed twice – winning one of them – and that could possibly be due to the heavy, humid conditions. A year ago he was wracked by cramps in a first-round loss to Andreas Haider-Maurer in similar weather and he said about Wednesday’s conditions, “it was a lot worse than I expected and I sweated through 10 shirts.”

Asked point blank if the humidity had affected him, he answered not so coyly, “possibly.”


So now Pospisil will move on to Davis Cup versus Chile in Halifax in two weeks before playing a fall schedule that will include major ATP events in Beijing and Shanghai. He said he prefers to play qualifying for the main ATP tour events as opposed to playing Challengers. “I want to play qualies of ATP tournaments to pick up my level,” he said, “and I want to be playing ATP events when that happens.”

He will hook up with former coach Fred Niemeyer – still a Tennis Canada coach – for the Asia tournaments before settling on a replacement.

“I’m going to take my time,” the 26-year-old from Vancouver said. “It’s an important time in my career. The best years are right now and ahead of me. I already have some options on the table. I want to make a decision on a coach going into the off-season so that I can work with them and be able to start off strong in 2017.”

US Open Final Shot


This might look like a random shot of spectators at the US Open – but a closer look in the background reveals 2009 US Open sensation Melanie Oudin, now 24, with what appears to be her boyfriend.