He still has the big serve and the bright future. But his immediate future is now the Davis Cup, not the Australian Open.
After losing to Roger Federer in the fourth round of tennis’ first major, Milos Raonic will arrive in Vancouver this weekend to prepare for Canada’s Davis Cup World Group tie against Spain, scheduled for Feb. 1-3 at UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
The world’s 15th-ranked player, Raonic will be named to the team announced Tuesday by team captain Martin Laurendeau, who was courtside in Melbourne to watch Federer dust the young Canadian from Thornhill, Ont., 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 Monday to reach the quarter-finals of a major for the 35th straight time.
Raonic, 22, played with some pain in his left foot against Federer, and said he wasn’t sure if he could take the court against the Swiss maestro, an hour before the match.
"I rushed out to get a quick MRI on my foot," he told reporters.
Later, in a teleconference from Melbourne, he played down the injury and said he doesn’t expect it will be an issue when he trains in Vancouver.
"The foot is good," Raonic said. "It’s just pain from use. It was really nothing until 48 hours ago. There’s nothing there to affect my participation in the (Davis Cup) matches. I’ll be there, if called upon. I just need a few days to maximize my treatment (physiotherapy) to make it go away and get well."
Another Canadian player dealing with health issues is Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil, who is back in training after recovering from a bout of mononucleosis contracted in mid-December. He would be Canada’s No. 2 player against Spain, even though Raonic and Jesse Levine of Ottawa are ahead of him in the ATP rankings. Levine, who moved to Florida when he was 13, applied to the International Tennis Federation in December to be reinstated as a Canadian, but ITF rules mandate a required waiting period before the application is approved and he is ineligible to play against Spain. Levine, 88th in the ATP rankings, lost to Frenchman Gilles Simon in the second round of the Australian Open.
"Right now, I feel fine," said Pospisil, No. 127 on the ATP list. "I don’t want to jinx myself, but the recovery has been good. I’ve been back on the courts for almost two weeks now. Mono can be pretty serious, and I take it seriously. But my energy is coming back, and I feel well enough to play."
Also expected to arrive in Vancouver sooner than he would have hoped is Toronto’s Daniel Nestor, the 40-year-old doubles specialist who suffered his earliest loss at the Australian Open since 2009 when he and new partner Mahesh Bhupathi fell 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini in the fourth round.
In diagnosing what went wrong for him against Federer, Raonic deflected the issue of foot pain and heaped all the credit on the extraordinary talents of the 31-year-old Swiss. Federer has the toughest draw in the tournament — he meets Jo Wilfred Tsonga in the quarter-finals, and possibly Andy Murray in the semis, if both advance that far — but he is the only player so far not lose when serving in Melbourne.
Before he faced Raonic, Federer gave another lesson to 20-year-old Bernard Tomic, Australia’s coming big talent, in the third round.
"I don’t think it (the foot) had a part in the result," Raonic said. "I really think it was Roger playing well, and me not being where I needed to be. I made too many errors. In no way was it connected to my foot. Roger, for sure, can win this tournament (Federer holds a record 17 major titles). He’s making 31 just look like a number. He’s doing it better than anybody else."
At six feet five inches, Raonic isn’t the tallest player on tour, but he is a candidate for the ATP’s most intimidating player because of his ace-inducing serve. Yet, as Federer exposed, there are other areas of his game which need further improvement before he can crash his way into the company of the game’s elite. Raonic is now 0-4 lifetime against Federer. The disappointing aspect of the most recent meeting is that it was the least competitive. All three previous matches went the distance in a best two-of-three format.
"I need to get fitter, quicker and keep improving various aspects of my game," Raonic said. "Every athlete has great days, terrible days and OK days. A lot of those things are out of your control. All you can do is try and give 100 per cent. Playing at a high level, week in and week out, is the goal. I need to incorporate more consistency into my game." You can’t ask for a better example of it than the enduring tennis played by Roger Federer.
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