July 12, 2024

Open Court


Canadian in Cincy No. 2: Raonic the opposite of COVID-casual



Milos Raonic – he of the famously soigné coiffure – hasn’t set foot in a hair salon since before he left for the Australian Open in January.

(As an editorial aside, we’re twins that way – eight months, and counting).

The results are evident for all to see, with the 29-year-old Canadian paying  super-sized homage to his Davis Cup captain, Frank Dancevic, upon his return to the match court Saturday in the US Open bubble.

Back in the day, Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank (The Tank) Dancevic modelled the moppy-bandanna look.

It was an impressive return for someone who didn’t play any of the exhibition events during the shutdown. (Raonic had originally signed on for World Team Tennis, then reconsidered).

(Stats: TennisTV)

He squared off against fellow big server Sam Querrey and came away with a 6-4, 6-4 victory in a match that didn’t feature a single rally above eight shots. Raonic – who averaged 133 mph on his first serve and 115 mph on his second – had 19 aces in defeating Querrey for the fifth straight time.

As returns go, the circumstances were good even if Querrey had been more battle-tested in playing both the Atlanta exhibition and World Team Tennis.

Caution the Raonic priority during COVID times

Raonic’s overarching priority during the shutdown was staying safe. Not so much for himself, but for others – mostly his parents.

“I was really cautious. We had about six people in our group. I would have gotten a haircut. I just felt – especially because I was hoping to go see my parents for a day – I felt like it would have been a little bit negligent, so I had to put all those things aside,” he said.

Almost exactly six years ago, we put together this Milos hair retrospective.

East coast, west coast … Bahamas

The Canadian spent the majority of the time in Florida, partly on the east coast and then a period at the Saddlebrook resort outside Tampa, Fla. – depending on what the county-by-county shutdown rules were in Florida at the time.

Raonic kept the same bubble around him. He didn’t pass judgment on some his fellow ATPers who tempted fate with their cavalier behaviour. But it wasn’t going to be him.

“My motivation was plain and simple. It’s my parents. I’m not sure what the ages are of the other players’ parents, those people that are closest to them. Both my parents, being over 65, and also having pre-existing conditions, for me — I haven’t seen my father this year at all,” Raonic said. “I saw my mom for I think a day and a half after the Australian Open. For me it was important that I got to see them, but I was also very motivated to stay smart and healthy because of them.

“So I can’t really comment too much on what other players are doing. I understand it can be tough, but I had a clear idea of why I was doing it.”

Private lodging for Team Raonic

Some of the coaches and entourages took advantage of the loosening of the restrictions to go commando during matches Saturday. But Raonic coach Mario Tudor remained masked up throughout (TennisTV.com)

For precisely those reasons, Raonic was one of the players who opted for private housing at the US Open (one of eight, we’re told, three of them on the ATP side).

He’s a player who has spent a lot of time in New York City, and has always maximized everything the city has to offer.

But not this time.

“I can only control myself while I’m here in this bubble. I have elected to sort of follow the rules and follow them maybe to a little bit of an extreme. I’m not really spending any time with other players, not seeing anybody,” Raonic said.

As a seeded player at the US Open, he also has access to one of the sponsor suites to set up headquarters.

“I only go in the locker room for a quick 10-minute shower after practice and I leave. I have elected not to stay at the hotel. All these kind of things, again, for myself, for my girlfriend who also is a little bit more exposed, but also for my parents,” he said.

Raonic masks up as he leaves the court, following his win over Sam Querrey. (TennisTV.com)

“It’s something that I’m going to continue to do. Not just here because it’s a part of the program but French Open, Rome, whichever tournaments are coming up in the future. Whatever the conditions may be, it’s something that I have committed to and I’m prepared to follow through with.”

Replicating his injury layoffs

Raonic also took a comprehensive approach to training during a shutdown.

More than a lot of players, he’s used to having to stop for long periods and then start again, because he’s had a lot of injuries during his career.

So he knows what to do.

Which doesn’t make it any easier.

After taking 10 days off when Indian Wells was first cancelled, he broke up the time into six-week training blocks.

The fully Mllos Monty, during his post-match Zoom press conference.

Six weeks on, two weeks off. Another six weeks on, another two weeks off and then another six weeks leading into the US Open bubble events.

“At the beginning I was in Florida for most of it. I was trying to get down to the Bahamas, but couldn’t due to their shutdown. I couldn’t go back to Toronto. My parents are a little bit on the older side, so I didn’t want to get close to them,” he said.

As soon as the Bahamas opened up, Raonic was there for the last two months. By the end, he had countrymen Denis Shapovalov and Peter Polansky, and Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman to practice with.

“I’m happy with how everything went. It got me really motivated. I’m happy with where I am now and I hope I can keep it going,” he said.

Doubles with Raonic and Felix

On Sunday, Raonic will team up with young countryman Félix Auger-Aliassime on the doubles court, for the first time ever.

Five years ago in Montreal, as Félix Auger-Aliassime was just turning 15, he warmed up Raonic before a match at the Rogers Cup.

They’ll play Nicholas Mahut of France and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany.

In the second round of singles, Raonic will face the winner between hard-hitting No. 10 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia and the crafty Dan Evans of Great Britain. They play Sunday in what could be must-see TV.


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