June 18, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Milos Raonic back on the grass – with a win

After taking a pass on the clay-court season, Canadian Milos Raonic is back, on the grass where he’s had plenty of success in his career.

Raonic took the court Tuesday against No. 8 seed Jordan Thompson of Australia not having played since he withdrew from Indian Wells in early March, following a first-round win over Sumit Nagal during which he struggled with a leg strain.

He served lights-out. And despite a medical time out to have his back treated, he got through 6-3, 6-4 and moves on. Next up – assuming he can get out of bed tomorrow – is either Roberto Bautista Agut or qualifier Marc-Andrea Huesler.

Back at Indian Wells, Raonic had been drawn to play Rafael Nadal in the first round. But Nadal pulled out and he ended up against the Indian Nagal, whom he was able to beat in straight sets, even through a rain delay, basically on one leg after a feeling a tweak early on.

He went out to warm up for the prospective second-round match against Rune. But he knew. “The way the last two tournaments I played this year finished (a retirement in the first round of the Australian Open against Alex de Minaur, and a retirement early in the second set against Jannik Sinner in Rotterdam), I personally didn’t want to go through that again,” he told Open Court back then.

Raonic admitted that with having the goal to play the Olympics this year, he might have been coming back a bit too soon in Australia. “So maybe I carried something with me knowing that I wouldn’t play most of clay, pretty much, originally.

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“I was like, ‘Okay, get through these first few months, try to play well, see what I can do in terms of getting my ranking back up and hopefully winning as many matches as possible’. So maybe I just chased one thing a little too quickly,” Raonic said. “Now I’ll just take a bit more time, give my body a chance to reset and then regroup and whatever that is that I’ll be ready, but definitely have more time on my schedule to start fresh.”

The Olympic tennis event will be played on the same courts in Paris just worn out by three weeks at Roland Garros.

But there was never really plan to play on the clay even though Raonic, with a protected ranking of No. 33, can aim for the Olympics.

(Kidding, it’s not grass; they won’t wear out).

Since he’s been out a little more than three months, the protected ranking gets frozen and he can still use it.

But the interim hasn’t exactly gone as planned.

Eye surgery postponed

Raonic had plans, through the spring, to finally get pterygia in both his eyes taken care of.

Pterygia, also called “surfer’s eye”, aren’t as rare as you might think – especially among people and athletes who spend a lot of time in the sun and don’t wear protective eyewear

That last part basically applies to … 99.9% of tennis players.

From memory, Jennifer Capriati and Mary Pierce are among the pro players I can recall who had to deal with it.

It is mostly a bit unseemly, and uncomfortable, as though you always have something in your eye. But it can get more serious with time and can affect your vision.

The problem is the surgery is … something else. Basically one of the options involves pretty much scraping it off your eye. That’s probably as barbaric as it sounds. And it often doesn’t prevent them from coming back.

As Raonic described it back in March, you can’t see for a few days afterwards because the eye is covered. And then you can’t get dust or sweat in the eye for a month afterwards.

And the Canadian was planning on having them both done. So he was looking at 4-5 weeks off.

“I have some things that I need to get off the checklist that it seems like the right time. And then it looks like I will be in that sense, eligible again for the Olympics,” Raonic said at Indian Wells.

Except … Raonic never ended up having the surgery.

As he told Open Court a few weeks ago, one of the eyes (the worse of the two) was too red and inflamed. So the doctor wanted him to take drops for 4-6 weeks to get that inflammation down – and stay out of the sun – before they did the procedure.

Given the clock is ticking for that Raonic wants to accomplish this year, he decided to postpone it entirely – for now. Raonic was been out getting in shape for the grass, training with sunglasses.

He looked just fine on the grass Tuesday against Thompson, except for the fairly intricate tape job around his right knee – and a stop to get his back worked on. He wasn’t wearing eye protection.

But there’s always something with him, as we know.

Raonic defeated Thompson in Miami back in 2021. A year ago – also in ‘s-Hertogenbosch – Thompson beat Raonic 7-6 (4), 6-1 in the second round.

It was Raonic’s first tournament in nearly two years – since the Atlanta hard-court event in July 2021.

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