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Canadian fans hold up oversized photographs of Canada's Milos Raonic (DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press)
Canadian fans hold up oversized photographs of Canada's Milos Raonic (DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press)

DAILY GRIND

Dowbiggin: Can’t expect Raonic to carry Canada forever Add to ...

Canadian fans are going to have to get used to Milos Raonic serving high, hard ones on and off the court. His impressive singles wins this weekend (that keeps Canada steaming ahead at the Davis Cup) makes him the face of his sport in the country. Call him the Mike Weir of tennis.

His booming serve put Canada in a place it hasn’t been in men’s tennis in a century (in the Davis Cup semifinals, facing Novak Djokovic and Serbia). Raonic has put Canada on a new platform.

Question is, how soon can Canada get a replacement? As he rises in the world ranks, Raonic will be like other stars, parachuted in for the big Davis Cup matches, not the round of 32 versus Ecuador. Djokovic doesn’t do the grunt work. Neither will Raonic.

In future, someone will have to win the grunt games. Who will it be? Perhaps someone in the crowd at UBC yesterday. But he better get here quick, because Raonic won’t carry the nation alone that much longer. That’s the exciting and daunting prospect for Tennis Canada.

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Raonic’s service game speaks for itself. So does Raonic, as we saw in his goofy post-match interview with Sportsnet’s Arash Madani on Sunday. If Raonic’s serve was as wonky as his sense of humour, Canada wouldn’t be heading anywhere in the tennis world.

Raonic put his arm around Madani, saying the reporter had helped him. Then he said Madani hadn’t helped him. Later, after the 22-year-old had joked he was lousy at history, he said Madani mustn’t have been good at math in school.

There were wonderful moments of humility and determination from Raonic, too (“Let’s keep this going. We can do better”). And he is still very young. But it was a little jarring seeing Canada’s newest household name get all John Tortorella on a reporter. (Sportsnet has tidied up the interview on its website. )

On-court interviews in tennis have become part of the product lately, with Novak Djokovic and Sloane Stephens kibitzing or weeping for the cameras.

Madani, who says he’s friendly with Raonic, said the postgame persona is just Milos’ way of keeping up with the tour’s current off-court style. “It’s fine. He likes being a showman for the crowd,” Madani said in an email. “Part of the ongoing narrative when he’s on the big screen on-court in Canada.” He was big in every way on Sunday.

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Johnny Esaw would have enjoyed the Davis Cup scene. He loved a great promotion. Most Canadians of a certain age will remember Esaw as the man holding the microphone in 1972 as Phil Esposito chastised Canadians for booing Team Canada in its epic Summit Series with the USSR.

But Esaw was much more, a pioneer in the field of sports media properties. As he explained one day as we toured his home golf course at Weston in Toronto, he brought Wide World of Sports to the new CTV Network because of a favour he’d done for ABC broadcast legend Roone Arledge.

Esaw had purchased rights to the 1960 World Figure Skating Championships in Vancouver when no one else would. Arledge remembered the favour, and WWS became a gift from Arledge and a staple of Canadian broadcasting. Remember cliff diving?

Esaw also pioneered live broadcasting at the Indy 500 in 1977 (ABC didn’t go live till 1986), was the face of the CFL on CTV till 1986 and hosted the historic ‘72 Summit series. He was the most famous TV sports face in Canada this side of Hockey Night In Canada.

The North Battleford, Sask., native passed away at 87, a Member of the Order of Canada, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame and the Canadian Football Reporters Hall of Fame. And he could tell a story.

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@dowbboy Settled in to watch how James Hinchcliffe follows up his Indy Car win at St. Petersburg. Lasts 1 lap in Alabama. Wonder what else is on TV?

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What could be more affirming for a family than a movie about their famous father? Apparently, not the family of former NFL legend Johnny Unitas. His son Joe is producing a movie about the legendary Baltimore Colts QB. Joe Unitas wants to have Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco play Unitas in the film.

Problem is that his half brother John Jr. (one of five products of Unitas’ first marriage) is not quire so enamoured of the idea of “Unitas We Stand”..

“ It is awful . The guy’s a t**d,” John Jr. told USA TODAY . “He never talked to me. He never talked to any of the first five children. He’s a guy that’s just making money off of my father.”

Grandson J.C. Unitas, a former collegiate QB, is similarly unimpressed by the Flacco casting. “My grandfather and his legacy deserves only the best, and this is not it,” J.C. said. “Has Baltimore forgotten that Trent Dilfer also won a Super Bowl while playing for Baltimore?”

dowbboy@shaw.ca / @dowbboy

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