A potentially epic Canadian tennis match has been scuttled as young star Milos Raonic pulls out of the Davis Cup because of a knee injury.
An air of mystery cloaked the last-minute announcement on early Sunday afternoon in Vancouver, as No 29-ranked Raonic had been set to battle No. 6-ranked Frenchman Jo-Wilfriend Tsonga in a key Davis Cup match at 2 p.m. PT. It was a must-win for Canada, with its biggest star in the spotlight, the team down 2-1 to France in the best-of-five competition.
Interview requests by reporters for Raonic were refused, even as spokespeople for Tennis Canada wanted the 21-year-old to appear to clear the air. “We’re just worried about the match today,” said Graham Cross, agent for Raonic.
Cross was mostly evasive when questioned by The Globe on Sunday at Thunderbird Arena at University of British Columiba, walking away and typing on his BlackBerry through the short interview near the court.
With Sunday’s anticipated match scratched, Raonic’s status for this week’s SAP Open in San Jose is unknown. He had been set to defend his first title on the Association of Tennis Professionals tour, starting with an exhibition doubles match on Monday night partnered with American tennis legend John McEnroe. Raonic was scheduled to fly on Monday morning.
Cross, in brief answers, said the prospects for San Jose were “day by day.” Other tennis commentators said Sunday it was hard to imagine Raonic playing in San Jose after deciding to not play for Canada.
The problem was Raonic’s knee was also unclear. On Saturday, with Canada tied 1-1 with France after Raonic’s big win in singles on Friday, Raonic was subbed in to play doubles with Daniel Nestor, hoping to gain an unlikely 2-1 lead. But the duo didn’t gel and the French won in straight sets. However, there was no indication Raonic was hurt in the match. On Saturday after Canada lost, Raonic said he was “anxious to play and excited to play” Tsonga.
Raonic met with doctors later Saturday “regarding some pain in my knee,” according to a statement distributed by Tennis Canada on Sunday. Raonic said that extensive talks led doctors to the conclusion that “it is not in my best interest to play [Sunday]”
“We are continuing to explore the reasoning behind the pain, and taking it day by day,” said Raonic in the statement.
The press release described the knee injury as “minor.”
Asked what medical treatment Raonic is seeking, CT scans and such, Cross refused to answer, saying “that’s between us.”
Without Raonic, Canada’s time in the top-tier of the Davis Cup is likely over on Sunday. It is just the fourth time ever, and first time in eight years, that Canada has appeared in the world group. Against Tsonga, who dismantled No 115 ranked Vasek Pospisil on Friday, Raonic will be replaced by Frank Dancevic, a 27-year-old from Niagara Falls who is No 178 ranked in the world.
In the past two years, Dancevic has faced only a handful of players ranked in the top 100. At the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2010, he lost in the first round to Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland 1-6, 4-6.