Milos Raonic is the new Frank Dancevic, and Dancevic knows it.
"He has nothing to lose. He's young, he's hot right now, he's playing really well," Dancevic said of Raonic on Tuesday after being knocked out of the Rogers Cup in the first round.
"Yeah, at one point in my career, I felt like that," he said.
Dancevic doesn't feel like that any more. The Niagara Falls, Ont., native earned a wild card spot in Toronto and arrived having lost 10 of his past 11 ATP World Tour-level matches. Once ranked as high as 65th in the world, he now languishes at 123rd.
At 27, in his 10th Rogers Cup appearance, he was defeated 6-3, 7-5 by Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin (No. 69).
Dancevic was once Canada's greatest hope in tennis. At 16, he won Wimbledon Junior Doubles. At 23 in 2007, he was the top-ranked Canadian at No. 65. Like Raonic, he had jumped in the rankings by being something of a giant killer, racking up victories against then-No. 46 Benjamin Becker, Andy Roddick and Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro, who has since shot to No. 8 in the world. His best Rogers Cup result was in 2007, when he pushed then-No. 2 Rafael Nadal to three sets in the quarter-finals before ultimately falling short.
Alan Trivett, then Tennis Canada's executive director of development, predicted he was "top 50 guaranteed," when Dancevic was only 18.
"Oh my God, there was a tremendous amount of pressure," says John Sorbo, who coached Dancevic for nine years beginning when he was 12. "Back then he was the only one. Polansky and Nestor, were a few years behind him and everybody else was retired. So basically the whole country was looking at Frank to be the one."
Sorbo himself added to the hype, comparing Dancevic to Pete Sampras, and saying his potential was "unlimited."
"I wasn't wrong," Sorbo says now.
"I think he could've got a lot more out of his career. I think he could've been a top player. I feel like, physically ... if he's in tremendous physical condition, I don't think there's anybody out there he can't beat."
The problem is Dancevic is not in peak physical shape.
Things began to fall apart in 2009 when he underwent back surgery to treat a herniated disk. He's had comebacks but suffered fresh back injuries several times – the most recent in April. His tennis hasn't been the same since.
The tennis world moves on, and so does life. Three months ago, Dancevic eloped with his girlfriend, Nikola, a Serbian beauty queen he had met a year earlier while visiting his father's home town of Apatin. They married on a beach in Florida, then went home to tell their parents.
Nikola and two of Dancevic's three sisters were in the stands Tuesday. Afterward, they snapped shots of themselves standing next to a photo of Dancevic painted onto the stadium, faded by the sun.
Dancevic now splits his time between his three training grounds: Niagara Falls, Montreal and Serbia.
He's still hungry to improve, and surprised even himself by how well he played in the Canadian Open last week in Vancouver, where he made it to the semi-finals.
But his own predictions for the future are more muted than others who would have had him winning championships so long ago.
"I think that I still have a few good years in me. I hope so anyway. If I put the pieces of the puzzle together I still have a game to be in the top 50. Realistically I feel like that. Whether I'm going to be a top guy, I don't think that's realistic at this point in my career. But I feel like I have a shot at being a top-50 player. I just want to focus on that."