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There is perhaps no more painful position in sports than whatever hole on the court the runner-up at Wimbledon spends the postmatch ceremonies trying to disappear into.

After playing ably, but without inspiration, Milos Raonic became the first Canadian man to experience it on Sunday. On the scale of these things, it was a bit worse than usual.

Usually, this routine is full of elaborate compliments for the loser's many achievements and impeccable character. Andy Murray instead chose the route of well-meaning pats on the head.

"He is one of the harder workers out there … Each time we play against each other, he's made big improvements," Murray said after beating Raonic 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2).

Raonic is 25 years old. At that age, Bjorn Borg had played his last Grand Slam. And yet Murray was making the Canadian sound like some teenage comer.

Searching around awkwardly for further superlatives, Murray began in on Raonic's support team, naming each one of them and calling them "very, very polite and well mannered."

Sensing that Murray might be taking the mickey, the crowd began to roar with laughter. Murray – unbalanced for the first time all afternoon – stammered, "No, it's true."

The camera panned over to Raonic, bug-eyed and trying to maintain a neutral expression. Losing is one thing. Being the butt of the joke – even an inadvertent one – is another.

This was far and away the biggest day in Raonic's career. In that moment, it couldn't have felt like it.

More than just about any top player, it is almost impossible to tell where Raonic's head is at in any match by watching him. He has a lot of Borg in him (minus the titles).

There are very few outbursts, neither good nor bad. His body language doesn't change. As such, it's hard to say whether he's playing his way into matches – as he seemed to occasionally be on the verge of Sunday – or just holding on as he loses his grip – which seemed more prevalent.

Raonic had precious few opportunities, but they were there. A double-break point in the third. Miserable starts in both set-ending tiebreaks.

A little more steel in those instances and it all could've turned out differently.

I'm not sure if that's a compliment or an indictment.

Even Raonic's coaching consultant/ESPN analyst, John McEnroe, audibly lost patience with his client's sangfroid as the match stretched on.

For the first while, it was all boosterism. After dropping the first set, it was klaxons about the danger.

By the end of the second, McEnroe was turning on Raonic.

In the third, he subtly, but repeatedly, buried his own man.

After holding for 4-4: "I'd be so fired up …" – the camera panned to Raonic languidly returning to the service line and McEnroe's voice hit a sarcastic note – "… Just another day at the office, looks like."

At 5-5: "Maybe he'll never have an opportunity [like this again]. Maybe embrace this a little more than he seems to have."

As it ended, he had nothing more to say about the Canadian.

McEnroe wasn't added to Raonic's team to improve his technique. He's there as a one-man pep squad and confidence whisperer.

By most measures, it worked. In London, Raonic fought back twice to win five-set matches he probably would have have lost in previous years – once against David Goffin, and then against Roger Federer.

There was no collapse against Murray. Raonic served and returned well enough, was the aggressor more often than not, moved as well as he ever has. Even as he was losing, you could see how he might win.

Like any other top pro, Raonic could incrementally improve many parts of his game.

But the basic toolbox is full. After years spent trying to reach and then maintain the highest level, Raonic is good enough to win majors.

And so you are left with the inescapable conclusion that Raonic's problem is no longer the tennis, per se. It's the game inside the game. It's the one he plays in his head.

On first try, he attempted to think his way through a major final and it blew up on him.

For his own sake, I hope it hurt.

In the immediate aftermath, Raonic stuck to his monotone, never-too-high-never-too-low mantras.

"I wouldn't say there's any disappointment, as far as this moment," Raonic said a few minutes after being released from the court.

How did it feel?

"It never felt that much different than anything."

You could tell how much different it felt for Murray. As is his habit, he spent the match shrieking at a variety of things – his opponent, his box, the crowd, himself. No modern player does so much in-the-moment self-administered psychotherapy.

After it ended, Murray wept in his chair. Not soft tears. Wracking sobs.

He'd worked himself up to a point very close to hysteria. And this wasn't even his first Wimbledon title.

That was very likely the difference: Raonic wanted to win; Murray needed to.

There is no catch-all emotional approach to winning at tennis. McEnroe and Jimmy Connors needed constant, occasionally self-destructive, on-court release. Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl played entirely within themselves.

Raonic is temperamentally part of the latter group, but it hasn't worked yet.

The McEnroe hire suggests that he'd like to change that.

As such, watching Murray holding his trophy in a proprietary death grip may in the end have been the best part of these two remarkable weeks for Raonic.

Now he knows what it feels like to reach the highest perch, and be roughly shoved off it.

He has seen up-close how a champion acts in the moment. It was a remarkable, praiseworthy run, but that last bit could not have been pleasant.

Raonic has taken his game to the necessary level. He is without doubt the greatest Canadian tennis player ever.

Now, driven by the small humiliation of being forced to watch the parade pass him by, can he locate the will required to take the final step?