Raonic: There Were Moments When I Said, ‘I’m Done’
Back from the brink with a bang.
On Monday, Milos Raonic defeated Miomir Kecmanovic in his first competitive match for almost two years at the Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. It was an emotional moment for the former World No. 3, who later admitted he had all but given up hope on competing again after a string of injuries that began with an achilles problem in July 2021.
“Many times I didn’t even want to bother trying, because I was so far away from it,” said Raonic in his post-match press conference. “There were moments when I said, ‘I’m done’. At the end of 2021, I had no intention to play again, [I thought] ‘I’m going to figure out my life’, shortly after I got married.
“One thing I did learn, which is a nice lesson, is life will be OK after tennis, which is kind of a fear because you put so much time into one thing and a singular skill. You don’t ever put the time into it thinking you want to dedicate your whole life to it… It just becomes your life. Then trying to figure out what you want to dedicate your life to after tennis, that’s kind of a hard thing… I got on OK with that.
“Once I started feeling a little bit better, I wanted to play tennis just to stay in shape. I started playing golf five hours a day. It really was not for me. I still enjoy it and I love it, but I’m not very good at not being good at something, and accepting that, so I’m happy to be on court again.”
That certainly seemed to be the case on Monday, when the 32-year-old Raonic dispatched fifth seed Kecmanovic to reach the second round on debut in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Despite his apparently calm demeanour throughout the match, the Canadian admitted to being anything but on the inside.
“It was very stressful at times,” said Raonic of his win. “I’ve played after injuries many times, when I‘ve missed three or four months, even I think after six months when I had my hip surgery when I was much younger, but two years is a whole different thing.
“Two years is a lot more turmoil in that sense, and just really stepping away from tennis at the end of 2021, and not really picking up a racquet for pretty much a full year, without hitting a single ball. To want to come back took a lot, and to want to make the most of it.
“I didn’t just want to come back and to be a player that I wouldn’t be proud of, so it took a lot of energy for me to put in. I’m happy I got to here and am very grateful that I can play.”
What a comeback
— ATP Tour (@atptour) June 12, 2023
Raonic’s triumph against Kecmanovic was his 50th tour-level win on grass, a surface the Canadian’s big-serving, aggressive game has always suited. Due to continued uncertainty surrounding his fitness, the 32-year-old is not sure how long his comeback will last but said his decision to return on grass was fuelled by a couple of short-term goals.
“It was very intentional [to come back on grass]. Wimbledon means the most to me, and I haven’t played it since 2019,” said Raonic, who reached the final at SW19 in 2016. “I’ll play it one more time. I don’t know what will happen after that, but I’ll play it one more time. It’s also Toronto this year. I grew up 10 minutes from the stadium, that’s another one that’s important to me. I like the idea that I’ll play those at least one more time.”
The tale of eight-time ATP Tour titlist Raonic’s long-term absence from the Tour is one of continued misfortune. Even now he has returned to action, the Canadian faces a constant battle to manage his body and prepare it for the rigours of Tour.
“The thing that flares up is the achilles,” explained Raonic. “In July 2021 I learned I had swelling in my achilles, and when the swelling went away, I learnt I had tears in my achilles. I didn’t want to have surgery. It would have healed me quicker, but I didn’t know how I would turn out after that, so I wanted to go the longer way of dealing with through rest and rehab. It wasn’t a rupture, just four or five small tears.
“Once that started feeling better, I just had a stint of bad luck. I broke my toe two days after my wedding. I went to try and do some rehab exercises, a weight fell on my foot and all of a sudden I can’t wear shoes for two months… Then I tore a calf, then I got COVID for the first time. Each of these things, I could have dealt with if I was in the momentum of playing and something to rush back for… But with how everything went, I decided to be a little bit conservative with each step.”
His experiences make Raonic reluctant to commit to any long-term goals on his return to Tour, but he is willing to put in the hard yards if it allows him to express himself the way he wants to on court.
“I have to be quick, and I have to be able to be aggressive,” said Raonic. “If I can’t do those things, I can’t play tennis the way I think is best for me and can’t achieve the things I want to achieve. Those kinds of things require a certain level of physical preparedness. Now I can do it, but I don’t know how it will be in two days, I don’t know how it will be in two weeks.
“Everything is one by one, but I know that even if I have a bunch of pain come my next match, I will step on court one more time to play Wimbledon and I will step on court one more time to play Toronto… Somebody would have to tell me that I’m risking a lot more than just an athletic future for me not to play those two events one more time.”