Raonic won't be crowned king at Rogers Cup 0
Milos Raonic hits a return to John Isner during their quarterfinal match at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 10, 2012. (MIKE CASSESE/Reuters)
How much of a big wheel was Milos Raonic at this year's Rogers Cup?
Big enough to send former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champ at the Rogers Cup, packing for the Rexall Centre's back 40.
With rain wreaking havoc on the schedule and two quarterfinals still to get in as the clock rolled toward midnight, Djokovic was shoved out of the stadium and onto the Grandstand Court which, interestingly enough, bears Raonic's name.
The move off centre court wasn't a slight against Djokovic, considered the best player in the game less than a year ago, but more to spark the 21-year-old Canadian, given the large partisan crowd on hand.
Too bad Raonic didn't live up to the feature billing Friday despite home-court advantage.
Raonic, the Thornhill, Ont., boy playing in his own backyard and the poster boy for the Rogers Cup this year, failed to continue his historic run in the tournament -- three other Canadians have advanced to the quarters, the latest being Frank Dancevic in 2007 -- with a 7-6 (9), 6-4 loss to American John Isner.
Truth be told, Raonic made too many mistakes to beat the eighth seed even though he should have had more legs than Isner, who was back on the court two hours after beating Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4 in the third round.
"I was at a bit of an advantage because he hadn't played in a few days," the 6-foot-9 Isner said. "I went out there telling myself I had nothing to lose. Even though he was a bit fresher, I thought I was a bit more in tune with the tournament."
In a matchup of two of the game's biggest servers, Raonic held a 13-8 edge in aces despite struggling at times from the ad court. But that was the only advantage he had against Isner, who won a whopping 91% of his first serve points.
"I knew eventually I would cross paths with Milos, we play in the same tournaments," Isner said. "I knew the match was going to be super close. Fortunately for me, he sort of let me back into that first set."
In the eyes of many, this was supposed to be Raonic's coronation on home soil. But that might have been part optical illusion, part snake oil.
Sure, Raonic was seeded 16th here, but that, people, really needs to be taken with a large grain of salt. He was only among the top 16 because a handful of players ahead of him in the world rankings -- he's 24th right now but could move up a couple spots next week -- dropped out, including No. 3 Rafael Nadal due to injury and No. 1 Roger Federer, who was too worn out to come.
Realistically, this was the perfect opportunity for Raonic to break through in an ATP 1000 tournament, one that came on a silver platter.
After a first-round bye due to his seeding, he knocked off his sometimes doubles partner, Viktor Troicki of Serbia, Tuesday evening then got a walkover through the third round when Andy Murray withdrew due to injury.
While the likes of Djokovic, who had a long run at the Olympics and could really use some rest, had to play his way into the quarters, Raonic was able to kick back and enjoy some extended time off. He had two full days off after Murray pulled out with a left knee injury, another fortunate turn of events.
So, really, was he deserving of being in the quarters after playing one measly match? You could put together a pretty valid argument against it.
Instead it's Isner moving on to the semis against France's Richard Gasquet.
Doesn't quite have the same panache, does it? But it's probably the right matchup.