With the tennis calendar in disarray amid the coronavirus pandemic, Canadian star Milos Raonic hopes the rescheduling of tournaments won’t be detrimental to player welfare.
The French Open has been moved from its regular May start date to September, a week after the US Open, while Wimbledon has been canceled and the WTA and ATP Tours have been suspended until July 13.
The decision to move the French Open drew criticism from a number of players, but world No. 30 Raonic says he welcomes the chance to play as many grand slams as possible – as long as his body holds up.
“Four weeks in five (in September) … I think that will pose issues for players, and I think also because a transition to a different surface (from hard to clay courts) will be very quick,” he told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane.
“The thing that you really hope for is that it doesn’t create an uptick in injuries because that is quite tolling, quite a task.
“Am I happy that it is going to happen? Yes, I think so, to have a chance to play as many grand slams as possible in what is going to end up being a shortened season for us is a very important thing and I’m happy that a way is found to make it happen and hopefully we can get through to that point and be able to compete in those events.”
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Raonic, who climbed as high as No. 3 in the rankings in 2017 before enduring a number of injury-plagued seasons, has missed the past two French Opens.
At the time of the announcement to move the tournament, fellow Canadian Vasek Pospisil called the decision “selfish” and “arrogant,” but organizers remained adamant that the clay court season wouldn’t be “swept off the international schedule.”
Roanic adds that he would have liked more clarity when the decision was announced.
“There was just a disappointment maybe of the approach. I think a few players wished they knew a little bit earlier before. I figured it out through social media, and I’m sure many others did,” he says.
“We have a big group chat and that’s how it came out to all of us. So I think that was maybe the hardest part of it to accept. But once you got over that I think the understanding of, is it a positive thing for us? It is. That’s for sure.”
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Since then, the Olympics have also been postponed until next year, and the official announcement of Wimbledon’s cancellation arrived Wednesday
The 29-year-old Raonic, who reached the Wimbledon final in 2016, is residing in Florida as the virus lockdown continues.
While there is some frustration that tournaments have been wiped off the schedule, for now he remains focused on building fitness and admits that tennis should take a backseat.
“I’ve always played a relatively light schedule, 15 or 16 tournaments only. To have big chunks of it go out, big things that in December, this is what you had your mind set on – every single workout that’s tough and you’re trying to get through them,” he says.
“Sport, as wonderful as it is, is really a minor concern for everybody nowadays. I think the health of the people around us, the communities, the world. This is something that the whole world is participating in.
“If these events do not happen, I think personally that would be tough, but I think it’s something that you could get over pretty quickly when you put it in context with everything else that’s going on and everything else that needs to happen.”
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Filling the time
In the meantime, aside from regular exercise, there are opportunities to binge watch TV, read, catch up with friends and brush up on his cooking skills.
Pan fried fish and vegetables is Raonic’s go-to meal – in part, he confesses, because it’s “easy to clean up.”
All of which is helping keep him occupied while tennis is off limits.
“You keep training but you try to spread things out,” he says.
“The fact that the focus is strictly on the fitness thing, because it is such a disassociation directly with the competition of playing points, playing sets, playing matches, that does make it a bit easier.”