MONTREAL—Milos Raonic called it a learning experience.
It certainly wasn’t the victory party the Uniprix Stadium crowd was hoping for as Rafael Nadal took only one hour and eight minutes to down Canada’s top tennis player 6–2, 6–2 in the Rogers Cup final last Sunday.
But it had taken 55 years for a Canadian just to get to the final of the country’s biggest tournament, so Raonic had much to celebrate despite the defeat.
For one, by reaching the final, he became the first Canadian to crack the top 10 in the rankings. He is also the youngest player in the top 10.
“The tournament overall was a great thing,” the 22-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., said. “There were a lot of situations that I’m very happy with the way I dealt with them, and there were a lot of learning experiences through it all.
“A lot of stepping stones that I need to do in my career happened this week, so that’s great. The match, obviously I’m a little disappointed with myself. I would have hoped to deal with that situation a little bit better.”
The last Canadian to reach the final of what was then called the Canadian Open, the now 81-year-old Robert Bedard of Sherbrooke, Que., was among the more than 11,000 at centre court to see the power-serving Raonic meticulously taken apart by fourth-seeded Nadal’s service returns and brilliant baseline play.
Nadal, one of the world’s best who was playing for the first time since his first-round loss at Wimbledon in June, posted his eighth tournament win this year and the 58th of his career.
He sees Raonic as one of the rising talents in the sport.
“With his serve, his chance to be in the top 10 for a long time is very good,” the Spaniard said. “Then what you need is to work on the mental part and in the game from the baseline, to try to play the right way on the important points.”
Raonic and Vernon, B.C., native Vasek Pospisil became the first two Canadians to make the semifinals of an ATP Tour tournament since Andrew Sznajder and Martin Wostenholme in 1990 in Rio de Janeiro.
They played each other in a semifinal, a cliffhanger that went to a third-set tiebreaker.
Raonic had worn different coloured Davis Cup-style shirts with a maple leaf over the heart all week, but saved a red-and-white one for the final.
When he walked onto the court, he got a standing ovation.
“That was one of the most special feelings I’ve had in my career to this date,” he said. “I even got a little bit of goose bumps from that. I’m very, very grateful to have that memory and that experience here.”
Asked to comment on Raonic, Bedard says he has a bright future but needs to work on his game.
“His return of serve is his weakness, for sure,” said Bedard, who still plays doubles a few times per week. “He relies too much on his serve.”
Raonic and Pospisil are playing this week in Cincinnati.
With files from The Canadian Press