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Bad day for Milos Raonic, great day for Canadian tennis

Milos Raonic (The Canadian Press)Milos Raonic (The Canadian Press)

With apologies to the first man on the moon, the Rogers Cup men's final may have represented a step backward for Milos Raonic, but it also was one giant leap forward for Canadian tennis.

Raonic's dream of becoming the first Canadian man to win this tournament in 55 years ended early on the hard court in Montreal on Sunday as he was blown away by world No. 4 Rafael Nadal. Officially, the score was 6-2, 6-2 but it wasn't even that close.

Except for a brief flicker of hope when Raonic won the opening game, Nadal destroyed any dreams of a Canadian celebration by dominating almost every moment in taking an efficient 67 minutes to win. Raonic was soundly beaten and had no trouble admitting it.

"He gave me a little bit of a clinic today," Raonic joked after congratulating the champion in the post-match ceremonies. Sadly, it was somewhat more than a little bit of a clinic.

Nadal, who is now 48-3 on the year, neutralized Raonic's signature serve and turned the tables by using his own underrated serve to keep the Canadian off balance. Raonic threw everything he had at the Spaniard, but Nadal threw it right back at him.

At times, it seemed as if Nadal's biggest problem was keeping his shorts from bunching up on him.

It wasn't that Raonic played badly. It was more that Nadal is simply at another level and chose this day to play an almost perfect game.

Raonic told CBC after the match that he had made the mistake of trying to do too much and "didn't stay within myself." But who could blame him? The likes of Nadal and Novak Djokovic tend to do that to everybody.

Though Raonic couldn't pull off an upset, the 2013 Rogers Cup should be considered one of the greatest moments in Canadian tennis history. First off, there was a Canadian in the men's final for the first time in 44 years, something the crowd at Parc Jarry noted by giving Raonic a standing ovation before the match. There was an all-Canadian semifinal on Saturday, a thrilling match that no doubt persuaded a few people to become tennis fans.

In reaching the final, Raonic became the first Canadian male in history to break into the top 10 world rankings. Then there was Vasek Pospisil, who jumped from No. 71 in the world to No. 37.

There is a new wave in the tennis world and it has a tinge of red. Even Nadal noted that Tennis Canada was doing "an amazing job" and encouraged it to keep things going.

Riding that wave, despite a disappointing showing on Sunday, is Raonic. He not only has the talent and determination, but possesses an attitude that could get him into the sport's top echelon.

He wasn't satisfied with making the final. As he told the crowd following the match, "This is the most important moment of my career." Then, he added two words: "So far."

It's been a long time since any Canadian tennis player even thought such a thing.

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