Milos Raonic announces he won't compete for Canada at the Summer Olympics in Rio

Eh Game
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Milos Raonic of Canada serves during the Men's Singles Tennis match against Tatsuma Ito of Japan on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 30, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 30: Milos Raonic of Canada serves during the Men's Singles Tennis match against Tatsuma Ito of Japan on Day 3 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon on July 30, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

When the planned doubles pairing of Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil at the upcoming Rogers Cup – a partnership planned so the two Canadians could get in some practice together before the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio – turned into a Pospisil - Daniel Nestor duo, you have to figure something was up.

Friday afternoon, Raonic published this message on his Facebook page.

"It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my withdrawal from participation in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I am making this decision for a variety of health concerns including the uncertainty around the Zika virus. This was a difficult, personal choice and I do not wish for it to impact the decision of any other athlete heading to the Games. I would like to thank Tennis Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee for their ongoing support. I am very proud to have competed for Canada at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and on the world stage at several Davis Cup events. I look forward to cheering on Team Canada this summer."

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Raonic didn't expand on what the "variety of health concerns" were. A spokesperson, when asked for clarification about exactly what the "variety of health concerns" entailed, said there were "no additional comments."

Tennis Canada announced shortly thereafter that, pending an invitation from the International Tennis Federation and the approval of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Nestor and Pospisil will instead represent Canada in the men's doubles event in Rio.  

"There are clearly risks involved with the Olympic Games this time around. I understand Milos' decision and respect it completely. I will now play doubles with Nestor in Rio. He's a great partner and we will go there with the goal to win a medal," Pospisil told Eh Game in an e-mail. 

Raonic can't be replaced in the men's singles; there are no other Canadians even in the stratosphere in the ATP Tour rankings. Another player from another country will take his spot in the draw.

Unless one of the federations disagrees, longtime Davis Cup doubles partners Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil will team up for the Olympics in Rio, after the withdrawal of Milos Raonic. (Stephanie Myles/Opencourt.ca)
Unless one of the federations disagrees, longtime Davis Cup doubles partners Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil will team up for the Olympics in Rio, after the withdrawal of Milos Raonic. (Stephanie Myles/Opencourt.ca)

The Wimbledon finalist, given his prowess on the hard courts and how well he has played, would certainly have been among the medal contenders in singles.

The top Canadian wasn't the only player to drop out of the Olympics on a very busy Friday. Romania's Simona Halep, who had signed on for singles and like mixed doubles, also announced via Facebook that she, too, was out.

"I regret to announce that I have decided I will not compete in the Olympic Games taking place this summer in Rio. The reason for my decision is the concern regarding the danger posed by the Zika virus.
After several talks with doctors and my family, i concluded that the risks are too high for my career and for my health, especially as a woman. Family is much too important for me and I can’t risk not being able to have one of my own after my career in tennis is over.
I know the Olympics are a very important event and I truly regret these circumstances. I hope the Romanian Olympic and Sports Committee and all Romanians will respect my decision. I wish all the participants, especially our delegation, the best of luck!"

The press release from Tennis Canada was accompanied by an understanding quote from the federation's CEO, Kelly Murumets. Halep's statement only hopes her federation will respect her concerns.

Simona Halep, who is competing in her hometown WTA Tour event in Bucharest, Romania this week, announced Friday she is out of the Olympics.
Simona Halep, who is competing in her hometown WTA Tour event in Bucharest, Romania this week, announced Friday she is out of the Olympics.

As well – and for rather different but not completely unrelated reasons, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus also is out of Rio.

For Azarenka, who turns 27 later this month, the reasons are of a far more celebratory nature. She announced Friday that she was expecting her first child, and thus is out for the rest of the 2016 season although she fully intends to return to the Tour. In the immediate future, that also means Azarenka, who has been recovering from a knee injury and missed Wimbledon, is out of next week's Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Apparently none of these athletes let the International Tennis Federation know. Hours after Azarenka's announcement, and after Halep and Raonic made theirs, they sent the "final" list for the men's and women's singles, and men's and women's doubles event for the Olympic event. Azarenka, Raonic and Halep are still on the list. They lock the doors there on the weekends, so it's unlikely any announcement on who will replace these players in the draws will come before Monday, if not later.

Also on the Canadian side, top female contender Genie Bouchard reiterated in an interview with Rogers Sportsnet earlier this week that she is still reserving the right to make a last-minute decision not to play.

The Canadian discusses her Olympic plans in an interview on Sportsnet. (Sportsnet.ca)
The Canadian discusses her Olympic plans in an interview on Sportsnet. (Sportsnet.ca)

Before the start of Wimbledon, the 22-year-old discussed the issue with the media on site, saying her plan was to participate but that she wasn't going to make the final decision until after she had time to consider all the factors – most importantly the threat of contracting Zika.

She told Sportsnet she would look at it "a week or two" before the event, which could well mean the final decision will come during the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

On the tennis side, notables such as Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey, Latvia's Ernest Gulbis and Austria's Dominic Thiem among others have already taken a pass on the Olympic event. Australians Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, who have to be considered not in particularly good standing with their Olympic federations, also won't be going.

Halep and Raonic, both top-10 players, are the most high-profile tennis players to announce they won't play becuse of concerns for the Zika virus. The concerns are legitimate, obviously – especially for women hoping to have children down the road. But it's interesting to note that the golfers and tennis players who have cited it as a reason not to participate are almost unanimously male.

Tennis won't be golf. But it wouldn't be shocking to see more dropouts before the tournament gets under way Aug. 5. 

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