Milos Raonic’s withdrawal from Davis Cup a major blow

Stephanie Myles

Milos Raonic has withdrawn from Canada's first-round tie against Japan, set to start Friday in Tokyo.

It's an ankle injury.

“Unfortunately I am pulling out of Davis Cup this week. I came to Tokyo believing my ankle would recover but it is not at a level where I feel I can compete or help my team," Raonic said in a press release sent out by Tennis Canada. "This decision was very difficult to make but I believe in the players on our team and that they can get us the win. With a team scenario the most important part this week is to come out with a team win and I believe this is the best way to do it.”

Raonic will be replaced by Peter Polansky, who was there as an insurance player/hitting partner but now will be counted upon heavily.

The tie begins Friday in Japan (Thursday night, starting at 11 p.m., on Sportsnet)

Here's more from Raonic, via an interview with tie broadcaster Sportsnet:

Raonic's absence wasn't the only bad news to come out of the draw ceremony, held Thursday morning in Tokyo. Canada's No. 2 player, Vasek Pospisil, isn't in the singles lineup on the first day, when he was to meet top Japanese player Kei Nishikori.

The back injury Pospisil suffered in Chennai, India during his first tournament of the year, which involves some damage to the disc, responded to treatment this past week at home in Vancouver. But he's far from 100 per cent. He made the trip, but the word earlier this week was that the 23-year-old might possibly be limited to one match in Japan, where the Davis Cup format means best-of-five grueling sets.

Pospisil remains on the list for Saturday's doubles, but it's unlikely he'll play.

Here's what Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau said, in a press release from Tennis Canada.

Of course, he said all the right things.

“Obviously it is very disappointing that our two top singles players are not at 100% at the moment but that’s part of life as an athlete. That is why this a team event and this is why we prepare every single member of our team all week long to be ready to play. This situation is not new for Frank or Peter and both have come through in big Davis Cup matches in the past. Our team has a great deal of confidence in their abilities and they have worked hard this week and are ready for the opportunity to go out there and help us try and win.”

The only indication in Melbourne that Raonic's ankle was an issue came during his second-round match against Victor Hanescu of Romania.

At 4-5 in the first set, he took a medical timeout for the physio to adjust the taping on his ankle.

Raonic said later that he had twisted it during his first-round match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver, but that it wasn't a major problem. After his loss to Grigor Dimitrov in the next round, he said the ankle wasn't the reason he lost.

It turns out he may have been underplaying it.

Raonic's withdrawal is a major blow to the Canadians' hopes to advance to at least the semi-finals of the Davis Cup, as they did a year ago before losing to Serbia. The next round would likely be against the defending champion Czech Republic, whose two top players (who ARE the team) said they'd likely bow out for the season after the first round.