Milos Raonic lose to Ryan Harrison in the second round of the U.S. Open

Milos Raonic hitting a backhand in his second round match at the U.S. Open. REUTERS/Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The new grandstand took it’s third Canadian in this year’s U.S. Open. 5th seed Milos Raonic upset by American Ryan Harrison 6–7, 7–5, 7–5, 6–1 in the second round of the tournament in three hours and 37 minutes. Raonic faded badly at the end of the match with his body not dealing with the humidity well.

“I can’t remember a single time where I’ve lost a match because of cramping,” Raonic said in his post-game press conference.

Raonic was coming into the match as the favourite after a Wimbledon final appearance. Some tennis experts also see him making a final appearance and taking his first title. In a Players’ Tribune article in May, he wrote the U.S. Open as his favourite major even though Raonic hasn’t reached the quarterfinals in his career. The trend continued on Tuesday.

His first serve have been the weakest link in his game in the tournament. In his last match, the Canadian struggled on his first serve even though he won in straight sets. Tuesday’s match was no different. He was scrambling to find his service form all.

“I didn’t serve well to start this tournament. That’s normally my go-to. That can keep me out of situations,” Raonic said, “I think that sort of added a little bit more than I normally have to deal with. I think that just sort of caught up to me throughout that match.”

In the first set, after a few early holds, Raonic looked like he was cruising through in his third service game up 40–15. But after an error and a double fault, the pressure from Harrison seemed to affect Raonic. The American would get one break point after a backhand error from Raonic. Three deuce games later and a forehand error from the Canadian, Harrison got another break point that he would convert with a backhand winner. The American played a great return game to win that game.

However, Raonic seemed to like working under pressure. Without wasting any time, he up his return game in Harrison’s serve forcing him to make errors. The Canadian would break back after three consecutive errors from the American. It looked like Harrison was too pumped after breaking the Canadian.

Raonic continued to struggle in his first serve. His serve was as spotty as it was in the first round. The placement and variety in the second serve kept Harrison guessing which helped Raonic. The set would need a tiebreak after Raonic failed to convert a set point in the previous game.

It was a routine tiebreak for Raonic taking a 4–1 lead early in after an excellent coverage on the net to hit a volley winner. Raonic would take the tiebreak and the opening set 7–6. He has a decent first serve percentage with 63, but it was unreliable at critical times in the set.

“I think I didn’t start off well in the match. I started off feeling a little bit heavy, which has happened to me before. You sort of get through the first set. You pull that one out and you sort of start to relax a little bit. I didn’t do that today,” Raonic said in his post-game press conference.

“I just sort of compounded the stress. I kept trying to force the shots. I was hesitating mentally on the shots. I just felt a little bit a step slow.”

Milos Raonic serving in his second round match at the U.S. Open. REUTERS/Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The second set started with a long first game on Harrison’s service game. They played five deuce points, and Raonic got four break points. He failed to convert all of them. Credit to the American for hanging in there, coming clutch in important points of the game to hold.

The first serve struggle continued to plague Raonic. It caught up with him in his second service game in the set. A double fault and two errors later, Raonic was facing two break points. Harrison capitalized on it to get the break.

After four service holds where Raonic saw four break chances got away from him, Harrison was looking at three set points in the Canadian’s service game in the eight-game of the set. But, Raonic battling the humidity and his unreliable serve, proved why he’s seeded fifth and saved all set points to hold. It would turn out to be a critical hold for the Canadian.

In the following game, Raonic got his ninth break point of the game after Harrison dumped a backhand volley into the net. For the ninth time, he would fail to convert. But the resilient Raonic would create his 10th break point with a backhand winner. Harrison, who saved all nine break chances previously, couldn’t save the 10th and the set was back on serve.

Two holds later, Raonic was looking to force the set into a tiebreak. But Harrison had different plans. For the nth time, Raonic’s serve continued to be an ally but an enemy as well. Harrison has also seen enough of Raonic moving forward that he had hit incredible passing shots that frustrated Raonic at times. To deuce, Harrison would hit an amazing forehand winner to set up a set point. In the next point, the American with a well played return caught Raonic in surprise, making him dump a volley into the net to lose the set 5–7.

“He’s been playing well. He did a lot of things well,” Raonic said about his American opponent. “I think he stepped up and he played a solid match.”

Raonic started the third set with four break points. Guess what; he squandered all of them by hitting three straight errors on the return. However, he got a fifth break point on Harrison’s error. No, he did not waste it this time. He would get the break and consolidate it in the following game.

After the third game, Raonic asked for the trainer during the changeover. In the broadcast, the Canadian was heard saying he felt something wrong with his wrist. They called for a medical timeout to massage his left wrist. Held comfortably after the timeout.

Raonic called the trainer for the second time after the 4–3 game. It seemed like he was cramping up as the trainer worked on his left thigh. The issue affected Raonic’s service game. Looking to hold onto the early break, Raonic was labouring throughout the game. Harrison capitalized on it and broke Raonic back.

In his press conference, Raonic said that the cramping started midway the second set. He said that the cramping was caused more by stress than dehydration.

“A little bit of stress. I don’t think hydration was an issue. I think I always take that precaution. Probably just nerves and stress, a mental sort of overexuberance rather than — probably more than it should,” said the Canadian.

The Canadian tried to stay in the set, but the leg and the serve let him down. The level of play dipped down dramatically for Raonic. He tried to hang on, but it was too much. Harrison saw the opportunity and played an aggressive game. He didn’t want to play a tiebreak and broke Raonic in the last game to take a 2–1 sets lead. At the end of the third, only 38 percent of Raonic’s first serves were put in play — a sign how depleted’s gas tank was.

The fourth set was no different story for Raonic — the legs and the first serve were still undependable. Harrison continuing to play aggressive got an early break. Raonic was out of gas in the end. The American would break Raonic for the second time and close out the set and match comfortably to advance to the third round.

“Sort of the really painful cramps started to pass at some point in the third set, but then I started getting small ones where I couldn’t hold the racquet

“I couldn’t switch grips from one point to the next. There were a few points where I would hold the racquet with my left and trying to stretch out my right hand in between shots, and that’s not going to work,” Raonic said.

Ryan Harrison of the United States (right) shakes hands with Milos Raonic of Canada (left) after their match on day three of the 2016 U.S. REUTERS/Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kudos to Raonic for fighting through the pain. But the body let him down in the end. It’s a disappointing end to his North American hard court season — a heartbreaking result after a Wimbledon final appearance. Besides the body, his reliable serve failed him massively, only putting 56 percent of first serves in. He was 3 for 19 on break point conversions. He hit 69 winners and 62 unforced errors.

The Canadian said he doesn’t know what he could have done differently 12 hours before the match when asked. But he talked about how calculated his preparations are before he plays.

“I count how many glasses of water I drink. I pay specific attention to what I eat, what I consume, what’s going to be the best for me. How much before I consume it. All these kind of things. I try to be on top of it as much as I can.”

After his early exit, Canada has no players in the singles tournament left. According to Raonic, he will play for Canada in the upcoming Davis Cup tie in Halifax.