TORONTO - There was a time not long ago that Peter Polansky was Milos Raonic.
Well, not literally, obviously.
As recently as early 2011, Polansky was Canada's top male singles player, a post now held by rising star Raonic, the new darling of tennis in these parts. Granted, Polansky's world ranking was a less-than-lofty 155th but, no matter, he was the best we had to offer on the world scene.
My, how things have changed in barely 18 months.
And not in a good way.
Raonic has rocketed up the rankings and taken over as top Canadian, never mind the face of tennis in this country, but Polansky has been unable to improve his stock since those, uh, halcyon days. He's now ranked 157th, down just two spots from his career best, but he's become an afterthought among those who follow the sport.
Two other Canadians, Vasek Pospisil (104th) of Vancouver and Frank Dancevic (123rd) of Niagara Falls, now stand between Polansky and this country's best player, 24th-ranked Raonic, on the world table.
At 24, Polansky, who shares a hometown with Raonic (Thornhill, Ont.), is still young enough to turn his career around and earn a few decent paycheques, never mind some great stories for the grandkids.
But if he wants to secure a spot on the ATP Tour and avoid the lower-paying Futures and Challenger tournaments, he can't continue to stub his toe when golden opportunities come along. Opportunities like the one he had Monday at the Rogers Cup.
Polansky blew a rare chance to get into the second round of an ATP Masters 1000 event, losing 0-6, 6-4, 6-3 to Aussie qualifier Matthew Ebden at the Rexall Centre.
He rolled over Ebden in the first set but his game disappeared and he did his best Titanic impression, slowly sinking over the next two sets.
"You can call it a disaster, I guess," Polansky said. "Yeah, it wasn't a very good performance on my part. Just wasn't able to perform."
Polansky, one of three Canadians given wild card entries into the tournament, knows what could have been. His quarter of the draw is more open than the others, with Argentine Juan Monaco, Czech Tomas Berdych and American Mardy Fish, now healthy after having surgery in May to correct an irregular heartbeat, the biggest threats.
"It's very frustrating, especially having a big tournament like this, such a great opportunity," he said. "Not just playing in the tournament but the draw that I had, just so many chances to be had. But you've got to move on and hopefully learn from this."
Polansky admitted to battling nerves, maybe even a drop in confidence, after being broken for the first time early in the second set. Ebden wound up breaking him five times in the final two sets as the Canadian came completely unglued.
"I tried to stay in there," he said. "Mentally I was fighting but I just couldn't ... for me it seemed like I couldn't put the ball in the court no matter what I was trying to do.
"From the (baseline) I felt like he wasn't able to hurt me. Most of the time it was just me going for too much and it sailing long."
So instead of Polansky moving on, it will be Ebden, whose fame likely doesn't extend much past the city limits of his hometown of Perth, to face Fish in the second round.
Pospisil gave the sparse crowd at Centre Court something cheer about by downing Andreas Seppi of Italy 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) to reach the second round for the second straight year. He'll play seventh-seeded Juan Monaco of Argentina Tuesday.
The main draw got off to a walking start Monday, with the big names -- you can include Raonic in that group here -- not playing until at least Tuesday. The top two seeds, Novak Djokovic and Olympic gold medallist Andy Murray, won't step on a court until Wednesday.
Things ramp up Tuesday as Raonic, who as the 16th seed received a first-round bye, will play his second-round match against 33rd-ranked Viktor Troicki of Serbia, a 6-4, 7-6 (5) winner over Alex Bogomolov, Jr. of Russia.
NOTES: Canadian star Daniel Nestor will receive an honourary degree from York University Tuesday. The world's top top-ranked doubles player will be presented with an honourary doctor of laws by university president Mamhoud Shoukri ... Dancevic starts Day 2 play on Centre Court, taking on Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin ... Only four seeded players, including Raonic, play Tuesday.