Rogers Cup hit hard by rain, rejection

Milos Raonic signs autographs for fans at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 7, 2012. Raonic's...

Milos Raonic signs autographs for fans at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 7, 2012. Raonic's third-round opponent, Olympic champion Andy Murray, was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a knee injury. (STAN BEHAL/QMI Agency)

DAVE POLLARD, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:52 PM ET

TORONTO - There has been a weird vibe around the Rexall Centre this week.

Maybe it's the dreaded, albeit expected, Olympic hangover that has sucked some of the life out of the Rogers Cup, but something about this tournament just feels, well, different than it did last year, when the women were in town.

Attendance appears to be down, although official figures aren't available, and excitement around the grounds seems strangely muted, even though Canada's best player and the poster-boy for this year's tournament, Milos Raonic, is now into the quarterfinals.

Maybe it's because some of the game's best players aren't here. Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, two tennis legends-in-the-making, never bothered to come. Others, such as David Ferrer and Andy Roddick, also begged off.

Maybe it's the smaller draw, a result of the Olympic tournament being held the week before this one, and the resulting slow start, with most of the top players not even on the court for the first couple of days.

Or maybe it's that some of the "name" players who did show up were quickly sent packing. Count third-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro, both Olympic medallists in London, among the early losers.

Oh, and now you can factor in the soggy, sloppy weather that has further dampened the atmosphere.

Rain put the brakes on Thursday's play, racheting the Rogers Cup singles draw into full-stop mode and forcing four doubles matches indoors at the Mayfair West club in Downsview.

Whatever the reason for the odd feeling around here, things got even worse Thursday when Olympic champ Andy Murray pulled out of the tournament just hours before his much-anticipated third-round showdown with hard-serving Canadian star Milos Raonic, the 21-year-old from down the road in Thornhill who is being described by TV types as the "Maple Leaf Missile."

Sure, Murray's injury -- he tweaked his left knee Wednesday in his second-round match with Flavio Cipolla of Italy -- guarantees Raonic a berth in the quarterfinals, the first time he has made it that far in an ATP Masters 1000 event.

But it robbed Raonic of the opportunity to showcase himself on Centre Court, the chance to prove to any skeptics that he's capable of beating a player ranked in the top four and worthy of the elevated status he has had in these parts despite being just the 16th seed. And it spoiled what could have been a terrific showdown to watch.

"Obviously it was something I was really looking forward to," Raonic said. "It's sort of like an unpleasant thing but at the same time it's a good thing. It's my first quarterfinal in a Masters (1000 event) and to be at home is pretty special.

"I guess there is a give and take with it."

Suppose it could have been worse, though.

Murray could have ditched the Rogers Cup before even showing up, which likely would have had a negative effect on ticket sales, but he sucked it up and played despite being jet-lagged and worn out from a few days of post-Olympic obligations.

The injury, which happened after five games of the second set against Cipolla, is nothing serious, but Murray, whose body is already dealing with a lack of sleep and a significant time change, wasn't interested in taking chances.

"Never really had any problems with my left knee before so I want to make sure it's not something that I'm going to play through and maybe damage it a little bit more," Murray said. "When I got the treatment on the court (Wednesday) the sharp pain wasn't there but I was just getting quite a lot of clicking in my knee. Some muscles around it are really tight and that causes clicking.

"That's probably due to a bit of fatigue in the muscles from the travelling and whatnot. The hard courts, for me, are the hardest on my body."

Now, we don't want to give the conspiracy theorists any fodder but even if Murray was merely playing it safe by withdrawing, you could see this coming. Chatter in the media centre after his second-round match was that he would pull out before playing Raonic.

And no, Murray wasn't running scared, even though Raonic got a win over him in the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open in April, the only time they've faced each other on the court. They were scheduled to meet in the third round in Miami last March but Raonic was hurt.

"I guess we made a joke because I pulled out earlier to him in Miami this year," Raonic said. "It helps me, it doesn't help me. But I'm playing pretty well, I'm pretty healthy, so it's a good opportunity. I'm just going to try to make the most of it."

Hopefully Raonic will get the chance to inject some life back into this tournament when he plays either American John Isner or Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany in the quarterfinals Friday.

But the way things have been going -- and more crappy weather in the forecast -- who knows what other oddities are on the horizon.


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