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Tennis-Happy return for Raonic after two-year heartbreak

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(Reuters) – On the face of it there was nothing extraordinary about Canadian Milos Raonic’s 50th tour level win on grass in the opening round of this week’s s’-Hertogenbosch tournament — a 6-3 6-4 defeat of Miomir Kecmanovic.

But for the former world number three it marked the end of an injury nightmare that sidelined him for two years and made him doubt whether he would ever play again.

The big-serving 32-year-old was once a regular in the second week of Grand Slam tournaments and he reached the Wimbledon final in 2016 when he was beaten by Andy Murray.

But the injuries that had nagged him throughout his career returned with a vengeance in 2021 and after three months out with leg injuries another comeback stalled and he took a hiatus from the game that looked like becoming permanent.

So Monday’s win over Kecmanovic was an emotional one for the Montenegro-born right-hander whose breakthrough inspired a new generation of Canucks such as Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov and 2021 U.S. Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

“It’s nice to be here after almost two years now and stepping away for a long time,” Raonic told ATPTour.com.

“It’s nice to be giving it one more try and hopefully going as far as I can. I’ve put in the best effort I could, and I want to see how far it takes me.”

Raonic looked composed throughout the contest in which he offered plenty of glimpses of the serving power and thunderous forehand, but conceded he had been nervous.

“I didn’t get to hit a single tennis ball for a full year, now I get to play in front of a bunch of people,” Raonic said. “It was pretty nerve-racking, I forgot that feeling.”

Raonic, who is playing with a protected ranking, said he is taking things ‘day by day’ and just enjoying the ride, after his long time away.

“It’s been a little heartbreaking a lot of the time when I couldn’t do anything and it’s nice for me to be here one more time,” he said.

“I get the chance to be on court, the chance to play, I get the chance to compete, to put in the work, and I get a chance to see how far it takes me, so I’m thankful.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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