Milos Raonic so close, and then so far away, to tennis history

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Milos Raonic was born in Montenegro, but his family moved to Canada when he was a child and the Balkan Wars were being fought. He is so proudly Canadian that when there was a high school shooting in Saskatchewan last week, he spoke about it exclusively during the on-court interview that is usually focused on the just-completed match and the next one coming up.

"Canada has been phenomenal to myself, my brother, my sister, their kids, my parents," he said later. "They came there. They worked very hard. They came with a great education, very good heads on their shoulders with the simple thought of going there with almost nothing and just saying, 'We're doing this to give our kids the best opportunity possible.'

"I'm here because I moved to Canada."

No Canadian man has ever reached the final of a tennis Grand Slam (Eugenie Bouchard was the first woman to do so at Wimbledon in 2014), but for a while Friday, it looked as if Raonic would become the first. He beat Andy Murray in the first set of their semifinal match, as well as the third. But just one set away from winning the match and reaching the final, his body let him down. Just as it did last year when he missed a good chunk of the season with injury.

Raonic was so very close and then so far away, losing in five sets, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 2-6. How did the loss make him feel? "Probably the most heartbroken I've felt on court," he said. "But that's what it is."

Leading 2-1 in the fourth set, Raonic took a medical timeout for pain in the adductor of his right thigh. He returned to the court running, but as the match continued, the leg became more and more of an issue. He took anti-inflammatory medication, but it didn't help enough. He still had trouble pushing off with the leg. He needed a massage during one changeover and could be seen grimacing in pain. He did not consider stopping, though.

"I couldn't have cared less what could have happened on the court," he said. "I was in my second career semifinal. I was in a much better position than where I was last time. Regardless of what situation I was in, I was going to play and try to do whatever I could."

He couldn't do enough.

The leg issue slowed Raonic's movement and his serve, which had been perhaps the best of the tournament. He was so ineffective that he lost the first four games of the final set before losing 6-2.

Raonic is known for being very composed on the court, but he grew increasingly frustrated as the match progressed and his chances slipped away. He sniped at the chair ump at one point and, after getting broken in the first game of the final set, he smashed his racket on the court.

"I think maybe that's why I sort of lashed out after I did at the start of the fifth set," Raonic said. "I guess that was just the whole frustration of everything sort of getting out. I don't think that's like myself to do, but sometimes it's a little bit too much to keep in."

Raonic sat out a good chunk of last season with a foot injury. He was sidelined so long that he slipped from No. 4 to No. 14 and said he became depressed at times. But he also said the time off helped him realize what he needed to do to become a better player, such as improving his net play. And he got better, beating Roger Federer in this year's Brisbane championship and then winning his first five matches here.

The Canadian was at the top of his game and one set from making history for his adopted country. And then came the injury.

Shortly after the loss, Raonic said the adductor was not hurting any more extensively, but he did not know how long it would affect him in the coming weeks.

"Honestly, I'm not in the mental state where I would be seeing a doctor to get a recommendation today," he said. "Maybe that happens tomorrow or whenever I feel like I'm ready to face that situation. When that comes, I'll deal with it accordingly."

The good news is that his game clearly is very good now. Given that he was the 13th seed here, he did exceptionally well. And, at 25, there is more time for him to get even better.

"Trust me, if this loss didn't happen 20 minutes ago, there's a lot more positive to take from the situation than there is negative -- by magnitudes," he said. "With the way I've sort of started off this year after the difficulties I had, whatever it was, three months ago, not finishing the year, many other aspects, not knowing where I stood, this was the most ideal way to start."