September 1, 2016
Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic blamed nerves for his shock exit from the US Open.
He was hardly going to admit that the recent split from John McEnroe, a high-profile part of his coaching team, had left his brains scrambled.
But the big Canadian did go as far as to say that his psychological state may have led to cramps all over his body.
And with all those sudden afflicitons, the number five seed was always going to be up against it, playing world number 120 Ryan Harrison.
The American qualifier seized his chance to beat the favourite 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 to leave everyone wondering what on earth had happened.
Meanwhile French Open champion Garbine Muguruza can’t seem to recapture the form that made her so great in Paris earlier this year.
Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova overcame the Spaniard’s natural power to triumph 7-5, 6-4.
At least Muguruza’s compatriot, Rafael Nadal continued his impressive start to his US Open campaign by blitzing Andreas Seppi 6-0, 7-5, 6-1 under the Arthur Ashe Stadium roof.
And Novak Djokovic didn’t even have to play Jiri Vesely after the Czech pulled out with inflammation in his left forearm.
But Raonic and his demise warranted more explanation. The player did his best to offer one, by detailing just how many parts of his body were stricken by cramps.
‘The left arm. The right forearm towards the end of the third. both quads. A little hip flexor on the left. Then I started getting small ones where I couldn’t hold the racquet.’
It probably would have been easier to list the parts of his body that didn’t cramp up.
But why so tense? ‘Probably just nerves and stress, a mental sort of overexuberance.’
Could McEnroe’s presence have helped, if the collaboration had endured? ‘Well, I don’t believe so. I was my own worst enemy. I tried to find a way out of it but my body didn’t let me.’
How can a top professional athlete’s body fail him so spectacularly at precisely the wrong moment? That saying about “healthy mind, healthy body” really does seem to carry some weight.