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Raonic makes return to National Bank Open alongside Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov

Milos Raonic Milos Raonic - The Canadian Press

Milos Raonic's appearance at the National Bank Open next month will be his first in four years, and it could possibly be his last.

That he's competing at all is impressive, considering mounting injuries almost forced him out of the sport.

The 32-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., received a wild-card entry into the main draw of the tournament, which runs Aug. 5-13 at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto. He last appeared at the Masters 1000 event in 2019, when it was held in Montreal.

Raonic, a 2013 NBO finalist, has been on a comeback trail of sorts after an extended absence due to injuries. He was victorious in his first ATP Tour match since July 2021 last month at the Libema Open in the Netherlands but fell to Tommy Paul in the second round at Wimbledon last Thursday.

"I think there's a good possibility," Raonic said of this year's NBO being his last. "When I kind of had the idea of wanting to play again, the fact that Wimbledon was in that idea, the fact that the National Bank Open was in Toronto at home was definitely a key aspect of it as well.

"The next chance to play in Toronto would have been two years away. And all those kind of things, they were definitely on my mind when I was focusing on getting ready and getting my body right … it gave me a very clear objective knowing that there was a really strict timeline that I had to really adhere to and focus on getting ready for."

Having dealt with Achilles tendon and toe injuries during his absence, the former World No. 3 said he had told those close to him, in addition to sponsors, that he was done playing tennis.

"At the end of 2021, I was pretty clear with it," Raonic said. "I was just in too much pain. I was at the point, throughout the end of '21 through most of '22 where I couldn't jump on a skipping rope and these kind of things.

"My goal wasn't to just play tennis casually, my goal was to play competitively if I wanted to play. The idea of going from barely being able to do a skipping rope or to go jogging to being able to compete ... it felt so far away.

"In a lot of ways, it was a good thing because it took away a timeline that I needed to be ready for. And what I was able to do was really heal up as best as I could. Obviously things aren't perfect but heal up the major issues as well as I could."

Raonic pulled out of a warm-up tournament leading into Wimbledon due to a shoulder injury, but said he has taken time off for it now.

World No. 12 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal and No. 29 Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., will also be representing Canada at the star-studded tournament.

Headlining the event will be the top two seeds in the world: No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and 23-time Grand Slam champion and five-time NBO winner, second-ranked Novak Djokovic.

Toronto brings back a lot of memories for Raonic, from the time he was 11 years old playing at centre court with other kids his age, being a hitting partner for the competing players as a 16-year-old and then playing as a professional.

"Toronto is especially always emotional for me just because I grew up 10 minutes away," he said. "I grew up in Thornhill and I remember I had been a part of many iterations of the National Bank Open."

"It's going to be a lot, it's going to be a lot of nerves with it as well," Raonic added. "You especially want to play well at home and I haven't played much tennis over the last two years.

"I just hope that I'm able to enjoy it more. ... Be more grateful for it because it's been so long since I've been there and having a chance to compete there."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2023.