A flat-footed Milos Raonic lumbered around Grandstand clutching his Wilson racquet as if it was a cane.
The Wimbledon finalist looked in dire need of an ally.
Raonic battled on multiple fronts today facing an inspired Ryan Harrison, a fired-up New York crowd and painful cramps that afflicted his left leg, right arm and hips.
On a muggy afternoon, this US Open second round was a stress test and Raonic ran out of answers.
American qualifier Harrison scored the biggest win of his career toppling the fifth-seeded Canadian, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5, 6-1, to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
“It’s exciting to have a big win like this at a slam,” Harrison said. “I’m trying to approach it, you know, just like I would any other match right now. I’m trying to stay in the moment, go through my routines tomorrow, I guess the rest of tonight, like I would any other match.
“Not really a whole lot of time for reflection in this sport because things change so quickly. You play a bad match on Friday, all of a sudden today the win feels a long ways away. That’s a good thing about it. You get to go out there and it’s a new match every time you compete.”
Harrison, who had suffered four opening-round defeats in six prior New York appearances, moves on to a third-round clash with Marcos Baghdatis.
The former Australian Open finalist defeated 32nd-seeded Benoit Paire, 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
The pressure of the moment, combined with the fact his serve wasn’t as sharp as it usually is, conspired against Raonic creating the cramping issues.
“A little bit of stress. I don’t think hydration was an issue,” Raonic said. “I think I always take that precaution. Probably just nerves and stress, a mental sort of over exuberance probably more than it should.”
Raonic, who said he can’t recall “a single time” when he lost a match due to cramping, received vigorous massage treatment on his left leg during changeovers, but struggled to make grip changes at times due to cramping in his hand.
In an effort to shorten points, Raonic tried to attack. Harrison was waiting for it and belted a forehand pass by a stiff-legged Raonic to break back for 4-all in the third set. Harrison broke again to seize the 75-minute third set.
At that point, it seemed Raonic might pull the plug.
Stretching his legs on a court-side chair between points, Raonic pushed a stretched backhand long as Harrison broke for a 3-1 fourth-set lead.
“He played well,” Raonic said. “He did a lot of things well. I think he stepped up and he played a solid match.”
The man who entered New York on a skid of seven straight opening-round exits in majors kept his calm closing out the match.
Once highly-hyped as the future of American tennis, Harrison said he’s matured in recent years in channeling the excitement of competing into positive energy.
“It’s mental maturity, a little bit of stabilization with everything around me that is allowing me to play with a sense of calm and also with excitement,” Harrison said. “My personality is a very fiery one. I like to be really intense when I’m competing. Flirt with that line of getting so intense that it’s taking me away from what I was trying to accomplish out there.
“It’s kind of a hard balance to work through, because I definitely went through phases where I would try to calm down so much that I lost that competitive edge and competitive fire that was my personality out there.
“So right now I feel like I’m in a good emotional state where I’m competing really well. I’m not monotone, but I’m also being selective about when I get fired up.”
By the end of the match, Raonic couldn’t carry his racquet bag off the court.
“I was my own worst enemy today. I tried the best I could to find my way out of it. My body wouldn’t let me.”
Flushing Meadows has been the toughest major challenge for the 25-year-old Canadian. The US Open is the only Grand Slam where Raonic has failed to reach the quarterfinals, which is surprising given the speed of the surface.
“I just sort of compounded the stress. I kept trying to force the shots,” Raonic said. “I was hesitating mentally on the shots. I just felt a little bit a step slow.
“The sort of expectation of pressure on myself to get out of that situation like I normally would in a situation like that, like happened to me in the beginning of Wimbledon, I didn’t do that. Then all that kind of forceful play caught up to me there in the end.”