MELBOURNE, Australia — Coming off an injury-filled season, Milos Raonic knew going deep into the Australian Open was going to be an uphill battle.
But a first-round exit to an unseeded player was still a bitter pill for the former top-10.
"I knew it was going to be something along these lines, obviously I wish in some ways it was much better," he said Tuesday following a 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (4) loss to Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko.
The Thornhill, Ont., product saw his ranking drop to No. 24 last season from a career-high of No. 3 in 2016.
Raonic missed last year’s U.S. Open after undergoing wrist surgery. He returned to the tour for one tournament in Japan in October, but retired from his quarterfinal match due to a calf injury. He also had a knee injury in November. The Canadian has been among the most vocal proponents for shortening the nearly year-long tennis schedule to protect top players from injury.
"I’m not necessarily where I need to be," said to No. 22 seed. "I wasn’t sharp and then I just struggled physically. Thankfully not from injury or anything, just physically from fitness and preparedness. That just caught up to me after a while."
He said he just wasn’t able to get into a rhythm Tuesday.
"I wasn’t quick, I wasn’t hitting that hard or aggressive so I was the one who was moving most of the time so therefore I wasn’t able to dictate," he said.
Raonic is a former Wimbledon finalist and has reached at least the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park the last three years.
It’s only the third time that Raonic has lost in the first round of a major. Raonic also lost in the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open and the 2011 French Open.
Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., joined Raonic on the sidelines after losing his first round match in three sets to Karen Khachanov of Russia 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2), 6-4.
On the women’s side, Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., advanced to the second round of the tournament with a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over France’s Oceane Dodin.
Bouchard will face top-seeded Simona Halep next.