Milos Raonic will hit a tennis ball this week for the first time in more than a month.
He smiles just saying it, even though he knows there will be some aches and pains.
If you think the 20-year-old rising Canadian tennis star has taken a break from his job since an injury ended his run at Wimbledon on June 22, think again. Rehabbing from his July 5 hip surgery has been a full-time load – intensive work eight hours a day, six days a week.
"It's certainly a different type of work," Raonic said in an interview Wednesday at a promotional event in Toronto. "I wish I could be playing for eight hours a day instead of rehabbing. It's a different type of work, but it needs to be done."
Raonic's surgery was done in Vail, Colo., by Marc Philippon, a renowned hip specialist who has treated star athletes such as Alex Rodriguez, Tyson Gay and Mario Lemieux. With his father, Dusan, along, Raonic stayed for two weeks to recover and begin a specific rehab program under Philippon's team of physiotherapists – 12 hours a day at first.
Last week, 27th-ranked player on the ATP Tour returned to Toronto and has been working eight hours a day with a physiotherapist. Working between his family's home in Thornhill, Ont., and Extreme Fitness in Toronto, Raonic does special therapy in the pool daily, sustains his cardio training, and undergoes intensive massage, stretching and icing sessions.
"I had never really worked in the pool before, but I really like it – it helps with the range of motion without stressing my joints," said Raonic, who admits people recognize him often now at the gym. "I'm strengthening my hip and improving the flexibility, making sure it's stable again so this problem is completely behind me."
Raonic won't put a date on his return, stressing he won't until he is completely healed. It may be at the U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 29, or perhaps before that.
His coach, Spanish ex-pro Galo Blanco, will arrive in Toronto on Aug. 11 to start working with Raonic, followed by trainer Toni Estalella on Aug. 19. While Raonic won't be ready to play the Rogers Cup in Montreal (Aug. 5-14), he does plan to attend the men's tournament for a few days.
He will swing the racket a little at the Rexall Centre this week across from his physiotherapist, building up to more intensive sessions once Blanco arrives.
"I anticipate feeling some new sensations, some rusty sensations," Raonic said. "It's been a long, long time – longer than I can remember – since I went this long without hitting the ball."
Home in Canada for the first time since the spring, he has come to appreciate the simple things he craves on the road: his home, the time with family. He hasn't gotten out much, beyond taking in a movie and some chicken wings. Toronto has been a comforting place to recover.
"I really miss the familiarity of home when I'm on the road, not having to switch locations every week, and knowing where everything is that you need," Raonic said. "Everything is easier at home."
His new-found celebrity was on display Wednesday, as he sat before a wall of Lacoste shoes he's endorsing, in a store room pumping with music and packed with people just hoping to get a glance of the 6-foot-5, 198-pound star.
A life-sized Fathead wall graphic of his likeness also recently hit the market, something that really made Raonic shake his head at how his star has risen.
"I'm like, 'wow, am I really that tall?' " he said with a laugh. "I have one, but I haven't put it up anywhere yet. Not sure I want to wake up looking at myself on the wall."