It's part of the tennis world that's tough to stomach sometimes, more so when it's juxtaposed against the injuries and agonies of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
For the playoffs, NHLers will endure pretty much anything and everything. "It's just teeth," said Martin St. Louis of the Lightning in the first round when asked how he managed to recover so quickly and play.
Tennis, however, often sees players bow out of tournament play for a variety of reasons, and only occasionally it seems to be serious or painful injuries that simply prevent them from continuing.
Such was the intriguing case today for Canada's Milos Raonic, now ranked No. 27 in the world, in his semifinal match at the ATP event in Estoril, Portugal against Spain's Fernando Verdasco. When he went on court in the early evening, it was actually the 20-year-old Raonic's third warmup of the day. His match the previous day against Gilles Simon of France had been halted by darkness in the first set, and when they resumed early Saturday, it was briefly stopped by rain.
Raonic got past the No. 22 ranked Simon to face Verdasco, who also had to play his second match of the day. On serve at 3-2 for Verdasco, Raonic asked for the ATP trainer and appeared to get a vigorous shoulder/back massage to loosen him up.
The match resumed, and at 5-4 Verdasco, Raonic faced a break point on his serve that would cost him the first set if he lost it. He did, and then walked over to the umpire and packed it in for the day.
He looked fine, was serving big and seemingly moving well, not bleeding or limping or cramping or favouring his shoulder. Perhaps it was an old injury he didn't want to irritate, or perhaps this just wasn't a big enough event - one of three ATP tourneys this week - for him to risk something that just wasn't feeling right.
So he retired, allowing Verdasco a pass through to the final against Juan Martin del Potro.
As Raonic left the court, he heard it from more than a few fans in the non-sellout crowd who were disappointed that instead of receiving at least one more set of tennis entertainment the match was over.
Could Raonic have played on? Again, there was no obvious sign of physical distress, but he did miss time earlier this season with a shoulder problem. Still,if this was a Grand Slam event, you have to guess he would have tried to play through the injury. Still, just getting through to the semifinals and past a tough veteran like Simon will likely see Raonic's ranking improve next week.
His retirement from the Verdasco match, meanwhile, is what you see on a regular basis in the tennis world. It's a rip-off for the fans and bad for competition, but by the same token, the physical demands of the players on a tour that refuses to limit itself to a logical number of tournaments is heavy. Players have to watch out for themselves because the tour doesn't. It just wants them to play as often as humanly possible.
So players have to gauge what events matter the most, and when they have to conserve themselves and protect themselves against injury that would knock them out of action for weeks or longer.
But it's still disappointing when you see it happen.