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Challenge served

Wednesday, 17.04.2013 / 11:41 AM / Features
By Derek Jory
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Challenge served
There’s an intense debate raging within the Vancouver Canucks dressing room.

Could Alex Burrows return a serve from Canadian tennis star Milos Raonic?

Vancouver Sun writer Elliott Pap wrote a feature on this very subject after Burrows attended the Davis Cup a few weekends ago at the University of British Columbia. Burrows discussed his love of the game, one thing led to another and all of the sudden the Canucks forward said he’d love to hit the court with Raonic someday.

That someday appears to be this August when Montreal hosts the Rogers Cup. Nothing is set in stone just yet, but a charity match between Burrows and Raonic, the 13th ranked tennis player in the world, is tentatively in the works, much to the excitement of Burrows.

“Milos texted me yesterday and he’s looking forward to the challenge this summer in Montreal,” smiled Burrows, who met Raonic at the Davis Cup a few years ago and exchanges texts with the 22-year-old now and again. “It would be great to do something for charity.”

Burrows isn’t kidding about being able to return a serve either.

“My tennis game is pretty good, I’d say it’s the best on the team, but I don’t know how good that is,” he laughed. “I definitely think I could return a serve, though, for sure.”

And you’re aware Raonic has served up the third fastest heater in tennis history at 250 km/h (155.3 mph)?

“At the Davis Cup last weekend he went 234 km/h right down the middle. I know it’s fast, but I feel I’d probably back up maybe 10 feet behind the baseline and have a little bit more reaction time.”

Burrows has a rich history in tennis. It was his sport of choice, believe it or not, growing up. He went as far as taking regular lessons to sharpen his skills and even played on the provincial team. Who knows where Burrows would be had he stuck with it.

“I remember as a kid, that’s all we used to do growing up, especially when I was 14, 15, 16-years-old. For those three summers, every day I was on the court pretty much from 9 a.m. to when the lights would go off basically.

“I played a lot back then and once I got older I played junior major and had to start focusing more on hockey. Back then it was the sport I enjoyed the most.”

Last Wednesday in Calgary, Burrows, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond and Maxim Lapierre all rode the second team bus from the hotel to the Scotiabank Saddledome and their argument made one thing very clear: Burrows is next to alone in his belief he stands a chance against a Raonic serve.

THE CASE FOR BURROWS

Mason Raymond

“I definitely think he could return one of 100, if not even a few more. I played him in tennis and he’s pretty good. Still, Milos is a pro, so it’d be interesting to see. I mean 250 km/h, that’s pretty quick, but he’s not going to stand on the baseline, he’ll back up and maybe cheat to one side and hopefully get lucky.”

Cory Schneider

“I’ll give him one out of 100 for sure. He’s pretty good at the ping-ping table, he has that tennis movement, he takes a full swing, does good slices and has good footwork, so I haven’t seen him play in person, but based on what I’ve heard, I think he can do one out of 100. I lower my odds if it’s one out of 20 or 30 to five per cent though. Do they hit it as hard as they can on a practice day? Do they hit hundreds of serves on a practice day? Geez, I don’t know anymore. (Pause) Yes, I’ll stick with yes, yes he can.”

THE CASE AGAINST BURROWS

Dan Hamhuis

“I’d say Burr is probably the best tennis player on the team, not by a longshot though, the twins are pretty close. We played a lot of tennis during the lockout, so we got to see each other’s skill level, Burr would rise to the top. But that being said we had a chance to play Rebecca Marino she was serving at 130 km/h, it was basically her second serve. They were returnable, but very tough to return. I had the opportunity to play with her one-on-one too, and her first serves were 180 km/h and I had no chance, it’s hard to get a racquet on it, so I can’t imagine another 70 km/h on that serve. Milos is in mid-season form too, Marino was just in training camp. (Pause) Nope, my short answer is no, Burr could not.”

Kevin Bieksa

“Burr can’t even return Rebecca Marino’s serve, how’s he going to return Milo’s serve? I beat Burr in dress shoes, in Phoenix, four years ago. I’ve played a bit during the last couple of summers (Grimsby Tennis Club, no big deal), but before I really played, I played against Burr and I beat him in my dress shoes and dress pants. Not only am I saying no, but no.”

Jannik Hansen

“There is no chance he’s ever going to return that thing – EVER. He has to put it back, between the lines, we’re not talking about just hitting the ball, we’re talking about a guy who doesn’t have to worry about a second serve, he doesn’t have to worry about putting it into the net, he’s going to serve it as hard as he can in the corner every single time. Burr will not return a serve, based on that he’s a hockey player and not a chance. No way.”

Have your say below. Do you side with #TeamBurrows or #TeamRaonic?