Milos Raonic became the first Canadian to win an ATP Tour title since 1995 by winning a hard-fought match on Sunday over defending champion Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in the final of the SAP Open.
The 20-year-old Raonic won in his first career final, becoming the youngest winner on tour since Marin Cilic claimed the New Haven title in 2008 at age 19. The last Canadian to win on tour was Greg Rusedski, who won in Seoul in April 1995.
In a match that featured two tiebreakers, one break point and no breaks of serves, it was the smallest differences that decided the winner. Spain’s Verdasco squandered four set points — including two on his serve — in the opening-set tiebreaker and then lost the only minibreak in the second tiebreaker when he hit a backhand into the net after a strong approach shot by Raonic to fall behind 4-2.
Verdasco fought off two match points on his serve, but once again had no answer for the big-serving Raonic, who won it with a 222kph serve that Verdasco hit into the net. Verdasco was upset because a fan yelled out just as he was about to hit the ball, but the point stood despite his complaints to the chair umpire that he was distracted.
“What I hope is that there are not people like that in the stadium,” Verdasco said. “If they don’t know the rules in tennis they can go see soccer.”
Raonic had 13 aces and 20 service winners in the match.
Verdasco summed up the difference in the match succinctly: “His serve.”
Raonic, who left Montenegro with his family in 1994, has had a strong start to the season, going through qualifying and winning three matches in the Australian Open and making it to his first ATP World Tour final. He has shot up the rankings from 156th at the end of last year to 84th heading into this week. He is expected to be 59th after this victory.
In a scheduling quirk, he will have to do it against Verdasco, who gets a shot at a rematch in the first round of the tournament in Memphis tomorrow.
“I will just pray a lot that he will hit a lot of double faults and I won’t even have to play,” Verdasco said.
AFP, ROTTERDAM, Netherlands
Sweden’s Robin Soderling retained his title at the ATP World indoor Tournament on Sunday with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 defeat of France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to join compatriot Stefan Edberg in lifting the indoor trophy twice. Soderling could barely contain his joy after making it two titles from three events so far in this year, where he stands 13-1.
“I’m incredibly happy about my win,” the world No. 4 said, “It’s obvious that I like Rotterdam a lot.”