If Milos Raonic wasn’t in Fernando Verdasco’s head after the San Jose final, I’m betting this morning he is. Last night Roanic won his second straight cliffhanger over the frustrated Verdasco beating the Spaniard 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) in the first round of Memphis.
On Sunday it was two tiebreakers Raonic needed, on Wednesday he showed even more mental toughness pulling it out in a third set tiebreak.
“It’s a different stadium and different conditions, so you never know if it will suit you or not,” said the unfazed Raonic. “Fernando is a player who likes rhythm, especially early in a match, and I like to take that away. I think that’s my strength. There are some things I can improve on but I can’t be dissatisfied.
“Last week gave me a lot of confidence, and confidence makes all the little things go easier. I was happy with the outcome.”
I didn’t see the match – few did – but this is starting to look Roddick-esqe: Crush serves, crush forehands, keep points short, force tiebreaks and win. Roddick use to do that back in the day, Roanic, who has much more game now than the American did then, is following in those footsteps. The 20-year-old Canadian is 9-1 on the season (14-3 career!) in breakers and 3-0 against Mr. Top 10 Verdasco!
If Milos can hold serve he seems to have that unteachable edge in the breakers. And that’s a nice asset to have.
As for the stats, Raonic finished with 16 aces, did get broken once in just two break chances faced and perhaps most encouragingly he had 10 opportunities to break Vedasco’s serve, although he only broke once. But the fact that he was getting into Fernando’s service games (remember on Sunday he had no break chances) is very positive sign. I thought going in Fernando with all his game and experience would get a better read on Milos’s serve on a second try, but in fact it turned out to the be the other way around!
“He was luckier than me in the tie-break,” Verdasco said. “He hit the line at 5-5 with the return and then he had big options to win the match. In San Jose he tried to make the points really quick, if I managed to return the serve he went to the net, like he did today a lot of times. Today it was tough to respond because he’s big and when he goes to the net you don’t really have a lot of space.”
He also said, “For me that’s not a real match in tennis. I hope to play soon against him in clay court to show him what it is to play tennis, and play rallies, and run, and not only serve.”
Fernando, how that’s 6-2 first set tiebreak lead in that San Jose final tasting? He’s in your head and he’ll probably beat you on clay, too.
Raonic now gets Radek Stepanek early this afternoon at 12:30pm ET (quite a fast turnaround from last night!). Stepanek will offer a completely different challenge for Raonic than Verdasco. But with his power the match is really on Raonic’s racquet.
Also today, fresh off an impressive 6-4, 6-3 win over 2010 finalist John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro is on against the sneaky Ivan Dodig. Delpo is really getting back in form and he’s doing it much quicker than I thought after he broke Isner three times last night.
“It was nice because he is one of the best players on this kind of court here in the States,” said Delpo. “I got a little confidence after San Jose, but every week for me is very tough. When you have been out of competition for a long time with injury, it is difficult to come back, especially if you are not seeded. Now I need time on the court and to play a lot of matches, try and improve my game, and hope to be in good shape for the second part of the season.”
Dodig, however, should not be overlooked. The Croat was the only player to take a set off of Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open and he just won the indoor title Zagreb.
Tonight at 8pm ET, Andy Roddick will be out for revenge against Janko Tipsarevic. It was Janko who knocked out Roddick at the US Open last year. Can he do it again and get his third straight victory over Andy? I give Roddick the edge but more than possible. Sam Querrey and Lleyton Hewitt bookend play today on Stadium court.
And good news, matches will finally have camera coverage starting today so there should be some live streaming available.
In Marseille, Tomas Berdych, Robin Soderling and Gilles Simon are all on court. Simon plays Youhzny in a maybe the best match there.
And on clay in Buenos Aires, David Nalbandian and Nicolas Almagro are featured.
THURSDAY MEMPHIS SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 10:00 am
 S Querrey (USA) vs B Dabul (ARG) – ATP
Not Before 11:30 AM
R Stepanek (CZE) vs [WC] M Raonic (CAN) – ATP
[Q] A Glatch (USA) vs M Rybarikova (SVK) – WTA
Not Before 2:00 PM
I Dodig (CRO) vs [WC] J Del Potro (ARG) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
 A Roddick (USA) vs J Tipsarevic (SRB) – ATP
A Mannarino (FRA) vs L Hewitt (AUS) – ATP
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