What a breakout year it’s already been for 20-year-old Milos Raonic. The young Canadian will bid for his second straight ATP title in few hours this afternoon against Andy Roddick.
Yesterday, Raonic toughed out Mardy Fish in three sets 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to win his eighth consecutive match.
As I’ve said before, I like the kid’s on-court composure, attitude and focus. Nothing seems to rattle him and even in the toughest of situations he just doesn’t crack. At just 20, it’s quite a feat to have those traits.
“It’s coming nicely,” said Raonic who was virtually unknown six months ago. “I’m acknowledging it all and taking as much as I can from it. But I’m focusing on the next day and doing what I need to do for tomorrow’s final. It’s amazing to be in two finals in a row. After you get the results, everything comes with it, like the rankings. But the thing I’m most proud of is my level.”
Does that sound like a kid who hasn’t even played a full year on the tour?
“I think I’m doing well with it and handling it well,” he added. “I felt it a bit in the second set, but I managed to pull it together and play a really good third set and I played at a high intensity. There’s still juice left in the tank and I’m ready to fight.”
Said Fish, “He’s playing Top 10 or Top 15 tennis, there’s no doubt about it. I hadn’t seen him play live before – maybe 30 minutes on TV. I tried to get every return I could in play. I moved back to get my racquet on a few more, but he hit his spots well. On his return game he connected there in the third set and broke me, and that one return game was all he needed.
“It’s a scary thought that he’s got a ways to improve.”
So today Roanic goes up another American (will he do an American Davis Cup sweep?), against Roddick.
For all the slack I give him, Roddick is coming off what he says was one his best matches he’s played this year. It’s hard to doubt him as he easily drubbed Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 6-4.
“This is probably the best match I’ve played this year including Australia,” Roddick said. “I played one bad game but besides that I was making his holds tough ones and I played pretty good defense, and attacked when I had to. I played pretty smart and mixed up some serve and volley and I didn’t let him get any rhythm, if he sets up for enough balls and gets some rhythm he can hit it probably harder than anybody. I was happy with the way I played today.”
The win moved Roddick into his 50th career ATP final where he’ll shoot for a third career Memphis crown and 30th title. And against Roanic I actually think he’ll get it.
Roanic has been red hot but he hasn’t faced a serve like Roddick’s in his matches. Fish and Robert Kendrick can pack the power off their deliveries but Roddick’s is just a great force. So I think that will cause Milos some problems.
I also have to wonder if Roanic is getting fatigued. He’s only 20 but even still the wear-and-tear of the last three/four weeks has got to catch up sometime.
That all said, if Roddick plays too defensively and has trouble finding that backhand up the line shot, Roanic will win. But I think Roddick, knowing his chances at the bigger titles are slipping and with the points he has to defend next month, will come up just a little bit better today against Milos.
He’ll pound the serve, use that backhand slice and try to get to the net as much as possible to put the pressure on Raonic’s ground game. Then again, Roddick could easily decide to try to out-smart Raonic by keeping the ball in play and out rallying the 6-foot-5 Canadian, a strategy I don’t think will work.
Regardless, it should be a very interesting and very tight match as the guy with the best serve in the business meets maybe the kid who’ll next assume that title.
The match begins at 4pm ET on the Tennis Channel.
As congrats to Robin Soderling who just won his third title of season beating Marin Cilic in three sets. And in Dubai Caroline Wozniacki has defeated Sveta Kuznetsvoa. The Dane will return to the No. 1 ranking tomorrow.
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