Posts tagged Canada
Milos Raonic has used his big serve to carry him to heights never seen before by a male Canadian tennis player, but this weekend the 20-year-old proved clay doesn’t slow him down too much.
The native of Thornhill, Ont., led Canada to a 4-1 win on the road over Mexico in a Davis Cup tie, setting up a second-round match with Ecuador in July.
On Sunday, Raonic won his third match of the weekend to clinch the series, beating Daniel Garza 7-5, 6-3, 6-2. Raonic won both his singles matches and teamed with Vasek Pospisil of Vernon to win a doubles match Saturday.
Raonic, ranked 37th in the world, succeeded despite playing on clay, a surface that limits his bigserve advantage.
“I know I have a lot of work to do on the clay,” Raonic said on conference call “I have to put in hours. I’m going to do a full clay court season, I want to prove a lot on it. I don’t know too much of what to expect, I didn’t play at all last year on clay.”
The match with Ecuador will also be on clay, but it will come after the grass court season.
Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said Raonic and his Canadian teammates will benefit from the spring clay court season.
Giovanni Lapentti, Ecuador’s top-ranked player, does well on clay and at altitude, both of which could be a factor in the Americas Group second-round match.
“Their No. 1 is considered to be better than Mexico’s No. 1, but there is not as much depth in the Ecuadorean lineup,” Laurendeau said. “But you have to win three matches in the weekend and if we have the same players that we had this weekend, we’ll have more options and a better chance to win.”
Canadian rockets up ATP ranks with powerful serve
By TERESA M. WALKER
(AP) — Milos Raonic has become Canada’s highest-ranked tennis player ever.
The lanky 20-year-old who can hit 150 mph with his serve is soaring up the ATP rankings. He has jumped from No. 156 at the end of 2010 to No. 37 with a two-week run that included a win at San Jose and a three-set loss to Andy Roddick for the title in Memphis last weekend.
His recent success has him busy signing autographs, posing for photos and talking to reporters – not bad for a player who was laboring on the Challenger Tour a year ago.
Raonic (rau-nitch) knows he’s doing something special after playing in just nine ATP events, but he’s far from satisfied. He wants more. Much more.
“It’s not by any means something to be happy with because I want to keep improving,” Raonic said. “That’s not where my goal lies. I want to keep improving. I want to keep progressing and developing. I think I could do a lot more.”
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Raonic moves smoothly on court and isn’t afraid to go to the net. He also shows good touch, changing up speeds on his first serves, but able to power up as high as a 150-mph ace against Roddick showed.
He has such power Roddick backed up nearly to the court’s edge to help him pick up the ball, and Raonic can hit the corners as well. Roddick called Raonic’s serve one of the biggest he’s seen.
“It won’t surprise me if he’s top 10 sooner rather than later,” Roddick said.
Mardy Fish said he thinks the Canadian clearly is playing top 10-level tennis and called it scary to think of how much more Raonic can improve.
“From the waist down, he’s as strong as I’ve ever seen anyone’s legs,” Fish said. “His legs are twice the size of mine. He’s full grown within his legs, and you could tell he’s still got some growing into in his upper body and his face.”
Raonic credits his improvement this year to growing physically stronger and more mature.
“Being able to see matches the right way and see them clearly and not be panicking. It allows a lot more points to be fought for and more points to be played with an intention,” Raonic said.
Off the court, he sticks to a strict routine.
After each match, he calls his father, grabs something healthy to eat and has the occasional massage to help his body recover. He also finds a good steak restaurant to load up on protein.
Raonic’s rise has been so swift his bio isn’t in the tour’s current media guide and whose country’s tennis tradition is slim enough that Raonic’s victory in San Jose made him the first Canadian to win an ATP title since Gregg Rusedski won in Seoul in April 1995.
It’s why Raonic looked outside his own country for his tennis role model: American Pete Sampras.
“He was just so inspirational to me from the beginning,” Raonic said. “I started tennis late. He was at his prime when I started, and it was Sampras. At the beginning when you’re young, you sort of do model. As you go through your career, you have to sort of find your own way to win and your own way to reach a successful point and to reach your goals.”
Born in Podgorica, Montenegro, Raonic’s family relocated to Canada when he was three where Thornhill, Ontario, now is home. He took up tennis at the age of nine and improved quickly. He was Canada’s under-18 national indoor champ in 2008 and turned pro in 2009. He reached the quarterfinals in Kuala Lampur and his first Challenger singles final last July.
None of that success even hinted at how Raunic would start 2011.
He qualified at the Australian Open and got as far as the fourth round. He also qualified in Johannesburg, where he reached the second round. He took off in San Jose, losing his serve only once in four matches while banging out a tournament-best 58 aces. He capped his first ATP title by beating Fernando Verdasco, the world’s ninth-ranked player, in straight sets.
It was then on to Memphis, where Roddick broke him to win the title – though Raonic just missed forcing a third tiebreaker in the match.
Now that he’s playing on bigger courts and getting recognized more both by fans and fellow players in the locker room.
“It’s a lot more joy to be noticed.”
In a sign of how mature he already is, Raonic decided not to push his luck. He withdrew from Acapulco this week after feeling soreness in his shoulder, saying he didn’t want to risk a serious injury with how well he is playing. He plans to rest before preparing for Canada’s upcoming Davis Cup matches with Mexico, which will be televised back in his hockey-crazed country.
“There’s a lot more to look forward to,” he said.
Updated February 22, 2011
Raonic carries the flag for Canada into Memphis final
MEMPHIS — Big slap shot. Check. Can rush the net. Check. Doesn’t back down. Check.
By Mark Humphrey, AP
Milos Raonic of Canada lines up a backhand during his victory Saturday against veteran American Mardy Fish in the semifinals of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis.
Milos Raonic seems to have the tools to be a major sports star in Canada, even if he plays his game in cushioned tennis shoes rather than hockey skates.
Raonic, 20, from Thornhill, Ontario, again used his big serve and forehand to power past Mardy Fish 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 on Saturday at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championship and into his second, and second consecutive, ATP World Tour final. Raonic will play top-seeded American Andy Roddick, who defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-4 in the second semifinal.
- DUBAI: Wozniacki advances to final
- ATP TOUR: Soderling, Cilic reach final in Marseille
“It’s amazing to be in two finals in a row, especially in an ATP 500,” Raonic said. “The thing I’m most proud of is my level.”
The 20-year-old rising star began the season ranked 156th in the world, moved up to No. 59 after capturing the title last week in San Jose, and will move to around No. 37 making him the highest-ranking Canadian in tour history. He’s beaten three top-10 players, including two wins against No. 9 Fernando Verdasco.
“I’m preparing the same way I did for the first match in San Jose. I’m preparing the same way I did for the first match of the year,” Raonic said. “I have my routine. I stick to it. I believe in it. … This is all I can ask of myself. If it doesn’t go how I want, or if it goes how I want and I need to fix some things I will go out on the practice court and fix some things. I’m not going to be arrogant or ignorant about it and say I don’t need to work on anything else anymore. I’m so far from that. … There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Raonic served huge again, but not always with the 140-mph heat, mixing in big kickers that bounced high to Fish’s backhand. Fish seemed to get comfortable in the second set (Raonic said he got a bit predictable) before Raonic stepped up his play in the third set on his way to his eighth consecutive victory.
Raonic fired 23 aces against Fish, running his total in the tournament to 97.
“You’re basically guessing if you’re standing way up,” Fish said. “I felt like I was able to move back and at least get my racket on a few and not necessarily have to guess as much. But he hit spots, and it doesn’t matter.”
The 6-5 Raonic also showed off the variety of his game: punishing forehand with which he controls points; approaches to the net when opportunities arise; and perhaps surprising movement.
After his first-round victory, a frustrated Verdasco accused Raonic of being all about the serves. But he showed against the veteran Fish he could rally when it suited his purposes.
After grabbing an early break in the third game, Raonic cruised through the first set. In the second set, his first-serve percentage dipped (to 59% from 64%), and Fish found the range on the second serve (winning 11 of 15 points). Raonic was on target with his first serve in the third set (77%, winning 76% of first-serve points). Fish got no break opportunities in the third set, and Raonic capitalized on two of his four chances.
Roddick, who will be appearing in his 50th ATP Tour final and chasing his 30th title, called his victory against del Potro the best tennis he’s played this year, including Australia.
“I played pretty good defense. I attacked when I had to,” Roddick said. “Played pretty smart. Mixed up some serve and volley. I didn’t let him get a rhyhm. If he sets up for balls and gets a rhythm, he can hit it probably harder than anybody.”
“Probably the shot that changed the momentum of a lot of rallies was that I was able to get my chip cross court to his backhand. He wasn’t setting up and firing forehands. I was able to do that from compromised positions, and that was able to get me back to neutral in a lot of rallies.”
As for Raonic, Roddick sees the confidence building.
“He’s got the confidence of someone who has played (about 10) matches in 12 days,” Roddick said. “He’s winning every match close. He’s playing well on the big points, and that comes with confidence. He’s certainly on a roll and has momentum.
“That being said, I have to beat him on one day.”
Raonic, who left Montenegro with his family during a war in 1994, on Sunday in San Jose became the first Canadian to win on tour since Greg Rusedski, who won in Seoul in April 1995.
Following his latest victory, Raonic joined countrywoman Rebecca Marino, who retired because of an abdominal injury in the women’s final Saturday night against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia after losing the set 6-2, in a photo op with the Canadian flag in front of The Racquet Club.
Another Canadian, Daniel Nestor, playing with Max Mirnyi of Belarus, reached the men’s doubles final with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 victory Saturday against Mark Knowles and Michal Mertinak.
“There was a lot of snow here last week, so I think there was a bit of Canada coming in, giving us a warm welcome,” Raonic said. “So that was a good start. For us. Not for everyone else in Memphis.
“It’s something for us to be proud of … not just tennis but all of Canada to be proud of, and it’s something amazing developing. I think it’s only the beginning … it’s only the first chapter.”
The whirlwind week will continue for Raonic.
“There’s still juice left in the tanks,” he said.
Milos Raonic has tried to qualify at a Grand Slam twice in his young career.
After his 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2 victory over Andrej Martin yesterday, the 20-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., is now 2-for-2.
Raonic was down a set and a break in the second set, struggling to stay positive as his monster first serve deserted him, when he managed to turn things around against his 21-year-old Slovakian opponent.
He rolled through the second-set tiebreak without dropping a single point. And he finally got on top of his opponent’s serve in the third and deciding set.
Raonic, who will face German veteran Bjorn Phau tomorrow in the first round, wasn’t the only Canadian to move through to the main draw.
Niagara Falls’s Frank Dancevic did the same, defeating American Alex Bogomolov Jr. 6-4, 7-5 to reach his first Grand Slam main draw since losing in the first round of Wimbledon in 2009 -only two months before the back surgery that kept the 26-year-old off the pro tour for more than nine months.
His reward was a date with the stylish Richard Gasquet of France, the No. 28 seed, today.
Unfortunately, Stephanie Dubois couldn’t make it unanimous. The 24-year-old from Laval was outplayed by Sania Mirza of India, a former top-30 player who has been struggling for the last two years with a wrist injury.
The 6-2, 6-3 defeat came after Dubois was impressive in winning her first two qualifying matches. But while she did her best to stay away from Mirza’s one big weapon -her forehand -Mirza played some inspired tennis from both wings to end Dubois’s Australian swing.
On Saturday, Thornhill, Ont.’s Peter Polansky also lost in the final round of qualifying, 6-3, 6-2 to left-hander Vincent Millot of France.
“Back in the main draw. Awesome. It feels really good,” Dancevic said of his victory. “I’ve been playing well all week; can’t complain.”
Dancevic had a relatively routine straight-set victory over Evgeny Korolev of Kazakhstan in his second qualifying match Saturday, a day during which the heat was far more oppressive. Bogomolov, meanwhile, had a tough three-setter on the adjacent court against Thiago Alves of Brazil.
“My opponent kind of has a baseline game, plays a lot of rallies, and (Saturday) took a little juice out of him,” Dancevic said. “I tried to take advantage of that today and tried to run him around -take advantage of those long points and make him a little tired in the second set.”
Raonic looked down, depressed and on his way out midway through the second set of his match. And his body language, as it often does when he’s losing, reflected that state of affairs.
Somehow, he was able to steady himself against a player who was consistent and moved well, but doesn’t have the explosive firepower from the serve and forehand Raonic can produce with his 6-foot-5 frame.
Raonic said he relied on all the off-court work he had done in Barcelona during the offseason. “I said to myself: ‘this is crunch time, time to push’,” he said. “The match wasn’t over. I feel like I’m playing at a higher level than I was playing today, so I tried to push myself and hope that higher level would come out.
“I’ve improved a lot from the back (of the court). I just had to push on my legs a bit more, get the serve going, think about my keys, and it would eventually come,” he added.
Raonic won his three matches and qualified in his first ever attempt at a Grand Slam event last summer in New York at the U.S. Open.
But in his first-round match there against Carsten Ball of Australia, he let the occasion get to him and lost in four sets.
At the time, Raonic said he had learned some lessons from the defeat and if he ever got into a similar situation, he would make sure there was no repeat.
His chance for redemption will come tomorrow against Phau, a diminutive 31-year-old journeyman who has broken into the top 100 only in the last few years of a long career.
TORONTO — Doubles star Daniel Nestor has won Tennis Canada’s outstanding male player of the year award for a fourth straight time.
The 38-year-old left-hander from Toronto teamed with Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic to win the French Open plus six other tournaments on the ATP Tour this season.
Nestor and Zimonjic finished the season ranked third in the world, though the two have decided to part ways next season.
Nestor has won Tennis Canada’s award 10 times in his career.
“I’m very honoured to receive this award and to have had the success I’ve had not only this year but throughout my career,” Nestor said in a release Thursday. “I’m looking forward to next year and hopefully maintaining the same level of play and garnering great results.”
Nestor also represented Canada in two Davis Cup ties in 2010, posting a 2-0 record in doubles and improving his win-loss total to 27-4.
Going into 2011, Nestor is the active career doubles title leader with 71. His new partner is Max Mirnyi of Belarus.
MONTREAL – It’s only November, but the 2011 pro tennis season has begun.
The Canadian women already are training in Montreal, starting fresh after a challenging 2010 in which only Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino improved on her previous year’s ranking.
Things will look quite a bit different next year – and not just because of the extensive renovations going on at the national tennis centre at Jarry Park, which include four clay courts planned for the roof.
The upgrade, which also includes a brand-new press box and additional spaces for the players and coaching staff on the mezzanine level, is on schedule to be completed by the end of March.
The other significant change is how Tennis Canada now will support its players with coaching and training.
Gone are individual coaches for each player, for a certain number of weeks per year. This season, the ladies will be one big, happy sorority.
“We started on Monday. The girls will train here in Montreal, and during tournaments, will be accompanied by the national coaches (Simon Larose and a new addition, Yves Boulais). It’s more of a team approach,” Fed Cup captain and head national women’s coach Sylvain Bruneau said at a press conference Thursday. “Before, each sort of made her own plans. I oversaw it, but it was complicated.”
Aleksandra Wozniak, whose current ranking of No. 128 is largely due to the forearm tendonitis that sabotaged the second half of her season, will still have her own coach, Zdenek Zofka.
Zofka, another new addition, is a highly respected Czech who has decades of experience with several federations, including the British Lawn Tennis Association and the German and Czech federations. He also coached former top-50 player Barbara Schwartz.
Bruneau said the thought was that Zofka’s European background would work well with Wozniak, who was born here but whose parents – including father and longtime coach Antoni – are Polish. The initial training sessions went well for the new duo, he added.
Marino, Sharon Fichman and Valérie Tétreault were on hand at the national centre Thursday. Oakville’s Heidi El Tabakh, who has spent the last decade in Florida but who was given support by Tennis Canada this past year, also will train here and be part of the national program.
Doubles specialist Marie-Ève Pelletier of Repentigny will be a part-time participant.
The one notable name missing is Stéphanie Dubois.
The 24-year-old from Laval has decided to work privately with coach Pierre-Luc Tessier, even though she will be welcome to come and train occasionally with the other women and still will be considered for Fed Cup and other national assignments.
“She has decided to do her own thing,” Bruneau said. “She has always been with Tennis Canada, been part of all of our programs. She’s going to try something else.”
It’s a costly, potentially risky call, perhaps made in part because Dubois’s long association with former personal coach Larose ended earlier this year.
It means no more financial support from Tennis Canada. “That’s true not just for Stéphanie Dubois, but generally. We offer programs that we consider excellent and in which we have invested,” Bruneau said.
Daniel Nestor and Frank Dancevic won their doubles match Saturday, leading Canada to victory over the Dominican Republic in a Davis Cup tennis tie at Rexall Centre.
By moving ahead 3-0 in the best-of-five matchup, Canada remains in Americas Zone Group I, one tier below the 16-country World Group, for the upcoming year. The Dominican Republic is relegated to Americas Zone Group II.
Next year will offer the Canadians a chance to move into the World Group and while Nestor stopped short of any predictions, he likes Canada’s chances.
“I think our team looks good for next year,” said Nestor. “If Frank plays singles and if Peter (Polansky) and Milos (Raonic) keep playing the way they’re capable of playing, we have three good singles players and a good doubles player.”
Canada required nine sets to win the two opening singles matches Friday night but Saturday’s clinching win was more routine. Nestor, the world’s third-ranked doubles player, and Dancevic needed just one hour, 22 minutes to dispatch Victor Estrella and Jhonson Garcia 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
Estrella and Garcia replaced countrymen Luis Delgado and Jose Hernandez. No reason was given.
Nestor and Dancevic were rarely in jeopardy. They won 12 of the first 13 points and did not face a single break point. The Canadians only lost 14 points in 14 service games.
It was the 42nd Davis Cup victory of Nestor’s 18-year career, both Canadian records. He has won 27 of his 31 career Davis Cup doubles matches and offered no indication that he is looking to slow down.
“I’m still playing a full schedule and I’m planning on playing Davis Cup,” said Nestor. “I think I play better the more I play nowadays and Davis Cup is always an important week.”
For Dancevic, the match served as another step in his return from back surgery earlier this year. With the doubles win, along with a quarter-final appearance at an ATP event in Newport, he feels he is on the road to full recovery.
“I’ve put a lot of work and time in and I think it was great to get a couple of matches in already and have some wins under my belt,” said Dancevic. “I feel like I’m on the track right now with my recovery.”
The tie concludes Sunday with Polansky scheduled to face Estrella while Raonic takes on Garcia.
VANCOUVER – Call it Greg Rusedski in reverse.
Canadian tennis has never stopped lamenting how the most successful player this country has ever produced left Canada in 1995 and adopted British citizenship, the native country of his mother.
The Montreal-born left-hander — who was nurtured through the Canadian development system — went on to win 15 pro titles, reach No. 4 in the world and make the final of the 1997 U.S. Open.
But Tennis Canada is proving it can work both ways. Last year, they began making overtures to Toronto-born, Spanish-raised Steven Diez, one of Europe’s top young players. Diez, who hasn’t lived in Canada since he was six, is now a member of our Davis Cup squad.
“Ever since I left Toronto [his parents are both Spanish citizens] my first coach [Danny Da Costa] kept in touch with me and also kept Tennis Canada updated on my development,” explained Diez Monday after dropping a tough three-setter 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4 to big-hitting American Alex Kuznetsov in the opening round of the $175,000 Odlum Brown Vancouver Open at the Hollyburn Country Club.
“Last year, the talks got serious. My dad came over and met with Tennis Canada and we both decided it [playing for Canada] was a good opportunity for me.”
Just out of juniors, Diez won the prestigious European under-18 singles crown in 2009. Despite that accomplishment his climb to a future spot on the Spanish Davis Cup team probably looked like a hike up Mount Everest.
Currently, Spain has no less than 13 players in the top 100 of the word, led by No. 1 Rafael Nadal. As for Canada, right now there’s nobody in the top 100 and only one, Peter Polansky, with a ranking in the 200s. With his current world ranking of No. 546 Diez automatically becomes Canada’s No. 7-rated pro.
“There are a lot of good players in Spain,” understates Diez, who still trains in Spain under former top-50 player Galo Blanco. “Here, I have a good opportunity to play for my home country.”
Tennis Canada has wasted little time integrating Diez into our Davis Cup team. They took him with them this spring to Bogota where he was the No. 5 on the group that lost to Colombia in an America’s Zone Group 1 second-round tie. Part of the attraction of Diez is he grew up on clay. Canada hasn’t had a clay court specialist of any repute since Andrew Sznajder in the 1980s. If he develops, Diez should at least give the Davis Cup team a fighting chance when they draw those assignments in South America.
Diez is getting no special treatment at the Odlum Brown. He earned his own way into the main draw by coming through weekend qualifying.
Against Kuznetsov, Diez, as you might suspect from a clay courter, hung close to the baseline but showed a nice touch when he did come to the net. He appeared clearly out of the match trailing 4-1 in the third set and beginning to cramp badly. However, the Spanish-Canadian dug in and fought back with two service breaks to even at 4-4 before limited mobility finally got the better of him.
“In the end he was in better condition than me,” said Diez. “He also pulled out some big serves [17 aces in all] at key points. My expectations here are to learn as much as possible and try some new things on hard courts.”
BASELINES — Former two-time Van Open men’s champion Dudi Sela of Israel opened with a 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-4 first-round victory over American qualifier Brydan Klein . . . The past weekend’s final of the $619,500 L.A. Tennis Open was an all-Van Open alumni affair with Sam Querrey rallying to defeat Andy Murray in three sets. Querrey was a 2007 Van Open finalist while Murray, currently the world No. 4, was a quarter-finalist in 2005.