Re: ATP Finals
Top seed Andy Roddick ended Milos Raonic’s courageous run at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, prevailing 7-6(7), 6-7(11), 7-5 on Sunday to claim his 30th tour-level title and third in Memphis.
World No. 8 Roddick became the third active player on the ATP World Tour to win 30 or more career singles titles, joining Roger Federer (67) and Rafael Nadal (43). He also became the eighth American-born player to accomplish the feat.
“Winning tennis tournaments I don’t ever take for granted,” he said. “I’ve won 30 of them now, but I think every one of them is just as exciting. I get just as much joy today as I did my first one.”
Both players had their share of opportunities in the two tie-breaks. Roddick, who was playing in his 50th tour-level final, clinched the first set with his eighth ace of the match after saving two set points. In the second set, Raonic fought off elimination as he faced down three match points at 6-5, 8-7 and 10-9 and converted on his fourth set point of the tie-break.
Roddick had two chances to build a 5-1 lead in the third set, but Raonic rallied to hold and then capitalised on his fifth break point in the ensuing game to get back on serve. Raonic continued his fight, saving a fourth match point at 4-5, but was unable to come up with an answer on Roddick’s next opportunity.
On a dramatic match point, Raonic stretched Roddick wide to the ad court with a penetrating inside-out forehand and proceeded to the net. Roddick replied with a searching down-the-line backhand, which Raonic did well to cover and angled away a crisp forehand volley that looked good enough to get him back to deuce. But Roddick, desperate to avoid a third consecutive tie-break with the Canadian, hustled back to the deuce court and then lunged forward into a diving down-the-line forehand pass into the open court.
Roddick was left with with a grazed right forearm, but it was a small price to pay for the return. It was a dramatic end to a dramatic final, and most likely the best championship point the tournament has ever seen.
“That’s the best shot I’ve ever hit in my life, considering the circumstance,” said Roddick. “I played a pretty good point before that. Just making the return, you get disheartened when he doesn’t miss the next ball because it’s tough to get a serve back. He had a great volley there. I don’t really remember much else besides the fact that I went for the ball, I hit it, I didn’t really think much of it. Then I heard people cheering. I was like, ‘No, there’s no way that went in.’ I guess it did.”
Raonic said: “It’s tough playing when you’re in a final, you’re playing a Top 10 player and you’re not at your best, but all you can do is fight, keep fighting and hope things turn around. Some things were unfortunate in that match and I think it’s nice that he had to come up with something that amazing to finish off the match.”
Roddick, 28, improved to a 35-7 record at this ATP World Tour 500 indoor hard-court tournament. He also won the title in 2002 and ’09, and was runner-up in 2003 and ’07.
The top American has now won an ATP World Tour title for 11 straight years, best among active players along with Federer. Earlier this season, Roddick finished runner-up to Robin Soderling at the Brisbane International.
Raonic, who was making just his ninth tour-level main draw appearance, was contesting his second final in as many weeks. The 20-year-old Canadian had won the SAP Open title last Sunday with victory over World No. 9 Fernando Verdasco. He beat Verdasco again in the first round this week.
With a total of 32 aces in the final, Raonic set a new tournament record of 129 aces, surpassing Mark Philippoussis’ mark of 106 in 2001. He hit a career and tournament-high 38 aces in his win against Radek Stepanek on Thursday. He had reached the final by winning four straight three-set matches, including third set tie-break wins over Verdasco and Stepanek.
“He’s as exciting of a talent as we’ve seen in a while,” said Roddick. “The good thing for him is he’s going to be able to learn on the job because that serve is going to win him a lot of matches, even if he goes up and down with the rest of his play. It’s one of the bigger serves I’ve seen. I still think he can learn a lot about playing the game, but it won’t surprise me if he’s Top 10 sooner rather than later.”
Despite his loss, Raonic is projected to climb to No. 37 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings on Monday, making him the highest-ranked Canadian man in the history of the South African Airways ATP Rankings. Greg Rusedski was No. 41 in June 1994.
“It’s something really special and amazing,” said Raonic of his ranking. “It’s not by any means something to be too happy with because I want to keep improving that. It’s not where my goal lies. I want to keep improving, I want to keep progressing and developing and I think I can do a lot more.
“But I’m going to have a chance tomorrow when I wake up, even tonight, to have a chance to soak up everything that’s happened these past two weeks. A lot has happened, even the last six weeks, a lot has happened since the beginning of the year. I’m going to take the moments I need, take the time, think about it, learn from it, as well as use it to my advantage in the future.”
Raonic was looking to become the third player Sunday to clinch ATP World Tour titles in back-to-back weeks, after Soderling won in Marseille and Nicolas Almagro in Acapulco.