August 04, 2014 - 9:05 AM
WASHINGTON - The king of Canadian tennis isn't ready to give up his throne just yet.
Milos Raonic delivered a strong message Sunday with a workmanlike 6-1, 6-4, win against countryman Vasek Pospisil in an anti-climactic Citi Open final in Washington, D.C. The match marked the first all-Canadian final in ATP history and took just 67 minutes to complete.
"It gives me a lot of confidence," said Raonic, who earned his first ATP title of 2014 and will rise one spot in the latest ATP rankings and match his career-high of No. 6 in the world.
"I've always said that hard courts are by far my favourite, and having done as well I did on clay and grass (this year), it got me really excited about this week. For that to be my showing right away this week was great."
Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., was nearly perfect in his first tournament since a semifinal run at Wimbledon. As the second seed in Washington, Raonic did not drop a set all week thanks largely to what the 13th-seeded Pospisil called "the best serve in the game right now."
Raonic won 92 per cent of his first serve points in Sunday's final and faced just one break point against in beating Pospisil for the second time in as many ATP meetings. Raonic also beat Pospisil in three sets in the semifinals of last year's Rogers Cup in Montreal.
"It was a combination of him playing very well and my being very heavy legged," said Pospisil, who spent more than 3 1/2 hours on court Saturday after his quarter-final match from Friday was delayed by rain. "I ran out of gas a little bit, it took me a while to get into the match, but credit to him, he played very well."
Pospisil, from Vancouver, was playing in his first career ATP final. The 24-year-old is experiencing an incredible in-season turnaround, having reached at least the quarter-finals in four of his last five events, just months after a nagging back injury contributed to an eight-match losing streak from February through May. Pospisil will rise from 36th to 28th in the ATP world rankings.
"It was a positive week for me," he said. "I couldn't expect too much out of myself today just given the 24 hours that I had with the day before. But it was a very positive week, (including) a top-5 win," against world No. 5 Tomas Berdych which eliminated the tournament's top seed.
There was a definite Canadian feel surrounding Sunday's final with fans sporting Canadian flags, pins and jerseys on the grounds of the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Washington.
"It's not just here," Raonic said. "With my doing as well as I have, and (Eugenie Bouchard) and Vasek and many more, it's something where that kind of atmosphere has been more consistent following us around the world. It's nice to see that."
The maiden all-Canadian final was the latest milestone for Tennis Canada and it just happened to take place on the eve of the country's marquee tennis event, the Rogers Cup.
Earlier this year at Wimbledon, Raonic became the first Canadian male to reach a Grand Slam semifinal, while Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que., was the first Canadian to compete in a Grand Slam final.
"It feels like there's history being made all the time," said Pospisil, who teamed with American Jack Sock to win the gentlemen's doubles title at Wimbledon.
"As a Canadian, I feel like I'm hearing it all the time, whether it was at Wimbledon with Genie Bouchard or Milos, so yeah, it's nice. But for me, I was thinking more that it was my first final (Sunday) which was great. But yeah, it was nice to be a part of."
Raonic and Pospisil also posed with a Canadian flag for a pre-match photo on stadium court. Soon after, Raonic went to work, breaking Pospisil in the opening game of the match, and twice more in the 28-minute opening set.
"It was great the way I started," Raonic said. "I couldn't have asked for more. I had a chance to break in every single game in the first set and then I continued to play solid after that. All in all, a very good performance in an important moment for me."
The second set was more competitive with the crowd rallying behind Pospisil to force a decisive third set, as both players held serve through the first nine games. Raonic eventually broke with Pospisil serving to stay in the match at 4-5. Raonic clinched the win with a cross court backhand winner.
"This one is different," Raonic said of his sixth career hard court title. "Now I go into every tournament, as I have for the past few weeks and months, believing I can win every tournament. In 2012 and 2013, it sort of had to be the right tournament for me. Now I feel like I can win any and every tournament."
The next opportunity comes at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, where Sunday's historic final from Washington aired on screens across the campus of York University.
"History is being made," said Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale in Toronto.
"As Canadians, we're all very patriotic as we see with hockey and things like that. On the site here, for example, everybody's talking about that match, including the players. It's good to see Vasek come back after some injuries. That's really exciting. And also for Canadians to see them on TV all the time and now we have two players in the final, it's just amazing."
NOTES: Gabriela Dabrowski from Ottawa won her first career WTA title at the Citi Open on Saturday. Dabrowski partnered with Shuko Aoyama of Japan to win the women's doubles championship.
With files from Stephen Whyno in Toronto.
Note to readers: This is a corrected version of an earlier story. Raonic defeated Pospisil in three sets at last year's Rogers Cup, not two as previously stated.
News from © Canadian Press, 2014