Canadian Raonic on to second straight final
Canadian Milos Raonic is on what he calls an amazing run, and he's not ready to stop after using his powerful serve to beat Mardy Fish 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 Saturday in the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships semifinals.
The 20-year-old Raonic will play his second ATP final in as many weeks Sunday against top-seeded American Andy Roddick, who defeated Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-3, 6-4 to advance to his 50th career tournament final.
Raonic earned his first career ATP victory in his first-ever final appearance last week in San Jose.
"I'm playing amazing and getting amazing results," said the Thornhill, Ont., resident.
Rebecca Marino's quest to win the women's final ended miserably when the Vancouver native lost the first set 6-2 to Slovakia's Magdalena Rybarikova before retiring with an abdominal strain.
Marino had posed with Raonic and a Canadian flag earlier, but the No. 6 seed couldn't play through an injury suffered in the semifinals. She cried into a towel courtside after consulting a trainer.
"It's my left abdomen. It basically hurts every time I serve ... I'm sorry I couldn't give you a better match."
Toronto's Daniel Nestor and partner Max Mirnyi of Belarus, the top seeds, advanced to the men's doubles final with a 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over the third-seeded squad of Bahamian Mark Knowles and Slovak Michal Mertinak.
This is just Raonic's ninth ATP World Tour event, and his hot start to this year already moved him from No. 156 at the end of 2010 to a career-high No. 59 coming into Memphis. His performance here will move him into the top 50 to around no. 37, which would make him the highest-ranked Canadian ever. Greg Rusedski was the last Canadian to win on tour in April 1995.
Raonic had a couple fans waving small Canadian flags in the stands at The Racquet Club, and he said this roll isn't coming too fast.
"I'm acknowledging it all and taking as much as I can from it, but focusing on the next day and doing what I need to do for tomorrow's final," Raonic said. "The thing I'm most proud of is my level of development, and everything else comes after."
This was Fish's third semifinal in his 11th trip to Memphis, but the 29-year-old American hadn't seen Raonic play before in person outside of perhaps 30 minutes on TV. Fish backed up about two metres off the base line, sometimes behind the word "Memphis" on the court trying to give himself a fraction longer to pick up Raonic's serve.
"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."
Raonic never played a third set in San Jose. He hasn't finished a match here yet without going to a third set. He won the first set over Fish in 35 minutes after breaking the American in the third game only to need one hour 59 minutes to close out this match.
But he struggled in the second set and had to fight to hold serve in his first service game. The fourth-seeded Fish broke back to take the second set, finally converting his third break point when Raonic double-faulted. Raonic said he shook that off by focusing on the next set.
"Start over, fight and sort of make him play as much as you can on his serve and sort of try as much as you can to keep him always guessing on his serve. I was getting a little bit predictable there," Raonic said.
Raonic broke Fish in the fifth game of the third set when the American put a backhand into the net.
The six-foot-five Raonic hit 232 kilometres an hour on some of his serves, and he also has the mobility to run all around the court. He broke Fish again and won the match by going to the net and dropping a soft shot where Fish couldn't reach it. That came a point after Raonic got the advantage on a shot that appeared out.
Fish pointed to the spot and complained to the chair umpire with no success.
"It's disappointing, but I'm already down," Fish said. "I've got to break his serve, which I hadn't been very successful doing that. Certainly wasn't the reason I lost that call. It didn't help ... Obviously, the goal in that situation is to try to make him serve it out, make him nervous. He's never been in the semis of a 500 event before."
As for Roddick, he said there's a number that sounds even better than reaching his 50th career ATP tournament final.
"Better than 50 finals would be 30 wins," Roddick said. "I think that's what I have ahead of me. Certainly a pretty big number.
"Not sure how many guys have won 30 tournaments, so it certainly kind of rounds off the number. It sounds better than 29."
Only Roger Federer (67) and Rafael Nadal (43) have more career wins among active players than Roddick.
"Honestly, I had no idea until I saw it last night," Roddick said. "Yeah, to play in the final of 50 tennis tournaments as a professional is a pretty big number.
"(I) might not be that bad after all."
Roddick's victory Saturday was a little sweeter since Roddick had lost his first three matches with del Potro, and he also struggled with slow starts. But that wasn't the case this time out as Roddick reached the final for the fifth time in six semifinals at The Racquet Club.
"This is probably the best match I've played this year, including Australia," Roddick said. "I played one bad game."
He will play for his third title here Sunday and would join Tommy Haas and Jimmy Connors as the only players to do that.