Though this weekend’s multiple event finals on both the ATP Tour and the WTA saw Robin Soderling, Nicolas Almagro, Magdalena Rybarikova and Caroline Wozniacki secure title victories, this week in tennis was dominated once again by the Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic, who almost, almost had a shot at winning back-to-back ATP Tour titles. I say almost as a certain American veteran, playing in his 50th ATP Tour final, produced what will probably be one of the most watched points in all of sports for 2011. And though Raonic’s form likely assures of him of top 20 status at least by the end of the year if not sooner, Andy Roddick’s 7-6(7), 6-7(11), 7-5 victory in Memphis at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships to earn his 30th ATP Tour title certainly ranks as one of the most memorable performances of his career.
Roddick, who battled a cold he later admitted was given to him by his wife Brooklyn Decker, played most of the match almost in slow motion. That Raonic and Roddick would engage in a server’s duel was a given and the first set had most fans watching in Memphis and elsewhere biding their time for the inevitable tiebreak Roddick finally won after a series of errors and missed opportunities from both players finally allowed the American to finish off the first set with an ace down the “t”. The second set opened with an early exchange of service breaks that led to another tiebreak giving Roddick several match points, all on Raonic’s serve. Raonic however kept his composure and managed to work the tiebreak to his advantage before closing the set out off of a Roddick forehand error.
But when an overrule on a Raonic first serve from the chair umpire in the third set disrupted the Canadian just enough to give Roddick the break at 1-3 and then almost again at 1-4, it appeared the match was Roddick’s to close out. But Roddick played a loose game to give Raonic the break back at 4-3 and it appeared both men were on their way to a final set tiebreak. But as Raonic served to make that happen, he found himself down another match point at 30-40, 5-6. Raonic came to net and hit a forehand volley into midcourt that appeared good enough to win the point. But Roddick hustled and then dived to hit an incredible forehand down the line passing shot to finally win the match.
Roddick said later that the final point was “(the) best shot I’ve ever hit in my career under the circumstances.” That it took an instant classic effort to best the Canadian says a lot about how well Raonic is playing now and what it could take for the rest of the ATP Tour to defeat him. Raonic’s serve is what’s been earning him so much press of late, but it’s his forehand along with his mental fortitude in tight matches that impressed me the most today and the entire week in Memphis that will see him through the rest of the year. Raonic certainly has a lot to work on, especially on taking advantage of when a player is not at their best physically as Roddick was today. But the hype around the Canadian is justified and makes him one to watch for 2011.
As for Roddick, it was another stellar title run that saw him prevail over quality opponents when many thought he would lose early. But that’s how it often goes for the American No. 1 who still doesn’t get enough credit, even in the U.S. for his longevity and amazing career record. Note this. Roddick has now won an ATP title for 11 years straight, the best among active players along with Roger Federer. It might take a highlight reel shot to get Americans to take notice of Roddick outside of the U.S. Open, but even so, his efforts today prove he’s still the best player the USA’s produced in the last ten years and even if a few “spots” are showing, I certainly feel that Roddick’s got a few more highlight reel moments left in him not only this year, but for the rest of his Hall of Fame bound career.
Watch the match highlights here.