WASHINGTON (AP) — With a red-and-white maple leaf flag draped on the table in front of him, and a crystal trophy nearby marking his victory in the first all-Canadian ATP final, Milos Raonic already was thinking about what’s up ahead.
Thanks to a dominant serve and an increasingly versatile game, the second-seeded Raonic earned his sixth career title by beating 13th-seeded Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday at the Citi Open.
Not allowing himself much time to celebrate, Raonic planned to fly to Canada later Sunday for Toronto’s Rogers Cup – another chance to demonstrate on hard courts that he is ready to follow up his semifinal showing at Wimbledon with a deep run at the U.S. Open. The year’s last Grand Slam tournament begins Aug. 25.
“Sometimes I can get caught up in what the next goal is – the bigger goal,” said the 23-year-old Raonic, who will equal his career-best ranking Monday by rising one spot to No. 6. “And that’s about not losing too much energy this week, being the best I can tennis-wise and physical-wise and mentally for next week.”
He did not drop a set in Washington, winning 52 of 53 service games, saving 7 of 8 break points and hitting 83 aces, topping 140 mph (225 kph). Against Pospisil, he hit nice aces, saved the only break point he faced and converted four of his own.
“You can’t read his serve at all. You kind of have to play the guessing game, because it’s so accurate and fast,” said Pospisil, whose ranking will jump from 36th into the top 30.
It was the first time two men from Canada played each other in a tour final in the Open era, which began in 1968, and flags from the country dotted the stands on the outskirts of Washington.
“That kind of atmosphere has been more consistently following us around the world. It’s great to see that,” Raonic said. “Not that many people knew there were this many Canadians in Washington.”
Speaking by telephone from her office in Toronto before Sunday’s match, Tennis Canada President and CEO Kelly Murumets said: “The beautiful irony is that it’s a final between two Canadians in (the U.S.) capital. I love that irony.”
She quickly added: “I said that with tongue in cheek.”
In the Citi Open women’s final later Sunday, two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia won her first WTA title since 2010 by beating unseeded Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
For the 24-year-old Pospisil, who won the men’s doubles title at Wimbledon last month, this was his first ATP singles final. He played a bit like someone overwhelmed by the occasion – although Pospisil insisted he wasn’t, instead chalking up uneven play to fatigue after spending more than 3 1/2 hours on court Saturday, when he finished his rain-interrupted quarterfinal before winning his semifinal.
The 36th-ranked Pospisil was broken in the opening game Sunday, when the air was muggy and the temperature topped 80 degrees (27 Celsius).
In the next game, Raonic’s double-fault gave Pospisil his only break point. But Raonic yanked that chance away with an ace and two service winners.
When Pospisil missed a cross-court forehand to get broken and trail 4-1, he smacked a ball angrily, and it bounced into the stands.
Yes, Raonic is becoming an increasingly frustrating opponent. He received well, including a stinging backhand return winner to earn his first break point. He volleyed well. He produced passing winners, including a cross-court backhand on match point.
This was his biggest title, although Raonic ranked it as his “third or fourth” greatest accomplishment.
But he said it was not the same as his previous titles.
“This one’s different,” Raonic said, “in the sense (that) now I … believe I can give myself a chance to win any and every tournament.”