Raonic (with his lethal serve) caught the attention of the tennis world at the Australian Open with his impressive run to the 4th Round. Considering that it was only his second-ever Grand Slam event, the unseeded Raonic turned heads by defeating No. 22 Michael Llodra in the Second Round and then stunning No. 10 Mikhail Youzhny in the Third Round. He eventually lost a tough Fourth Round match to semifinalist-to-be No. 7 David Ferrer. But nonetheless, he became the first qualifier to reach the 4th. Round of a Grand Slam since 1999.
But anyone can have a Cinderella run at a Grand Slam, right? The 20-year old Raonic wasn't the first newcomer with a dream run and he won't be the last. But what has made Raonic the talk of the town is his performances in the tournaments he's played since the Australian Open. You know, those non-Grand Slam tournaments that nobody knows about and only die-hard tennis fans follow. In these tournaments Raonic has shown he is no fluke.
Following the Australian Open, Raonic has played in 3 tournaments. He had a disappointing showing in the South Africa Tennis Open, losing in the second round but the following two tournaments have put him on the tennis radar. He won his first-ever ATP title at the SAP Open in San Jose, California with a gut-wrenching (7-6, 7-6) win against World No. 9 Fernando Verdasco in the Final. But perhaps his next performance (in a losing cause) at this past week's Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tennessee is what has the tennis world buzzing.
In Memphis, Raonic again defeated Verdasco, only this time in the first round. He disposed of World No. 16 Mardy Fish in the Semifinals to reach his second consecutive final. In the Final, however, he lost (barely) to World No. 8 Andy Roddick in what perhaps has been the toughest match of Roddick's career. In the end, Roddick, the seasoned veteran, escaped with a 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (11-13), 7-5 victory and it doesn't get any closer than that. This match was the equivalent of Apollo Creed vs. Rocky Balboa in the movie Rocky. Yes, Creed won but all eyes were on the heavy-underdog Rocky for his brilliant performance and the same can be said about Raonic.
After the match, a bloodied (literally) Roddick said: “He’s as exciting of a talent as we’ve seen in a while,” Roddick said of Raonic. “The good news for him is he’s going to be able to learn on the run because that serve is going to win him a lot of matches, even if he goes up and down with his play because it’s one of the biggest serves I’ve seen.”
This is one huge compliment coming from the man who for many years has had the fastest serve in tennis history.
|AP Photo - Roddick was beaten to the ground but found a way to win.|