Raonic became the first Canadian to win an ATP Tour title since 1995 by winning a hard-fought match Sunday over defending-champion Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in the final of the SAP Open.
Raonic followed up a run to the round of 16 at the Australian Open last month with a win in his eighth career tournament, part of a stunning start to the year that even he wouldn’t have believed possible if someone told him he would have accomplished all of this back in December.
“‘Are you Santa? You’re giving me all these great gifts,”’ he said he would have asked a prognosticator who predicted these results.
In a match that featured two tiebreakers, one break point and no breaks of serves, it was the smallest differences that decided the winner. Verdasco squandered four set points—including two on his serve—in the opening-set tiebreaker and then lost the only minibreak in the second tiebreaker when he hit a backhand into the net after a strong approach shot by Raonic to fall behind 4-2.
Verdasco fought off two match points on his serve but once again had no answer for the big-serving Raonic, who won it with a 138 mph serve that Verdasco hit into the net. Verdasco was upset because a fan yelled out just as he was about to hit the ball, but the point stood despite his complaints to the chair umpire that he was distracted.
“What I hope is that there are not people like that in the stadium,” Verdasco said. “If they don’t know the rules in tennis they can go see soccer.”
Raonic had 13 aces and 20 service winners in the match, reaching 149 mph on the radar gun. The 20-year-old Raonic became the youngest winner on tour since Marin Cilic won in New Haven in 2008 at age 19.
Raonic has had quite a run after losing in the third round of qualifying in Chennai, India, to start the year. He went through qualifying and winning three matches in the Australian Open and then won in San Jose. He has shot up the rankings from 156th at the end of last year to a projected spot in the top 60 after this victory.
“I can’t stop smiling,” he said. “I’m happy about it and I hope I can keep it going more than six weeks, for a full year schedule, and see where I am at the end of the year.”