- - Sunday, August 3, 2014

Soon after Milos Raonic arrived in Washington last weekend, the Wimbledon semifinalist said that he was hardly satisfied with his maiden trip to a Grand Slam final four.

The confident Canadian spoke instead of the anger and frustration he felt in coming up short at Wimbledon. He needed, he said, to channel those feelings into positive energy for the hard court season.

On Sunday, Raonic followed through, beating Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-4, in the first ever all-Canadian men’s final in ATP history. In doing so, Raonic capped off a nearly flawless week at the FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park.

“I couldn’t have [responded] in a better way,” said Raonic, who earned his sixth career ATP title and his first of 2014.

“I took that anger and disappointment that I dealt with during the break and to change things around here is good. But there’s still a fire in me because of how I played that [Wimbledon] semifinal that is still going to get me going.”

Raonic, seeded second at the Citi Open, was all business this week winning five matches in as many days without dropping a set. He may have saved his best match for last, needing only 67 minutes to dispatch his countryman Pospisil, while winning 93 percent of his first service points and firing nine aces.

“You can’t read his serve at all,” said the 13th break point opportunity of the final. “You kind of have to play the guessing game because the serve is so accurate and so fast. It’s just a heavy serve so you can’t just stand there and react. If you do, he’s just going ace you so you kind of have to guess. He’s just serving really well.”

In Sunday’s final, Raonic had his return game working as well, turning one of the biggest matches in Canadian tennis history into an early rout.

Raonic broke Pospisil in the opening game of the match, before doing so twice more in the first set. Both players held serve for the first nine games of the second set, before Raonic broke Pospisil again, taking the final point and the Citi Open title on a cross court backhand winner.

“It gives me a lot of confidence,” Raonic said of beginning his hard court season with a win. “I’ve always said that hard courts are by far my favorite, and having done as well I did on clay and grass, it got me really excited for about this week and for that to be showing right away this week was great.”

Raonic will rise to No.6 in the world when the latest ATP rankings are released Monday, matching his career-high. It also the highest ranking ever achieved by a Canadian player.

Ultimately, he said, “I want to be No.1 in the world.”

The Raonic-Pospisil final is the just the latest milestone for Tennis Canada- the national governing body for the sport- which is in the midst of its greatest year to date.

In the last three months alone, Raonic became the first Canadian male to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal (French Open) and semifinal (Wimbledon), while Eugenie Bouchard became the first Canadian woman to reach the final at a major (Wimbledon).

Raonic and Bouchard are also the first Canadians to crack the top-10 in the ATP and WTA rankings.

“It feels like there’s history being made all the time or something,” said Pospisil who teamed with American Jack Sock to win the gentlemen’s doubles title at Wimbledon.

“As a Canadian, I feel like I’m hearing it all the time, whether it was at Wimbledon with Genie Bouchard or Milos, so yeah, it’s nice.”

The success can be seen across the board. In Saturday’s Citi Open women’s doubles final, Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski partnered with Shuko Aoyama of Japan for her first career WTA title.

“In general in Canada, I can’t tell you what’s going on,” said Dabrowski. “Maybe people just don’t feel like playing hockey anymore.”

Both Raonic and Pospisil also expect a “rowdy” atmosphere when they return to Canada next week for the country’s showcase event, the Rogers Cup in Toronto.

Like Raonic, Pospisil will also move up in rankings, jumping from No.36 to No.28.

“It’s great,” Raonic said of the support he and Pospisil received in Washington with Canadian flags and paraphernalia seen in the stadium.

“With myself doing as well as I have, and Genie and Vasek and many more, it’s something where that kind of atmosphere has been more consistent following us around the world. It’s nice to see that.”

In Sunday’s men’s doubles final, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat Sam Groth and Leander Paes 7-5, 6-4.



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