Cameron on tennis: Raonic looks to make history

February 17, 2013, 8:52 AM


If Milos Raonic wins the SAP Open on Sunday, that’s what it will be: historic.

Raonic is undefeated at the SAP Open after winning the tournament in 2011 and 2012. If he wins the 2013 title, he’ll be the first player in the Open era to win it three consecutive times. If he completes that feat, no one will be able to take it away from him — this is the final year of the tournament.

Watch live on Sportsnet ONE at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday as Milos Raonic seeks his third-straight SAP Open title.

But what’s even more astounding than the historic run that Raonic is on is his play. From the Davis Cup two weeks ago through the SAP Open this week, Raonic is playing a complete game.

Doubters have always said that Raonic is nothing more than a big server and he won’t be a top player without more weapons. The doubters are right on one point — you can’t succeed in tennis with only one weapon.

But Raonic has never had just one weapon. Sure, his wicked serve is hard to miss and often overshadows the rest of his game, but he’s got skill beyond his service game.

Raonic has a blistering forehand, a rapidly developing backhand, an improving and now more aggressive return game and he’s getting more and more comfortable coming into the net.

It’s there; the complete game is in there somewhere. Raonic is just learning how to use it. Remember, he’s only 22 years old. It takes time.

At the end of 2012, Raonic said he wanted to work to improve on his return and net game. If the past two weeks are any indication, he’s doing just that.

Against Sam Querrey in the SAP semifinals, Raonic won 88 per cent of his first serve points, 88 per cent of his second serve points and 41 per cent of the total return points. You don’t get more complete than that.

Raonic will have to play another complete game against Tommy Haas in Sunday’s SAP Open final.

Don’t let Tommy Haas’ age fool you. He may be 34, but he’s a young 34. Haas started on tour in 1996, when Raonic was just five years old. Don’t point that out to Haas though — he’s been known to have a temper.

Haas has had a long and successful career, winning a silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, reaching four Grand Slam semifinals but never reaching a final. Even in 2012, Haas competed at a high level, beating Roger Federer to win the Gerry Weber Open before being named the 2012 ATP World Tour Comeback Player of the Year.

Not bad for a man who is well past his retirement age.

If Haas wins the SAP Open on Sunday, he’ll be defying the tennis odds, which suggests the game is for the young and strong.

If Raonic wins the SAP Open on Sunday, he’ll not only re-write history, but prove why he’s just a few wins away from being in the ATP’s top ten.


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