Raonic tops Istomin to repeat as SAP Open champion

Raonic tops Istomin to repeat as SAP Open champion

SAN JOSE, California - The Associated Press
Raonic tops Istomin to repeat as SAP Open champion

Up-and-coming Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic successfully defends his SAP Open title in San Jose, California. AP photo

Milos Raonic captured a second straight SAP Open championship on Feb. 19, rolling past Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 7-6 (3), 6-2 behind a powerful serve nobody in San Jose could solve.

Raonic ripped only seven aces in the final but took control of points from the start, turning the tournament into a serving exhibition in the climate-controlled conditions of an indoor arena. The 6-foot-5 Canadian has dropped only two service games in two years in San Jose.

“I feel amazing. It’s definitely a different feeling from the first time last year. I think I’m more aware and more appreciative of the moment,” Raonic told the crowd in an on-court interview.

After hip surgery following a slip on Wimbledon’s grass last year stalled his season, Raonic is rising rapidly again. The 21-year-old began the tournament ranked 32nd and will head to Memphis next week as one of the favorites.

Raonic relied on his powerful, penetrating serve to punish his opponent again.

After neither player could break the other, Raonic rested on his serve to force a first-set tiebreaker. He fired a backhand return right at Istomin, forcing his lanky opponent to backpedal into a miss, and followed with a forehand approach for a winner to go ahead 5-1 in the breaker.

Last year, Raonic became the first Canadian to win an ATP Tour title since Greg Rusedski won in South Korea in 1995. Now he has two career singles titles and is again making a name for himself on the circuit.

Raonic joins Andy Murray (2006-07), Andy Roddick (2004-05), Mark Philippoussis (1999-2000) and Pete Sampras (1996-97) - whose serve Raonic mimicked as a kid in Canada - as recent back-to-back champions in San Jose.

Istomin had upset American fan favorite Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. He was playing in his second ATP final and first since 2010, when he lost to Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky in New Haven, Conn.
Istomin will have to wait for his first tour championship.

Raonic rose to as high as No. 25 in the rankings last year - the highest ever for a Canadian - before his season derailed with a slip on Wimbledon’s grass. He had hip surgery in July that sliced his season short, still earning ATP Newcomer of the Year honors after such a stirring start.

In doubles, Kevin Anderson and Frank Moser defeated Mark Knowles and Xavier Malisse 6-4, 1-6, 10-5 in the finals.