Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hard-serving Raonic eyes a repeat in SAP Open

   There are some things players on the ATP World Tour just don't want to do.
   They don't want to fly economy to Australia. They don't want to answer stupid questions at post-match news conferences. And they don't want to face Milos Raonic's blistering serve indoors (outdoors is no picnic, either).
   Hammering deliveries at up to 150 mph, the 6-foot-5 Canadian defeated promising U.S. teenager Ryan Harrison 7-6 (4), 6-2 Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the $531,000 SAP Open at HP Pavilion in San Jose.
   Raonic, 21, pounded 20 aces and evened his professional record against Harrison, 19, at 1-1.
   "If he served like that against anybody, it’s going to be a nightmare to break,” Harrison told reporters. “It doesn’t matter who he plays. Whenever he’s serving like that, it’s going to be a tough match for any of the top guys – Roger, Rafa, Novak – all the guys that are the best in the game."
   Harrison beat Raonic 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 in a third-round thriller at Indian Wells last March. But that was outdoors. At HP Pavilion, the home of the NHL's San Jose Sharks, Raonic doesn't have to contend with wind or the sun.
   Raonic, who won his first ATP title in last year's SAP Open, is 8-0 (including a walkover) in the tournament.
  “It was all really new to me last year," said Raonic, who underwent hip surgery in July and missed two months. "I felt it all flew by really quickly. "Whereas now, going through all these things again and playing well and everything, I feel like I know how to deal with it all. There’s not stress around it.”
   Raonic, seeded third at No. 32 in the world rankings, will try for a repeat, his second title of the year and the third of his career when he meets unseeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan today at 3 p.m. (Comcast SportsNet California, CSN Plus in Sacramento and Tennis Channel).
   Istomin, ranked No. 61, outlasted fifth-seeded Julien Benneteau of France 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in 2 hours, 20 minutes Saturday night to reach his second ATP final. Istomin lost to Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine at New Haven in 2010.
   In the doubles final at 1 p.m., fourth-seeded Mark Knowles of the Bahamas and Xavier Malisse of Belgium will face unseeded Kevin Anderson of South Africa and Frank Moser of Germany.
   The 40-year-old Knowles, who played his 10th season with the Sacramento Capitals of World TeamTennis last July, and Malisse eliminated unseeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and Olivier Rochus of Belgium 7-6 (4), 6-3. Malisse and Rochus won the 2004 French Open men's doubles title.
   Anderson, 6-8, and Moser, 6-5, upset second seeds and defending champions Scott Lipsky of Huntington Beach and Rajeev Ram of Carmel, Ind., 7-6 (5), 6-4. Lipsky and former Stanford teammate David Martin reached the NCAA doubles final in 2002 and won the SAP Open doubles crown in 2008.
   WTA tour -- Raquel Kops-Jones, a former Cal All-American from Fresno, and Abigail Spears of San Diego edged fifth-seeded Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain and Anastasia Rodionova, a Russian-born Australian and former Capital, 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 tiebreak in the doubles semifinals of the $2,168,400 Qatar Total Open in Doha.
   Kops-Jones and Spears will face top-seeded Liezel Huber, an American citizen orginally from South Africa, and Lisa Raymond of Wayne, Pa., for the title. Huber and Raymond coasted past Germany's Kristina Barrois and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-2, 6-3.  
   Women's Challenger -- Qualifier Maria Sanchez of Modesto lost to eighth-seeded Claire Feuerstein of France 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 in the semifinals of the $25,000 City of Surprise (Ariz.) Women's Tennis Classic.
   Feuerstein will meet fifth-seeded Michelle Larcher de Brito, a former Capital from Portugal, in today's final.
   College men -- Ninth-ranked Stanford (7-4) lost 4-1 to No. 2 Virginia (7-0) in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship at Charlottesville, Va. No. 13 Cal (5-3) beat No. 12 Pepperdine (3-6) in the consolation quarterfinals.

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