Friday, November 9, 2012

Raonic, Hewitt, Verdasco enter SAP Open

Milos Raonic, serving in this year's SAP Open final in San Jose, will try
to win his third consecutive title in the tournament in February.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Andy Roddick didn't do it. Nor did Andy Murray, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi or John McEnroe.
   Milos Raonic will try to become the first player since Tony Trabert (1953-55) to win the San Francisco Bay Area stop on the men's tour for three years in a row.
   Organizers recently announced that Raonic, former champions Lleyton Hewitt of Australia and Fernando Verdasco of Spain and the top-ranked doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan have entered the 2013 SAP Open, Feb. 11-17 at HP Pavilion in San Jose.
   It will be the 125th and last SAP Open, the second-oldest tennis tournament in the United States. Rio de Janeiro, the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics and a co-host of the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament, will replace San Jose on the ATP World Tour beginning in 2014.
   Raonic (pronounced Rau-nitch), a 21-year-old Canadian, defeated Verdasco in the 2011 final for his first ATP World Tour title and Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan in last year's championship match.
  Roddick (2004-05), Murray (2006-07), Sampras (1996-97) and McEnroe (1978-79) each won the Bay Area tournament twice in a row. McEnroe triumphed five times overall, Roddick three and Murray and Sampras twice each. Agassi prevailed five times but never consecutively.
   Raonic, 6-foot-5 (196 centimeters), is ranked a career-high 13th in the world with three career singles titles. He is 9-0 in singles in San Jose.
   Hewitt, the 2002 SAP Open champion, plans to return for the sixth time. A likely International Tennis Hall of Famer, the 31-year-old veteran ranks fourth among active players with 28 singles titles. He trails Roger Federer (76), Rafael Nadal (50) and Novak Djokovic (33).
   Hewitt has won two Grand Slam singles crowns, the U.S. Open in 2001 and Wimbledon in 2002. Ranked No. 1 in 2001, he has plummeted to No. 80.
   Verdasco, a 28-year-old left-hander, has played in the SAP Open twice. He won it in 2010, becoming the first Spaniard to do so since Manuel Santana in 1964, and fell to Raonic 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in the 2011 final.
   The loss to Raonic was marred by controversy. With Raonic serving on match point, a spectator yelled, and a distracted Verdasco netted the return.
   Verdasco is ranked 24th after reaching a career-high No. 7 in 2009.
   The 34-year-old Bryan twins have won 82 career doubles titles, an Open Era record. Twelve have come in Grand Slam tournaments, tying the all-time mark of Australians John Newcombe and Tony Roche from 1965 to 1976.
   The Bryans also won the Olympic gold medal in men's doubles this summer in London. But they have never won the SAP Open in nine attempts, even though they attended college a few miles up the road at Stanford. They have reached the final only once, losing to former Stanford stars Scott Lipsky and David Martin in 2008.
   The SAP Open has struggled to attract top players and big crowds in recent years. Roddick's career steadily declined after he won his last SAP title in 2008, and he retired in September, one week after his 30th birthday. No American man has won a Grand Slam singles title since Roddick captured the 2003 U.S. Open for his only major crown.
   France's Gael Monfils, then ranked 13th in the world, was seeded first in last year's tournament but withdrew with a knee injury. Roddick was second and Raonic third. The final drew an announced crowd of 5,682.
   The tournament has been held at HP Pavilion, the home of the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks, since it opened in 1994. That has forced the Sharks to take an extended road trip each February.
   The event began in Monterey in 1889 and also has been held under various names in Berkeley, San Francisco, Alamo and Daly City. Other past champions include legends Don Budge, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors.
   Ticket packages and group tickets are available by calling (408) ACE-2121. Individual session tickets will go on sale in January. For more information, visit www.sapopentennis.com.

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