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The unseeded Milos Raonic picked up his very first career ATP Tour Championship at the 2011 SAP Open where he beat the top seed and defending champion Fernando Verdasco in two sets. Neither player was broken over two sets and Raonic took both eventual tiebreaks, taking the championship 7-6 and 7-6. Raonic made the finals as a walkover when second seed Gael Monfils withdrew from the tournament with a wrist injury.
Raonic seemed to be "just behind" Verdasco throughout the entirety of the match - until both sets went to the tiebreak, where he showed poise beyond his experience.
Things were interesting from the beginning, both players started things off with monster service games and it continued on through the first set. Neither player was broken, with Verdasco looking slightly steadier, giving Raonic more trouble on his services than vice versa, but it was a different story halfway through the eventual tiebreak. Verdasco found himself up 6-2, when Raonic began to fight back with his forehand, making several shots and eventually winning the tiebreak 7-6 with his backhand.
Raonic seemed to struggle with Verdasco's lefty serve, while the Spaniard couldn't handle the power of the Canadian's. The second set was very much the same as the first set throughout its majority. Verdasco took it to Raonic while the Candian was serving, and finished up his service games seemingly with ease as both players held all the way through. Halfway through the set, Raonic started hitting aces that seemed to frustrate Verdasco, but it eventually went to a tiebreak again.
The tiebreak got started much like the previous, exchanging points here and there. Raonic took a 4-2 lead after a very long rally and it was clear these two are very evenly matched, was says a lot for the young Canadian against someone of Verdasco's experience and caliber. Raonic took a 5-3 lead as Verdasco spent a challenge so as not to leave them on the board. 6-5 now for Raonic after Verdasco has two strong serves. Raonic serves for the championship and he gets it. Big, big serve from Raonic.
The finals for the 2011 SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., are now set. Top seed and world No. 9 Fernando Verdasco will be taking on the unseeded Milos Raonic. One half of the doubles final is set as well, with Americans Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram set to take on the winner of tonight's bout between Mark Knowles/Michal Mertinak and Alejandro Falla/Xavier Malisse.
Verdasco beat the 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in two sets by a score of 6-4, 6-4. Verdasco got the match started by breaking del Potro on the opening game of the match and cruised through the majority of said match. To illustrate just how good he looked, he lost only three points on his serve throughout the first set. He was broken in the second set as del Potro seemed to be rallying back, but Verdasco eventually showed what it was that made him win the SAP Open last year when he beat Andy Roddick in three sets, winning the match with a blistering ace at love.
The unseeded Raonic advanced as a walkover when second-seeded Gael Monfils withdrew from the tournament with a wrist injury. Monfils could miss a month or more with the injury, and will be in doubt for next months Masters 1000 at Indian Wells. He's also out of the French first round of the Davis Cup next month. The wrist injury was first noted in this year's Australian Open.
Raonic is presently unheralded, but noted as an up-and-comer. This is his first ATP World Tour final. The match will be on following the doubles final on Sunday, at approximately 5:00 p.m. Pacific. Check back at this stream and follow @sbnbayarea on Twitter for live updates for just about every point!
Both top seeds came away with wins late on Thursday at the 2011 SAP Open. Fernando Verdasco advances past Ivo Karlovic with little incident, while Gael Monfils beat a very game Robert Kendrick in three sets.
Ivo Karlovic showed off his big serve potential early on against Verdasco, taking his first service game of the night. Verdasco came back and took his though, too. It was a slow start for Verdasco, failing to take advantage of subsequent second serve opportunities in the second first and third games, and it likely cost him the third game as the players held serve. It was closely contested throughout the match, each set of games taking place much like described above. Karlovic held serve, but it was often close, and Verdasco seemed to cruise through his service games without much issue. In the end, Verdasco was too much for him and evened the series between himself and the Croatian at 2-2.
Kendrick and Monfils got things off the right way, a huge opening game with one long rally showed that these two were going to entertain. Kendrick kept things close until it was two-all, but then he dropped four consecutive games. It was a combination of big, big mistakes on his part and stellar play from Monfils when he wasn't making said mistakes. After dropping the first though, things got interesting.
They got to 2-2 again, then 3-2 Kendrick, and things started looking a lot like the first set. Soon, Kendrick started to break through and we all saw the dark side of Gael Monfils. He started with the wacky facial expressions, the mental battle going on in his head, and Kendrick scored a break on him to go up 5-3. We've seen it before happen to Monfils, and he started to show questionable effort.
Until he decided that he was going to fight for every point when he fell down and still returned a hard shot from Kendrick before getting up and running across the court to return a smash, before turning around again to return another smash, but he wasn't able to get it done. It didn't matter though, as Monfils set things right by breaking him back and we were at 5-4.
The American wasn't having any of it though, working to a double set point on Monfils, threatening a break at 40-15. A few great serves from Monfils later though, and he's sitting with advantage over Kendrick. Monfils put him away with a very deceptive backhand dropper to tie it at 5-all. A service game that was won in straight points for Kendrick followed, and then another Monfils service game that saw Kendrick go up 40-15 followed that. This time though, he powered through it and took the second set 7-5.
After breaking Kendrick to start the third set, Monfils called out the trainer and had a lengthy break while being attended to. It's basically a staple for matches involving the Frenchman. He comes back and fights off a break point to go ahead 2-0. A few games later, and Monfils is serving at 5-4 for the match. He was successful, winning it 6-4.
Verdasco is now playing Denis Istomin in the quarterfinals on Friday. Istomin worked his way through a hard-fought match Michael Russell, winning two tiebreak sets in a row. Monfils will be taking on Tim Smyczek in his quarterfinal matchup. Smyczek beat Kei Nishikori in three sets.
Juan Martin del Potro is on his way to making a good run at the SAP Open title. It's still early to annoint anybody anything, but the commentator expressed the feelings of many at the end of the match when he went on about how a semifinal between del Potro and the number one seed Fernando Verdasco would be explosive and just all-around good tennis.
Del Potro took the first set without much incident, using superior ability to make all the shots, he took it at 6-1. His opponent, Lukas Lacko didn't have much to offer the 2009 US Open Champion, and didn't help himself with small mistakes throughout the set. His backhand was off all night and far too many balls hit the net, which just can't happen with this level of competition. When he did blister off some beautiful shots though, del Potro showed that he was recovering from his injuries just fine an that he is most definitely in a whole different league.
The second set was much closer though, Lacko fought hard for every point and made del Potro work it and eventually took it to a tiebreak. After winning five of the first six points though, del Potro seemed to have it in the bag. He did - getting to 6-1, and getting the winner off a missed backhand from Lacko to finish the match at an official score of 6-1, 7-6.
In the post-match interview, del Potro discussed how hard it was not only physically, but mentally in regards to recovering from his injuries that took him out of much of 2010. While it's fun to fascinate about a Verdasco-del Potro semifinal, he still has a tough test in his next opponent, Lleyton Hewitt.
Coming up later tonight are both top seeds at the SAP Open in action. Fernando Verdasco takes on Ivo Karlovic, the hard-serving Croatian while the world number twelve and second seeded Gael Monfils takes on Robert Kendrick shortly after. Follow @sbnbayarea on Twitter for tweets during the matchups.
It was a short in for the local Stanford University product, Bradley Klahn, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be excited for him going forward. In only his second professional match, he drew Gael Monfils, ranked number twelve in the world. The Frenchman might just be the hardest guy inside the top fifteen to take on at such an early stage in one's career due to his intense athleticism and power. Everyone in that top fifteen can make the shots they need to, but few can do them with as much power and explosiveness of Monfils.
The Stanford crowd was out in full force and they were certainly rowdy. They seemed to get on Monfils' nerves at first, but it was clear he was enjoying himself after a few games. He kept looking back at them, at times "shushing" them. Klahn looked as though he'd keep it close from the beginning, holding serve in his first service game, but Monfils proved to be too much too fast.
Monfils eventually took the first set 6-3, and then worked to 4-0 in the second set before Klahn showed some more life, but the set and match ended at with 6-2 on a brutal ace from Monfils. To sum up the entirety of the match, one only had to look to the final serve of the match, a blistering 137 MPH ace that put Klahn away. It was a display of power and technique from the world number twelve.
Bradley was in good spirits regardless, having this to say when asked about playing someone like Gael Monfils this early in his professional career, "It was incredible, far and away the best player I've ever played." There was a lot of positive things to take from his performance, including some incredible forehands down the line that would put away a lot of mid-level competition and give any of the top guys trouble, but the night was for Gael.
Monfils expressed his admiration for the Bay Area and smiled as he apologized to the very pro-Klahn crowd, who gave him a round of applause. Joking at one point during his interview that he didn't remember "that swiss guy" he beat (Roger Federer, current number two in the world and perhaps the consensus best men's tennis player of all time), it was clear the jeering during the match didn't really get to him.
The tournament's number one seed, Fernando Verdasco, got started the right way with a win over Rajeev Ram. He's the defending champion, taking home the SAP Open crown last year, and is ranked ninth in the world.Verdasco took his match in much the same way as Monfils, winning 6-3 and 6-2.
Verdasco will be looking ahead to take on Ivo Karlovic, a man who holds a 2-1 edge over Verdasco in their three previous matchups. The hard-serving Croatian defeated Ryan Sweeting in two sets, a calm and collected 6-4, 6-4 performance. Monfils' upcoming opponent will be Robert Kendrick, who had more of a difficult time advancing from his first-round match, winning in three sets over Igor Kunitsyn, with a 7-5, 3-6 and 6-5 performance.
It's been a long time coming for the former fourth-ranked tennis player in the world, American James Blake, who defeated qualifier Jesse Levine in straight sets of the first round of the 2011 SAP Open. 7-5 and 6-4 was the score for Blake, and that 7-5 was a hard-fought set if there ever was one.
Blake met Levine with several early break opportunities, but squandered the break points and fell behind 5-4 in the first set. The two exchanged breaks though, as Levine took the lead as Blake failed to hold serve, but was broken right back as Blake went on to take nine games out of the last ten in the set.
One poor forehand later, and they were on to the second set where Blake dominated thoroughly. It was Blake's first win in over four months, a stretch of time that had to be unbearable for the former world number four. He's now ranked 170 in the world, and starting either the second or third "comeback" of his career. His four month absence from competition was due to shoulder and knee injuries he experienced in Vienna in October of 2010.
It's a long way back to the top for Blake, who previously had experienced a broken neck in 2004. However, his road to the aforementioned top five came two years following the very serious injury.
In the highlight exhibition matchup of Monday, Gael Monfils (number 12 in the world) beat 14-time Grand Slam champion Pete Sampras in straight sets. It was a fun matchup that say Sampras play very technically sound tennis, but he was unable to keep up with the raw speed and power of Monfils, a player who often beats others in their prime with such a skillset.
It was the first match at the SAP Open for Monfils, who will play local Stanford University product Bradley Klahn on Wednesday after defending champion Fernando Verdasco takes on his opponent earlier in the day.
The 2011 SAP Open kicks off this morning at 9:45am pacific (in about an hour). The SAP Open website has provided a detailed rundown of the playing schedule. There will be two sessions each day with the first sessions of the first four days starting at 9:45am and the second sessions starting at 7:00pm. On Friday the quarterfinals will take place at 11:00am and 7:00pm. On Saturday the semfinals will take place at 1:00pm and 7:00pm. The finals will take place beginning at 3:00pm with the doubles final going first and the singles final second.
As previously mentioned, Comcast SportsNet will be providing television coverage the ATP World Tour’s 2011 SAP Open. According to the SAP Open website, CSN California, CSN Bay Area, and the Tennis Channel will be your go-to channels for Live and Tape Delayed SAP Open coverage:
Singles Semifinal #1 – Will be played at 1:00pm on Saturday, February 12 and will be broadcast live on CSN California and on Tennis Channel.
Singles Semifinal #2 – Will be played at 7:00pm on Saturday February 12 and will broadcast live on Tennis Channel and tape delayed on CSN California.
Singles Final – Will be played at 5:00pm on Sunday, February 13 and will be broadcast live on CSN California and on Tennis Channel
CSN Bay Area will be airing these matches tape delayed on the following dates:
Singles Semifinal #1 – Tuesday, February 15 at 3:00pm
Singles Semifinal #2 – Wednesday, February 16 at 1:00pm
Singles Final – Wednesday, February 16 at 3:00pm
Tickets are still available at the SAP Open Tennis site and I’m sure plenty of secondary ticket markets.
Today, the 2011 SAP Open begins play with five current or former top-five players in the draw. The tournament will take place from Feb. 7 through Feb. 13 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, right here in the Bay Area. There's some exciting story lines to look forward to as the big names get set to play again following the Australian Open.
James Blake, a former top-five-ranked player, is hoping to make his comeback in his first match of 2011 after an injury-filled 2010. Now ranked No. 171 in the world, Blake takes on Jesse Levine who in the first match of interest for the tournament, the last of five that will be played on Monday.
The bigger story though, will be Gael Monfils of France, currently ranked No. 12 in the world, making his debut at the SAP Open. His opponent is a local product, Bradley Klahn of Stanford University. Klahn is playing in only his second tour-level match, but he's coming in confident against one of the more dynamic and powerful players in the game today. His inexperience means that Monfils has seen little of him playing or his playing style, and that along with the hometown advantage could be huge, he seems to think.
There are some more interesting first round matches as well. Defending champion Fernando Verdasco (ranked ninth in the world) takes on Rajeev Ram. They've played on one occasion, and Verdasco took the meeting. Folks are looking ahead to a potential matchup with the hard-serving Ivo Karlovic in the second round - a man who holds a 2-1 advantage over the top seed. Juan Martin del Potro is always looking to regain his form that he had just a short time ago when he took the tennis world by storm and won the 2009 US Open before being sidelined by a plethora of injuries. He'll be taking on Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.
First Round Draw
 Fernando Verdasco (ESP) - [WC] Rajeev Ram (USA)
Ryan Sweeting (USA) - Ivo Karlovic (CRO)
Michael Russell (USA) - Alex Kuznetsov (USA)
Roma Borvanov (MDA) -  Denis Istomin (UZB)
 Sam Querrey (USA) - Lukas Lacko (SVK)
Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) - Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
Brian Dabul (ARG) - Alejandro Falla (COL)
Bjorn Phau (GER) -  Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
 Benjamin Becker (GER) - Ricardas Berankis (LTU)
Dustin Brown (GER) - Donald Young (USA)
Jesse Levine (USA) - James Blake (USA)
Milos Raonic (CAN) -  Xavier Malisse (BEL)
 Kei Nishikori (JPN) - Jan Hajek (CZE)
Robert Farah (COL) - [WC] Tim Smyczek (USA)
Robert Kendrick (USA) - Igor Kunitsyn (RUS)
[WC] Bradley Klahn (USA) -  Gael Monfils (FRA)
Play begins tonight, as stated. Tune into this stream and follow @sbnbayarea on Twitter for updates on matches and news coming out of the SAP Open. The semifinals and finals will be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. We'll have previews and recaps of some of the more interesting matches later in the day and throughout the week, so stay tuned.
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