Friday Preview: Meet Milos Raonic
by Sandra Harwitt|
Who is the newest sensation on the ATP Tour? Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock of late, if you’re a tennis fan you know Milos Raonic is the man. Born in Montenegro, the 20-year-old moved to Canada when he was three and represents the Maple Leaf land proudly.
This guy is moving up the ranking ladder so fast it’s possible the computer is having a hard time keeping up with his rise. He started the season as an unknown with a world ranking of No. 156 and now he’s No. 34.
So how did this gentle giant – he stands 6-foot 5 – find a beeline to success making him the youngest player ranked in the Top 50. Well, he’s putting up results. It all started when he qualified for the Australian Open in January and became the first Canadian to reach at least the third round at a Grand Slam in a decade. He then became the first qualifier to make the fourth round at a major since 1999.
As it turned out, Raonic’s surprising run at the Australian Open was no fluke. In February, the Canadian went on to claim his first career title at the San Jose tournament with a final victory over Top-10 ranked Fernando Verdasco. He won San Jose with his supersonic serve, never surrendering a set in the entire tournament, which made him the first Canadian in 16 years to take a winner’s trophy home.
The following week Raonic moved on to Memphis where he got to play Verdasco again, but this time in the opening round. He worked his way to the final for a second consecutive week, but fell in a dramatic three-set match to Andy Roddick.
Raonic opens his visit to the Sony Ericsson Open this year with a match against Somdev Devvarman, an Indian who lives in Charlottesville, Va. He came to the United States to play at the University of Virginia – he won back-to-back NCAA singles titles at 2007-’08—and earned a degree in sociology.
At 26, Devvarman is starting to make a little noise with his racquet, most recently by making it to the Johannesburg final last month whenhe fell to Kevin Anderson. At Indian Wells, he made it to the fourth round, losing to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
And in 2010, it could be said that the No. 73 Devvarman was golden – really. He won the singles gold medal at the Commonwealth Games held in his homeland in October. And he won singles and doubles gold at the Asian Games in China in November. Sports Illustrated India certainly didn’t overlook Devvarman, naming him along with cricketer Sachin Tendulkar the Sports Persons of the Year.
Raonic was a late bloomer in that he didn’t start playing tennis until he was eight years old. But he’s certainly not a late bloomer in finding success on the ATP Tour and that will spell trouble for Devvarman in this second round match.
In women’s action, Kimiko Date-Krumm is at 40 year old and the oldest player in the main draw. She will take on former French Open champ Ana Ivanovic. How can you not admire Date-Krumm? She retired and returned to the game because she thought she had unfinished business. She played her last Grand Slam tournament of her first career at the 1996 U.S. Open. She played her first Grand Slam match of her second career at the 2009 Australian Open.
There were those that laughed about Date-Krumm believing she could come back to the game after so many years away. but she had the last laugh over the naysayers as she’s done mighty fine. She won the 2009 Seoul tournament, which was her eighth career title. While she had been a Top 10 player in the past, it’s hardly embarrassing to be her age and end the season ranked No. 46 as she did in 2010.
Ivanovic will be a big challenge for Date-Krumm as she’s beginning to return to the form that led her to the 2008 French Open title. The Serbian won two titles last year – Linz and Bali – and is looking far more confident on the court.
Ivanovic will walk away with the win, but Date-Krumm is likely to win the hearts of the crowd. The Japanese native – her relatives back home are all safe -- has started a fund to raise money to help her countrymen. And her message back to Japan was simple the other day: “In the future come back to smiling.”
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) v Denis Istomin (Uzbekistan) – Djokovic is the hottest commodity in the game these days and arrives in Miami with an unblemished 18-0 record for the season. The reigning Australian Open champion and 2007 Sony Ericsson Open champion will not ruin his perfect record for the year today.
Kim Clijsters (Belgium) v Anastasiya Yakimova (Belarus) – Clijsters has had a sore shoulder to contend with recently, but is confident she’s ready for action. The reigning champion at the U.S. and Australian Opens, Clijsters will charge into the third round.
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