Raonic rolls to final SAP Open title

HP PAVILION — It was a memorable final week for men’s tennis in the Bay Area. And it was only fitting that a Canadian who is a big hockey fan would win the SAP Open here for a third straight — and final — time.

With surgical precision, Milos Raonic dominated German Tommy Haas in straight sets, 6-4 6-3, to claim the winner’s trophy.

The graceful form and stylish strokes of the 34-year old Haas — a veteran of the ATP tour — has made him a fan favorite over the years.

But the 22-year old Raonic was a force to be reckoned with, playing with passion and determination.

Raonic’s explosive serve topped out at a whopping 148 miles per hour. He also doled out a biting, slicing serve that Haas had trouble reaching. Raonic routinely won points with both types of serves and passing shots.

Haas says that Raonic is a rising star that will only get brighter in the coming years:

SAP Open runner-up Tommy Haas

“If he plays like that consistently on this type of surface and in this arena, I doubt anybody could play him in top of the world and I think he has a shot at beating them.

Raonic adds his name alongside Tony Trabert (1953-1955), J. Don Budge (1935-1937), William Johnston (1925-1927), Samuel Hardy, (1894-1896), and W.H. Taylor Jr. (1889-1892), as the only players to have won the SAP Open or its predecessors at least three consecutive times.

But Raonic is the only three-peat winner since the Open era began in 1968.  He also never lost a set in 12 matches during that span.

In the final match, Raonic had 19 aces including 11 in the first set and won 29 of 32 points on his first serve.

Raonic said he will miss the annual February event, where he has won three of his four career titles. In addition to the trophies, Raonic has memories on how he won each of the three SAP Opens:

Audio: Milos Raonic

“It’s more than just the trophy that I have, it’s little things that have come with it. It was my first title, from the tournament director Bill Rapp, there was always the maple syrup story, which is sort of a trophy. The San Jose Sharks jersey that comes with it is a trophy. It all means a lot and to be up with this event specifically that has had so many great champions is pretty special and sort of one up it and do that three-peat special monument is pretty awesome.”

Rapp was tournament director for 11 years — succeeding the legendary Barry McKay — and ran the event from 2001-2012.

Rapp knew of Raonic’s love of real maple syrup from Canada and gave him a bottle for winning the 2010 Open. In previous years, Raonic would wear the Sharks jersey during the trophy ceremony but not this year. The reason:

“I’m a Leafs fan.”

The SAP Open was the last ATP event to use a single court venue.

The tournament is being moved to Memphis next year after the owners of the two events sold the higher-profile Memphis tournament to a group from Brazil leaving the Bay Area without a major men’s tennis event for the first time in over a century.