He's done it again. The 21 year-old Milos Raonic managed to keep his undefeated record at the SAP Open intact, knocking out Denis Istomin in a straightforward 7-6, 6-2 win. Raonic lost just four points on serve the entire match, including just one second serve in 18 attempts. Although he was credited with just 7 aces, Raonic wowed the crowd with a bevy of unreturnable serves, and clocked in as high as 145 MPH on the radar gun. Raonic proved his play can be multidimensional, as his dominance extended beyond the serve. He consistently outplayed his Uzbekistani foe from the baseline, taking advantage of Istomin's uncharacteristic plague of backhand errors. Raonic showed confidence in his forehand and displayed his ability to defend surprisingly well from the backcourt. The second set was a mere formality, as a demoralized Istomin seemed frustrated with his complete lack of inroads during Raonic's service games.
Raonic's success at this tournament was far from a sure thing coming into the week. He had over a third of his ranking points riding on his San Jose title and his finals appearance in Memphis, which he will look to defend this coming week. Due to a change in ATP scheduling, Raonic had already lost his ranking points from San Jose, and fell out of the top 30. His title defense will likely help him re-enter the top 30 when the new rankings are finalized, and give him a boost heading into Memphis, where he will look to defend even more points. Raonic struggled on the clay courts last season and sustained an ankle injury at Wimbledon, which knocked him out of action for over three months. Despite these setbacks casting doubt on his ability to succeed this week, the young gun proved he's a force to be reckoned with, especially on indoor courts.
As for Denis Istomin, there will be a lot of positives for him to take from this tournament, even after a disappointing championship match. This was just his second career appearance in an ATP final, and the result will help to lift him close to his career high ranking of 39. His record has improved to an impressive 9-4 on the year, and there's no reason to think he'll let up as the season progresses.
Also in San Jose, doubles legend Mark Knowles captured his 55th title with Xavier Malisse. This was his 100th appearance in an ATP World Tour final (99 in doubles and one in singles), and the Bahamanian shows no signs of slowing down at age 40.
Elsewhere on tour, Roger Federer defeated Juan Martin del Potro 6-1, 6-4 in Rotterdam to continue his indoor dominance. He saved all seven of break points faced in the match, and will look to carry his momentum into Indian Wells and Miami. On the clay courts of Sao Paolo, #1 seed Nicolas Almagro defeated surprise finalist Filippo Volandri in a three-set match that wasn't as close as the 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 scoreline would seem to indicate. It was a good weekend for some lesser-known American players, as USA representatives Bobby Reynolds, Robert Kendrick, Robby Ginepri, and a surging Jesse Levine took all four qualifying spots in Memphis. Look for this to be an interesting tournament, as John Isner, Andy Roddick, Radek Stepanek, and Raonic are featured as the top four seeds.