Oh, Canada! A winner in an ATP event for the first time since 1995.
It was fitting and perhaps inevitable that the victory, by Milos Raonic, an Ontario resident, should happen inside an ice hockey arena.
Raonic beat Fernando Verdasco 7-6, 7-6 on Sunday to win the SAP Open in San Jose, California, an event played at the HP Pavilion, home to the San Jose Sharks of ice hockey's NHL. "I've been in a few of these," Raonic said of the hockey venue. "This feels like home."
His victory may not be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Raonic, who moved to Toronto from the former Yugoslavia at the age of three, is easily the most promising Canadian tennis talent since Greg Rusedski, the last Canadian winner of an ATP event, at Seoul, in 1995, before he officially took up British citizenship.
Raonic is known for his booming serve and all-round pace, but seems to be refining other parts of his game, as well.
After getting into the Australian Open draw as a qualifier, he powered into the final 16, defeating along the way the 22nd seed Michael Llodra of France and the 10th seed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia. Then he ran into David Ferrer. In San Jose, he beat James Blake and the second-seeded Gael Monfils before knocking off Verdasco, the top seed, defending champion and world No 9.
Raonic's world ranking has shot up nearly 100 spots, from 156 at the start of the year to 59 now. If he keeps this up, he may someday win at a venue that does not have a slab of ice beneath the court.