Washington: Raonic d. Pospisil
Standing shoulder to shoulder at net, competitors were proud collaborators. In the capital of the United States, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil raised the Maple Leaf for a pre-match photo-op to commemorate the first all-Canadian ATP final in history.
When Raonic blasted a backhand return winner down the line to break serve for the third time in 30 minutes, a shell-shocked Pospisil could have waved the white flag. The Canadian No. 2 never capitulated, but never really recovered as Raonic pushed him right out of the title picture.
Controlling his nerve and commanding on serve, Raonic punished Pospisil, 6-1, 6-4, in a 67-minute rout to roll to his first ATP 500-level title. The second seed won 26 of 28 points played on his first serve, denied the lone break point in his opening service game, and swept through the field without surrendering a set in five tournament victories.
Trudging through the thick humidity on heavy legs, Pospisil looked physically depleted from fighting through two one-set deficits on Saturday, and mentally drained by the burden of his first ATP final against a friend and former junior rival. He didn't always get his body behind the ball at the outset, resulting in some unsightly misses.
Raonic ripped a diagonal return to earn triple break point in the opening game. Two points later, Pospisil scattered a wild backhand wide, giving one of the game's most imposing servers an early head start.
Spinning a nervous double fault off the top of the tape, Raonic faced his only break point of the day in the next game. He proceeded to crank a service winner down the middle, hammer an ace in nearly the same spot, and close with a service winner. It was only a one-break lead, but given that Raonic had dropped serve just once in the entire tournament, it felt decisive.
Lacking the leg strength to launch up on serve, the 6'4" Pospisil dumped successive double faults in dropping serve to fall into a 4-1 hole. Two games later, Raonic scalded his shakiest shot—the two-handed backhand—to seal the first set.
The Wimbledon doubles champion took a bathroom break to regroup and returned to put up more resistance in the second set. Raonic is the more powerful player, Pospisil the more agile athlete. But he couldn't close the gap against an opponent breezing through service games with the ease of a man running down hill.
Leaning into his two-hander, Pospisil slid a backhand winner up the line—one of his best baseline strikes of the day—to hold and level at 3-all in the second set. Pospisil then glided through the toughest shot in tennis, the leaping backhand overhead, for 4-all, then pushed Raonic to 30-all in the ninth game. The Canadian No. 1 faced the challenge racing forward, knocking off a high forehand volley to navigate a hold for 5-4.
Pospisil's backhand is his best shot, but it betrayed him in the next game, and when he flat-lined a forehand into net, Raonic had championship point. Raking a cross-court backhand pass, Raonic closed the most important title of his career in what could be the first of many finals to come in a northern rivalry. Raonic's tennis is more forceful and formulaic; Pospisil is the more free flowing and streaky player—but together they can create more firsts for Canadian tennis.
Consider that Canada is now brewing the best beer and tennis in North America, a Toronto-based group is bidding for the NFL's Buffalo Bills, and fans crammed onto the Rexall Centre grounds watching today's final on the big screen, and you get the feeling next week's Toronto Masters could be quite a party. Raonic could face Pospisil's doubles partner, Jack Sock, for the fourth time this year in the second round. Pospisil reconvenes with Richard Gasquet in an opening-round match that's a rematch of the D.C. semifinals.