By Brad Hunter
MEMPHIS, Saturday, February 19, 2011 -You know those days where you do a million different things, go a million different places, have a million different conversations, and never really feel tired because itâ€™s all so fun? Even though you forgot to eat but remembered to drink coffee. Â Well, I had one of those types of days today out at the Racquet Club of Memphis. Today was the menâ€™s singles and doubles semi-finals and womenâ€™s singles and doubles finals.Â The strongest theme around the club today was the rise of Canadian tennis.
Milos Raonic, last weeksâ€™ San Jose title winner was up in the first match against Mardy Fish.Â The Memphis crowd supported Fish loudly, but Mardyâ€™s game never caught fire against Raonicâ€™s game.Â Yesterday, Raonicâ€™s win was edgy and labored, but today he was noticeably more relaxed and bold. Moments of Raonicâ€™s play, especially when he found himself down break points, were opportunities he used to play aggressive, championship winning tennis.Â When I watched Milos during his run to the quarters in Australia this year, I was shocked at how hard he struck the ball.Â At the time, his groundstrokes looked like the hardest hit groundstrokes on the menâ€™s tour.Â This week, del Potroâ€™s groundstrokes looked the most forcefully struck, but Raonic has used his risky looking game and strategy to strike more winners/forced errors than unforced errors.Â He looks like a cross between a high jumper and a wild cat, and moves so well, plays all shots of the game so well, itâ€™s hard to imagine a future of his without some very big titles in it.
Raonicâ€™s News Conference was well attended and it ran twice as long as the other news conferences Â Iâ€™ve been to at this event.Â Just about every journalist asked him a question, and he mixed his answers with a mature blend of thoughtfulness and humor.Â He seems to think he can accomplish his goals, he has big plans for his tennis, but he doesnâ€™t want his thinking to get ahead of his results.
After wards, Raonic and Rebecca Marino had an impromptu photo shoot out in front of the tennis club, both young players draped on a Canadian flag. Sometime during this, Daniel Nestor carrying the Canadian torch to more victory with the aid of Max Mirnyi in the first menâ€™s doubles semi.Â They took out Nestorâ€™s former partner Mark Knowles and Michal Mertinak.
The fairytale Canadian day did not end well, with Marino retiring against Magadalena Rybarikova after the first set of the womenâ€™s final.Â Marino came out making error after error, causing loud groans in the crowd, and a few rally cries like â€œtighten up Marino!â€ Rybarikovaâ€™s Hingis-like game forced Marino into one uncomfortable position after another, and Marino could not continue playing because of a left ab strain.Â She was very upset after chair ump legend Lynn Welch announced the retirement. She was obviously crying into her towel, and she looked embarrassed to face the crowd, and I heard a few angry ticket holders mutter complaints about the retirement.Â During the trophy presentation she apologized to the crowd â€œfor not giving a better matchâ€ and praised Rybarikovaâ€™s week and strong play.
Marino walked in to the press room with a sad face, but immediately she was given a bouquet of flowers by a Canadian Consulate rep and she smiled from then on.Â The media was inquisitive and gentle with her, and she remained upbeat and sounded like she wanted a few days of rest before she ventured back into the competitive world of the WTA Tour.