The ATP's Newcomer of the Year for 2011, Milos Raonic of Canada, launched his 2012 season with a bang on Sunday, hammering 35 aces to come back from a set down against top seed and No. 9-ranked Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia and win the final of the Aircel Chennai Open in three tie-break sets 6-7(4), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (4). The match lasted three hours and thirteen minutes.
Straight Sets in Brisbane and Doha Finals
The finals of the week's other two ATP 250-level season openers in Brisbane and Doha were each won much more quickly and decisively.
World No. 4 Andy Murray looked sharper and sharper as the week progressed in Brisbane with new coach Ivan Lendl courtside. Murray dropped the opening set in his first two matches before winning his next three matches in straight sets, dismissing No. 14 Alexander Dolgopolov in the final 6-1, 6-3 in just 67 minutes. In announcing the partnership with Lendl on December 31, Murray said, "He has been through a lot of the same things that I have been through, so I am sure he can help me mentally with certain things." Lendl was even more positive about the new pairing, emphasizing that it " is absolutely the best match-up" he could imagine, and could come to resemble Lendl's own breakthrough relationship with his former mentor, Australian Tony Roche, who coached Lendl to eight Grand Slam victories.. Lendl will not travel with Murray weekly on the tour, but will be with him for the majors and the other top ATP events.
In the final at Doha, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated fellow Frenchman and fourth seed Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3 in the final. Monfils had beaten top seed Rafael Nadal in the semifinals 6-3, 6-4, just as he had won over Nadal in the 2011 tournament on the same court. Tsonga reached the final thanks to a walk-over in the semifinal when Roger Federer was forced to withdraw because of a back strain. It was only the second event in Federer's career that he had failed to finish a tournament once it had begun.
Raonic's Win in Chennai Included Two Wins Over Top Ten Players
In addition to being his second ATP title in three finals. Raonic's victory over Tipsarevic marked a second consecutive win against a Top Ten player. He defeated No. 10 Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals on Saturday. Raonic had lost his previous five matches against Top Ten opponents before the two wins in Chennai. They bring his career record against Top Ten players to 5-8.
Earlier in the week, after a first round bye, Raonic had beaten Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-1, 6-4 and Dudi Sela of Israel 7-6, 6-3.
Raonic, who turned 21 on December 27, emphasized the focus he is trying to maintain in his comments following the Almagro match: "As a young player, the main aim is to develop and improve my game. I have the potential to play with the top players. The rankings will follow."
With the win in Chennai, Raonic's ATP ranking rose from No. 31 to No. 25, equaling his career high in 2011 after winning his first title in San Jose and reaching the final in Memphis the next week.
The Aircel Chennai Open title earned Raonic $71,900 and 250 points in the South African Airways rankings. He is scheduled to play only a final exhibition tune-up in Kooyong next week, so he will enter the Australian Open on January 16 with a four-match winning streak in ATP-sanctioned events.
This a good start this season by the young rising star.