Finals day in Washington DC will open with an all-Canadian affair between Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil. As the Rogers Cup starts tomorrow, these two guys have really raised the bar. Let’s hope they have enough in the tank to carry that form into Toronto. The ATP final begins at 3pm local time (8pm UK time) and will be followed at NB 5.15pm local time (NB 10.15pm UK time) by the WTA final, which features Svetlana Kuznetsova and Kurumi Nara, who are both contesting their second finals of the year. Here are some of my thoughts.
1. Vasek Pospisil v Milos Raonic (ATP Washington, F)
The final in DC features a series of firsts as Milos Raonic will contest his first final of 2014 and Vasek Pospisil will contest his first ATP final full stop. Pospisil has had a stunning week and there wasn’t a great deal of warning to suggest this was on the cards. Pospisil has been riddled by back injuries this year. After having to pull out of his match with eventual champion, Stan Wawrinka at Melbourne, Pospisil didn’t return until late February when he lost eight straight matches stretching all the way from Acapulco to Queens. It may have been Wimbledon where things clicked as he and partner, Jack Sock won the men’s doubles title. Since then, both players have shown signs of translating that form into their singles game. In DC, Pospisil knocked out the number one seed, Tomas Berdych in the third round and then sealed two victories on Saturday, finishing his quarter-final against Santiago Giraldo and then edging past Richard Gasquet in a super semi-final, 6-7(5) 6-3 7-5 in two hours and 25 minutes. He was pretty happy about it as @RomiCvitkovic tweeted last night.
Raonic has sailed into the final and has yet to drop a set through his four matches with victories over Jack Sock, Lleyton Hewitt, Steve Johnson and Donald Young. I’ve been highly critical of Raonic in the past, but the Canadian player has been delivering solid and efficient performances for much of the year. He deserves a huge tip of the cap for the improvements he has made in his game. I was rather shocked to see he hadn’t made a final this year. Raonic has never won an ATP 500 event before so he would be breaking new ground with a victory. It’s a huge occasion for Canadian tennis, which is just killing it right now. Pospisil’s been great, but Raonic is on another level in terms of his consistency and ability to win free points with the serve. I’m going for Milos.
Prediction: Raonic d. Pospisil in 2 tight sets
2. Svetlana Kuznetsova v Kurumi Nara (WTA Washington, F)
It’s been a reasonably good year for Svetlana Kuznetsova. She made a slow start to the year in Australia and didn’t win a match on grass, but on the clay courts, she showed that she has still got it. A finals appearance in Oeiras and a quarter-final showing at Roland Garros have been the highlights of her year so far. This week marks the first time Kuznetsova has reached the final of a hard court event since Dubai in 2011… that’s a really, really, really long time. In the final Kuznetsova takes on Kurumi Nara, who won her first WTA title earlier this year in Rio. This run from Nara came out of nowhere after two consecutive heavy defeats at the hands of Roberta Vinci (6-0 6-2 in Istanbul) and Francesca Schiavone (6-2 6-2 in Baku). In DC, Nara started the week with an excellent victory over Madison Keys and survived a three set semi-final with Marina Erakovic, 0-6 6-4 6-4. Kuznetsova has shown her nerves at times this year, particularly in her last final against CSN in Oeiras. In DC though, she hasn’t dropped a set and I think she will have too much game for Nara, even if she gets wobbly.
Prediction: Kuznetsova d. Nara in 2 sets