Raonic cruises into Rogers Cup with ATP win

Milos Raonic won his first ATP title of the season on Sunday in D.C. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Milos Raonic won his first ATP title of the season on Sunday in D.C. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

IAN SHANTZ, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:56 PM ET

TORONTO - Before he gets here, consider it a reminder that he has already arrived.

Milos Raonic dazzled in D.C., on Sunday, winning the first ATP title of his season, the sixth ATP title of his career and the biggest ATP title of his career. He beat fellow countrymen Vasek Pospisil in the historic match for Canada, which witnessed its first all-Canadian ATP final of the Open era.

"I look forward to coming back," Raonic told the crowd post-match at the Citi Open in Washington.

But he had better hurry up and leave. Because Raonic, who will take over as the world No. 6 — up from No. 7 — on Monday, has additional business back home in Canada, where significant fanfare awaits at the Rogers Cup.

Raonic, the poster-boy for tennis in Canada, has never looked better and thus is poised to take a serious stab at claiming the hometown title he so desperately seeks.

He'll be in tough — he'll always be in tough — but Raonic will take any added steam he can get heading into the Canadian event he nearly won last year, ultimately losing in the final to Rafael Nadal.

Looking ahead, with the U.S. Open on the horizon, could Raonic be on the cusp of something even bigger?

Only time will flesh out that storyline, but the big-hitter certainly is headed along the right trajectory, having reached the quarters at Roland Garros and then getting to his first Grand Slam semi at Wimbledon last month.

Raonic's peers are on alert.

"He's playing more solid week by week and that's what you've got to do if you want to compete with the best and give yourself opportunities," world No. 3 Roger Federer said of Raonic on Sunday. "I think his game is dangerous. Now it's just important (for him) to be consistent, be healthy."

And what of Pospisil?

Despite being outmatched by his Thornhill, Ont., pal in what was the B.C. native's first appearance in an ATP final, he, too, has shown a penchant for putting it together in summer's later stages and appears to be in prime shape to do damage at the Rexall Centre once again.

The 24-year-old B.C. native could vault to inside the world's top 25 following his week to remember in Washington. Pospisil knocked off the tournament's top seed (Thomas Berdych) and kicked three other top-end players aside on his way to the final, where jitters and possibly fatigue factored in.

Raonic finished with nine aces to his opponent's five on Sunday, while connecting on 93% of his first serve points and breaking Pospisil four times and saving a break.

Pospisil won't be happy with his most recent performance, but he has certainly caught fire, having also won doubles titles twice in the past month, including at Wimbledon with American Jack Sock.

After being hampered for months with a wonky back, Pospisil has been one the most electric players on tour in recent weeks.

The 24-year-old, who fell victim to Raonic in the semis at last year's memorable tournament in Montreal, will open his tournament in Toronto on Tuesday against Richard Gasquet — the world No. 14 he beat on his way to the Citi final.

As the No. 6 seed, Raonic starts his tournament in Toronto on Wednesday and gets the winner of Sock — doesn't it feel like Sock is always hanging with the Canadians? — and Austrian Jurgen Melzer.

It sets up impeccably for tournament organizers in Toronto, who could not have scripted a scenario more ideal than ushering the nation's two top players on the men's side into their hometown tournament as ATP finalists.

Spectators can only hope it'll be as riveting over the next few days as it has been the past few hours on the U.S. side.

ian.shantz@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/IanShantz


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