Tennis Elbow: Quality tennis
November 19, 2012 · Print This Article
The 2012 ATP season has concluded, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any quality tennis being played anymore. For one thing, Czech Republic defeated Spain 3-2 to capture the season’s coveted Davis Cup title after a key victory by the ageless wonder himself, Radek Stepanek, over Nicolas Almagro–6-4, 7-6 (0), 3-6, 6-3.
In Toronto, meanwhile, Canadian Milos Raonic was the star of the Sport Chek Face-Off on Nov. 16, 2012. There was some quality tennis played at the event, held at the Air Canada Centre in front of a crowd of 6,558, but that wasn’t apparent right away.
Organized by Largardère Unlimited and Tennis Canada, the Face-Off had three acts, and the first were the celebrity mixed doubles matches. For them, Brad Smith, who’s apparently the Bachelor star, TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos, actor Adrian Grenier and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon joined Andy Roddick, Raonic, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanksa–actual tennis pros–for a series of pseudo-matches.
Of the four celebrities, Cohon probably was the best tennis player–it’s nice to see the CFL finally come out on top, right? But Cohon wasn’t the star of the first act. That was Grenier, who proved that acting isn’t the thing he’s most middling at in this world–there’s tennis.
Then, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska played two sets. Though the match was billed as a rematch of their relatively good 2012 Wimbledon final, it disappointed. Radwanska avenged her Wimbledon loss, as much as an exhibition win can ever avenge a Grand Slam final loss, by beating the youngest of the Williams sisters 6-4 and 6-4.
There are two ways to make an event like the Sport Chek Face-Off a memorable one–with a memorable match or with one where the players interact with the crowd.
Unfortunately, this Radwanska/Williams clash was neither. In the first set, Radwanska quickly jumped ahead 5-0 and, before long, had won the set 6-4. Though the second set was tighter, it wasn’t more compelling. That a beautiful between-the-legs shot from Radwanska turned out to be the highlight says a lot.
And yet, the exhibition match between Raonic and the newly retired Roddick was everything that Serena/Radwanska wasn’t. It’s Roddick who won the match–6-4, 4-6 and 10-7. However, the score line was the boring part.
The matchup was a good one for reasons that had little to do with their respective playing style–power and attacking tennis. What made it a great matchup is the difference in their character. While Raonic is ever cool, calm and seemingly emotionless on the tennis court, Roddick is the opposite and during his playing days he often went as his emotions did.
But against Raonic, the 30-year-old and ex-World No. 1 player seemed peaceful–he will likely have a long and successful post-playing career in events like this one. Roddick interacted with the crowd, with Raonic and obliged every single time that Wayne Bryan, who happens to be the father of Bob and Mike Bryan, asked him to mimic another player with his serve motion–Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal. (And yet, it’s when Raonic mimicked Roddick that the crowd laughed the most.)
The aim for an event like this one is that it manages to further establish the sport of tennis in hockey-crazed Canada. With tennis, that’s the aim in Canada–it always is. Raonic is currently ranked No. 13 on the ATP World Tour rankings, and with each of his wins there’s the potential for growth. He’s the flag bearer for tennis in this country, and he’s been good at it so far. The next step will be a major victory.
For 2012, growing the sport meant broadcasting the event live on TSN. This proved that even when the points don’t matter, it still matters.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG