Saturday, August 31, 2013

{allcanada} Generation Next sleeper Raonic stirs at U.S. Open

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Whisper it quietly but a beast might be stirring at Flushing Meadows.

 Milos Raonic is the sleeper of the U.S. Open. Touted as a leading member of Generation Next in men's tennis, the powerful 22-year-old Canadian roared into the fourth round on Saturday with a 6-7(4) 6-4 6-3 6-4 win over Spain's Feliciano Lopez.

Raonic's thunderous serve has landed him a chart-topping 65 aces for the tournament. His heaviest delivery of 145 miles per hour is the quickest of the event.

 His relatively seamless progression through the draw comes on the back of his recent appearance in the final of the Montreal Masters against Rafa Nadal and a move up to number 11 in the world rankings.

 While the American tennis fraternity sweats on the arrival of a men's player to match the deeds of retired superstars Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, the relaxed and quietly-spoken Raonic admitted he benefitted from lower expectations in Canada.

"There's a lot more pressure on the Americans," he said.

 "One advantage they have growing up is that maybe there are more wildcard opportunities as an American.

"I'm doing a lot of stuff in uncharted territories, so people are very supportive of it. Whereas I feel it's a little bit unfair to the American players, everybody expecting another Pete and Agassi to be there on the top.

"Everybody is always asking, why isn't their playing doing this? This is an American. I think that's the big difference."

 Ranoic, though, denied he was flying completely under the radar compared to his U.S. counterparts.

"I think the attention is the same," he said. "I don't know how to say it, but one is more negative than the other because they (Americans) are expecting a lot more. In Canada, it's a lot more positive to be in the situation I am right now."

Lopez was unable to break the serve of his 1.96 m tall opponent in their two hours and 37 minutes on Court 17.

 "I was really struggling with getting anywhere on his service games, but I found my own a little bit," Raonic said.

"I was getting confidence and calming down. I wasn't feeling as nervous about the whole situation. I was a little sloppy at the net at times, but I started cleaning things up from the baseline."

Montenegro-born, Toronto-raised and now resident in Monaco, Raonic's biggest concern appeared to be his sunburned face.

"I didn't have any (sun tan lotion) on, so I will probably pay for that tonight," he said.

Raonic has yet to reach the quarter-finals at a major.

 His next assignment will be against eight-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who reached the fourth round when 32nd-seeded Russian Dmitry Tursunov retired.

 The winner of the Raonic-Gasquet clash will have a winnable quarter-final against Spain's David Ferrer or Serbian Janko Tipsarevic.

In his only previous meeting against Gasquet, on hard courts at Cincinnati last year, Raonic won in straight sets.

"I'm going to have to focus a lot on myself and not let him get into a rhythm," he said.

"I thought I did that pretty well today. Always when I had a short ball, I would go for it, even on the backhand side. I have to let them never get into a rhythm."

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VANCOUVER -- They expect to have one of their best players back on the pitch Sunday when they face one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer, but the Vancouver Whitecaps know taking Chivas USA lightly could prove costly.

The Whitecaps are in a battle for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference. With nine games left on the schedule, and the team playing their next three on the road, the Whitecaps (10-9-6) can't afford to squander a chance at three points playing at BC Place Stadium.

"The margins are dwindling," interim captain Kenny Miller said Saturday after the Whitecaps practised at the University of British Columbia.

"After our indefinite results (lately), for us it's important we get back to our winning ways. We'll be going out to win the game and the right result can push us up the table a few places."

Camilo Sanvezzo, who leads the Whitecaps with 14 goals, missed last week's 1-0 loss to the L.A. Galaxy with a slight groin pull. He has trained this week and looks ready to play against Chivas.

"I am feeling very confident," said the Brazilian striker. "I have been striking some balls and feel very good."

The one-week break could play dividends down the stretch for Sanvezzo.

"I didn't want to stay out but I think it helped a lot," he said. "I feel very confident for this game."

Heading into Saturday's MLS play Vancouver was seventh in the Western Conference with 36 points. Only four points separated the second-place Galaxy from the Whitecaps.

Chivas is last in the West with 21 points (5-14-6) and are just 1-8-3 on the road this season. The Goats have shown some life recently and upset the New York Red Bulls 3-2 at home last Sunday for their first MLS win since March.

It will be the third meeting of the season between the two teams. Chivas won the first 2-1 while the Caps earned a 3-1 victory at BC Place on June 19.

It is tempting for the Whitecaps to look past Chivas, especially when they play their next three games on the road against Dallas, San Jose and Montreal, before returning home for a Sept. 28 match against Western Conference leading Real Salt Lake.

Head coach Martin Rennie said his team is focused on the task at hand.

"The players know what they need to do," he said. "This is when the season really starts.

"They (Chivas) have a couple of dangerous forwards. They are a good possession team. We have to make sure we close them down. You always have to be on your toes because they are dangerous."

The addition of Erick Torres has added more punch to the Chivas attack. The 20-year-old from Guadalajara scored twice in the victory over the Red Bulls and has four goals in six games.

The Whitecaps will be looking for Sanvezzo to bring a scoring touch that lacked against the Galaxy.

Vancouver is second in MLS with 25 home goals, but 16 of those came in a six-game stretch earlier this year. The Whitecaps are currently struggling through a 1-4-1 run where they have scored just four goals and been shutout three times.

Rennie preferred to look at the glass half filled.

"We have scored a lot of goals," he said. "Last game we missed Camilo.

"I think we know we have to work hard but we are confident we can score goals. We need to prove that."

Miller, who has scored seven goals this season, said Sanvezzo brings an artist's flair to the Vancouver canvas.

"He brings back goals," said Miller. "This season he has scored a lot of big goals and in a lot of games he's come up with important goals.

"He brings all kinds of threats whether it be dead-ball situations or whether it be open play. We missed it last week, we missed his goal threat. Hopefully this week we can get back to the winning ways."

The Whitecaps will be without midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker who will serve a suspension after receiving his eighth yellow card of the season against the Galaxy.

Captain Jay DeMerit, who recently married Olympic skicross gold medallist Ashleigh McIvor, is also questionable. The 33-year-old defender is still recovering after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the March 2 season opener.

DeMerit did play 70 minutes in a scrimmage with the UBC Thunderbirds last week.

"He's coming on really well," said Rennie. "He's got himself training consistently.

"He probably needs a little more practise game time, then he will be in contention."

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CHESTER, Pa. -- Troy Perkins made four saves to help the Montreal Impact play to a scoreless draw with the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night.

Zac MacMath needed to make only one save to pick up his 10th shutout of the season for the Union (10-8-9), who improved to 4-0-4 this season following losses.

The Impact (12-7-6) are unbeaten in their last three games and remain in first place in the MLS Eastern Conference.

Perkins frustrated the Union offence all night and made a diving stop on Philadelphia forward Jack McInerney in the 57th minute to earn his second consecutive shutout. McInerney, the Union's leading scorer, has now gone 10 straight games without scoring.

Montreal forward Marco Di Vaio, the top scorer in MLS, had a goal disallowed in the 61st minute because he was called offside.

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{allcanada} I'd rather be Canadian than in US bubble, says Raonic

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He's North America's top player but sadly for the success-starved United States, Milos Raonic is Canadian and wouldn't have it any other way.

The 22-year-old Raonic stands at 11 in the world and is seeded 10 at the US Open where on Saturday he reached the fourth round for a second successive year.

In contrast, John Isner is America's highest-ranked player at 17 in the world and carrying the burden of attempting to win his country's first Grand Slam men's singles title since Andy Roddick in New York in 2003.

"Sort of the relief is definitely there that obviously there's a lot more pressure on Americans. I'm sort of doing a lot of stuff into unchartered territories so people are very supportive of it," said Raonic.

"I feel it's a little bit unfair to the American players. Everybody is expecting Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to be there on the top. Just everybody is always asking why isn't their player doing this, this, this, as an American. I think that's the one big difference."

Isner can sympathize with that belief.

The big American is already feeling the strain of national expectations to improve on his run to the US Open quarter-finals in 2011.

The 28-year-old seemed at breaking point in his five-set win over Gael Monfils in the second round when he accused the New York crowd of preferring to support his French opponent rather than get behind their own player.

Raonic, who was born in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica, but moved with his family to Canada when he was three, is happy not to be trapped in that claustrophobic bubble.

"I think the attention is the same. But one is a little bit more negative because they are expecting a lot more; whereas in Canada it's a lot more positive to be in the situation where I am right now."

At the Montreal Masters in the build-up to the US Open, Ranoic was accused of bad sportsmanship when he touched the net as he hit a winner in his victory over Juan Martin Del Potro.

The Argentine believed Raonic should have called the foul on himself as the umpire didn't see the infringement, but the Canadian carried on to victory, roared on by the home crowd.

"I would have dealt with it differently," admitted Raonic.

"It was my first time in that situation. I spoke with Juan's team and I apologized, and I apologized to him directly, as well."

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{allcanada} PRACTICE: Steckly Tops Speed Chart 

BOWMANVILLE, Ontario - Scott Steckly turned in the fast lap at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on Saturday during practice for the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1.

Steckly, who was second to L.P. Dumoulin in the first practice session, turned a lap in the final session of 83.271 seconds at an average speed of 106.308 mph around the 2.549-mile road course.

Dumoulin had the second quickest lap at 83.658 seconds (105.817 mph) as teams prepared for the Pinty's presents the Clarington 200 on Sunday.

Jeff Lapcevich was third fastest at 83.993 seconds, followed by J.R. Fitzpatrick and Andrew Ranger. Martin Roy, Jason Hathaway, Peter Klutt, D.J. Kennington and James Buescher complete the rundown of the top 10 in practice.

Steckly - a two-time series champion from Milverton, Ontario - has a slim four-point advantage over Kennington in the championship standings. Steckly overcame a slow start to the season with three consecutive wins in July. Although he has won the pole at CTMP twice, his best finish in seven starts there was third in 2012. He finished 24th in May at CTMP after a Lap 13 accident in his No. 22 Canadian Tire Dodge.

This marks a big NASCAR weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series making its Canadian debut. Consequently, some regulars from that series are doing double duty - competing in both races at the companion event.

Qualifying is slated later today at 4 p.m. ET. The race is set to begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

The race is to be televised live on TSN2. It is scheduled to be re-broadcast on RDS2 on Friday, Sept. 27., at 8 p.m. ET


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