face off

Star tennis quartet face-off in Toronto

TORONTO (November 17, 2012) — Agnieszka Radwanska, Milos Raonic, Andy Roddick and Serena Williams didn’t disappoint the fans who went through the turnstiles on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to watch the second edition of the Sportchek Face-Off.

The exhibition event began with a fun celebrity doubles match pitting Team Canada – Raonic and Radwanska – against Team USA’s Roddick and Williams. The superstar quartet were joined on court by Canadian TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos, Bachelor Canada’s Brad Smith, CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon, and Adrian Grenier of Entourage fame. The recently retired Roddick joked about finally getting the chance to play alongside his compatriot after many years of campaigning.

“I couldn’t convince Serena (Williams) to play with me when I was actually good, but now that I suck she’s all about it,” Roddick said.

Next up was a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon women’s final between Radwanska and Williams. The Pole, who referred to Williams as a “grass tennis killer”, was able to impose her crafty game on the Canadian indoor hard court, en route to a 6-4, 6-4 win. This was a rare defeat for Williams, who has lost just one Tour match since falling in the opening round at Roland-Garros this spring. Despite winning Wimbledon, an Olympic gold medal, the U.S. Open and the WTA Championships in Istanbul, the 31-year-old is focused on looking forward instead of back.

“I’m not a big reflector,” said Williams. “I always feel like I want to do more, I want to improve. Once you start reflecting … you can become really satisfied. For me, I’m always trying to do a bit better. I’ll have more time to reflect after my career.”

The evening concluded with the main event, a confrontation between two of the game’s biggest servers in Raonic and Roddick, who was making his first visit north of the border since 2009.  The former World No. 1 put his trademark humor and candor on full display in his return to Canada. He gave the crowd fits of laughter in the second set with his imitations of Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and John McEnroe. In addition to his talents as an entertainer, Roddick, who played his last professional match at the U.S. Open, showed that his tennis skills are still very much in tact defeating Raonic 6-4, 4-6, 10-7. The two players met once on the ATP World Tour, in the final at Memphis in 2011 which Roddick won in three tough sets. The American was full of praise for Canada’s highest-ranked singles player of all time.

“I like his (Raonic) game and I equally like the way he goes about his business,” complimented Roddick. “He’s very diligent and he has the hunger to get better and not be satisfied, which will serve him well.”

For Raonic, being able to host tennis royalty in his hometown for an event like the Face-off is an opportunity to grow tennis in Canada.

“There’s a lot of support, a lot of appreciation and interest in Canadian players, especially during Davis Cup,” Raonic said. “I think the kind of support we’re getting there is really amazing. It’s something we want to keep building up.”

In the first edition of the Face-Off held last November in Toronto, Raonic took on his tennis hero Pete Sampras.

Milos Raonic beats Pete Sampras in the Face-Off in Toronto

The prodigy beat his hero on Thursday night in Toronto as Canada’s top player Milos Raonic defeated Pete Sampras 7-6, 6-1 in an exhibition match in front of his hometown fans at the Air Canada Centre.

The Canadian rising star and the American legend were greeted with a standing ovation as they arrived on court sporting Toronto Maple Leafs jerseys embroidered with their name and the last two numbers of their date of birth.

The much anticipated ‘Face-off’ between Missile Milos and Pistol Pete featured blistering serves, impressive net play, deft touch and a lot of smiles on both sides of the net. Raonic was philosophical when describing what it meant to have the opportunity to play his childhood idol.

“It’s a moment that’s going to be tattooed in my mind,” Raonic said. “It’s never going to leave. There is a lot that comes with this moment. For myself to learn and grow, but also for Canadian tennis to promote the sport and that’s what the end goal is.”

Sampras, who met Raonic for the first time earlier this year at the SAP Open in San Jose, a tournament which Raonic won to capture his first ATP title, had some high praise for the 20-year-old Canadian.

“Milos is a great kid,” Sampras said. “He seems really driven and has a great future ahead of him. When I look at young players, I look at a weapon. And he has a big one with his serve.”

The evening’s main event was preceded by a set of women’s tennis between Wimbledon junior doubles champion Eugenie Bouchard and former world no. 21 Aleksandra Wozniak. Both ladies hit their fair share of winners in a 6-4 victory for Wozniak over her compatriot.

The festivities kicked off with some celebrity doubles as the four players took to the court with actor Hayden Christensen, former NHL player Brad May as well as Toronto television personalities Rick Campanelli and Gord Stellick. Christensen, famous for playing the role of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, played junior tennis and acquitted himself well against the pros.

This was the first time tennis has been played at the Air Canada Centre, a venue that seats 19,000 for Maple Leafs hockey games.

The event was a special treat for Canadian tennis fans, who not only watched one of the game’s all-time greats, but also saw Milos Raonic’s first match in his home country since the summer of 2010, an encounter he won’t soon forget.