SAN JOSE -- Milos Raonic was 7 years old when Tommy Haas played in his first SAP Open in 1998, but he isn't about to show much respect for his elder with a third straight title on the line and his game surging.
"No, it's somebody fighting for the same thing as me, so it doesn't matter the age," said Raonic, 22, who will meet Haas, 34, in Sunday's final SAP championship match before the tournament moves to Brazil in 2014.
Both the top-seeded Raonic and fourth-seeded Haas recorded swift, efficient straight-set victories in Saturday's semifinals, setting up an intriguing match of a focused up-and-comer on the ATP circuit against a veteran looking for a few more blazes of glory before he calls it a career.
But Haas, who upended No. 2 seed John Isner 6-3, 6-4 to reach his first SAP final in eight appearances, will need everything he can muster -- maybe even an "Old Guys Rule" T-shirt -- if Raonic is anywhere near as good as he was in blowing by third-seeded Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-2 in the other semifinal.
Raonic's dominance at HP Pavilion court has been well-documented. The two-time defending SAP champ is 11-0 over three years in San Jose. His serve has only been broken twice in those 11 victories, and not once this year. If he wins Sunday, he will become the first three-peat winner of the Bay Area event in the Open era, and the first since Tony Trabert did it in from 1953-55.
The 6-foot-5 Canadian might not have played a better match than he did against Querry. His powerful serve was typically overwhelming, and he worked in a strong return game and improved accuracy on a variety of shots at the net and from the baseline.
"I thought he hit the ball big all around," said Querrey. "He was really sharp."
Tennis aficionados believe that because of his youth and ongoing improvement, Raonic might have the best chance to break into the Big Four men's monopoly of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. He is ranked just 13th in the world, but even Raonic believes it is only a matter of time before he is pushing into the top 10 and becoming a lot more well-known.
"I feel like if I play my best, I can beat anybody anywhere," Raonic said. "It's just a matter of breaking through that hurdle that's stopping me in the Grand Slams."
And outside of San Jose. If he wins this final, Raonic will have four tournament titles in his career, three of them here. He said that from the time he hit his first practice ball this week, he felt very confident he could successfully defend his title for a second time.
"I just like the way the court plays," he said. "It doesn't take too much adjustment for me, particularly since the court we played Davis Cup the last two years has been similar to this court. It doesn't play too quick. It takes the spin. Kick serves bounce high. It's a soft court."
Raonic broke Querrey's serve in the first game and never looked back. He served 12 aces, but just as importantly, won 22 of 25 successful first serves compared with Querrey's 23 of 34. He never faced a break point, and when Querry actually forced a 30-all game in the second set, Raonic responded by pummeling a 141 mph ace followed by a 136 mph service winner.
Haas, the oldest player ranked in the ATP's top 50 (he is No. 22), probably will come into the match with confidence, considering that the man he beat in his semifinal, Isner, has a game similar to Raonic's. But Isner's serve was off early against the veteran German, and Isner's return game didn't really show up like Raonic's did.
But Haas is nothing if not well-rounded and savvy. He was once ranked as high as No. 2 (in 2002) and owns 13 career titles, although none of them Grand Slams. Serious injuries have haunted him throughout his career, including a hip issue that required surgery in 2010 and caused him to miss most of that year.
But he returned to good health last year, and in June, won a grass-court event in Halle, Germany, beating Federer in straight sets in the final. Haas made two other finals during the summer but hasn't won a hard court event since 2007.
"Numbers and rankings don't matter to me so much at this stage of my career," said Haas. "It's being in the finals of an ATP event really makes me proud. It's just one step closer to winning another title, which at the end of the day, is what you want to try to accomplish. I'm happy to have that chance."
Isner, the top-ranked American in the world at No. 16, said whoever faced Haas in the final would have his hands full.
"There's no shame in losing to him," Isner said. "He's an awesome player at 34 and doing what he's doing. He's been at the very top of the game, he's in incredible shape, and he's hitting the ball really well."
The two semifinals drew a modest crowd of 3,329, but the evening session's mixed doubles exhibition pitting Andy Roddick and Stefanie Graf against Justin Gimelstob and Lindsay Davenport drew 5,774, less than a thousand short of capacity in HP's tennis configuration.
At HP Pavilion
Singles final: Milos Raonic vs. Tommy Haas, 3 p.m. CSNCA
Doubles final: Lleyon Hewitt/Marinko Matosevic vs. Xavier Malisse/Frank Moser or Alejandro Falla/Robert Farah, 1 p.m.