Warm, windy, well-attended, and not without some drama. That was how day 1 of the 2014 Sony Open went down at Crandon Park on beautiful Key Biscayne today.
I should note that for the second year in a row, Amelie Mauresmo made an appearance on opening day in Miami, looking relaxed and fit and like she could still probably win the Big W. She was in the crowd at Virginie Razzano’s win over the young Aussie prospect Naiktha Bains.
Svetlana Kuznetsova and Andrea Petkovic were hitting at the crack of 9 AM this morning, while the qualifiers were getting ready for their first round matches. At about 9:30 I found Nastassya Burnett practicing on court 6 with her coach. When I started snapping some photos of her, the coach walked over and motioned toward me and asked if I spoke Spanish. When I shook my head, he pointed at my camera and smiled and asked, “are those for a newspaper, or…?” I shook my head again, and sheepishly grinned and explained, “no, no, I’m just a fan. Is that OK?” He smiled again and laughed a little and nodded and went back to his work, and I skulked back to my seat, red-faced, and busted, wondering what the conversation between player and coach was going to be about after that practice….
Before first match I spotted Julia Goerges heading off to practice with her team, through the food court, laughing and looking relaxed.
At 10 AM, I sat in some of the match between Shahar Peer and Tadeja Majeric. This was a real grind, with multiple breaks occurring in set 1, and long, see saw games with multiple deuces. The players were pretty evenly matched in terms of firepower, but Peer proved ultimately steadier, as Majeric made far too many loose swings, especially off of her forehand side.
The match between Nastassya Burnett and Mandy Minella on court 6 turned out to be a pretty entertaining. Minella’s combination of spins and slices certainly gave her more margin for error, but Burnett, it seemed to me, could reach back and produce a winner at critical times, when she needed to. She was broken in the match, and would surely like to forget most of the second set, but was playing from a lead throughout much of the first and third sets and never really seemed threatened when it counted. I was impressed with her emotion, offensive firepower, and ability to rebound from a break of serve. She definitely made a new fan today.
As for the match between Julia Goerges and Michelle Larcher de Brito, let’s just say that livescore gave/gives no clue as to what this match was ultimately about. I’m sorry, but that’s true. This one started out all Julia and the second set turning point all boiled down to a very hostile and pro MLDB crowd. Goerges had the match under control and the serve stats showed it–for the match, Julia had 11 or 12 aces to 1 for Brito and 2 or 3 df to about 13 or so for Brito. The crowd, however, was very vocal, almost unanimously for Michelle. That’s not surprising, given the large number of Portuguese speaking patrons who visit the Sony each year. Not only did they cheer loudly and rudely for Michelle (erupting often before the ends of points), but they sometimes would hoot during Julia’s service motion. Couple this with Brito’s obnoxious screaming which extended into Julia’s shot, and Goerges was visibly flustered, quite angry, and confronted the umpire several times about the unsportsmanlike behavior. there were also a number of questionable line calls in this match, which didn’t help anyone’s mood.
Goerges let a 4-1 lead in the 3rd slip while all of this was going on, but fought bravely from 5-6 and fought off match points in the tiebreak to win. A few of us in the crowd could be heard cheering her over the partisan de Brito fans. I yelled out “auf geht’s, Julia!” several times, but I think that only got Michelle’s crowd riled up even more.
During the late afternoon, Ana Ivanovic and Andrea Petkovic practiced together in front of a an admiring crowd down near the Grandstand, and as I walked from that court back toward the area where the matches were being played today, I heard what could could only be a grunter’s symphony–Sara Errani and Francesca Schiavone practicing together. Yes, it’s true. About fifty of us just stood there without speaking, listening with smiles on our faces. No words here. Yes, I shot video. I will upload it next week. You’ll have to hear it to believe it.
My day ended with a look at Naiktha Bains, the 16 year old Aussie prospect, taking on Virginie Razzano. Bains has some talent, for sure. It’s easy to see that she’s still quite young and unpolished, but she does have some pop on her strokes, and her first serve is impressive for one so young, and one who isn’t all that tall (yet). How far she goes is a big question mark, but she has top 15-20 potential, someday. Not sure the weapons are quite big enough to go all the way unless she grows some more, however.
The weather for tomorrow looks iffy, at best. Rain is definitely in the forecast. We may get some play in, but doubtless there’ll be some suspensions. Gonna be a long Tuesday on Key Biscayne!
Monday photos are being uploaded to my Flickr. I’ve got a really bad Wi Fi connection at my hotel this year, so timely uploading of photos may or may not happen, but I promise to get them up eventually.
Hope to have at least some of them uploaded before I leave tomorrow morning.
That’s all for today. See you tomorrow.