The end of the Sony Open’s first week was greeted with sunny skies, 80 degree weather, and perfectly balmy conditions for a full day of tennis on Key Biscayne.
Not a whole lot was going on early this morning on the practice courts, probably owing to the fact that the field has been whittled down a day earlier than normal this year. Typically, all third round matches in the women’s draw would be played on Sunday, but this year, half of the draw played its third round Saturday. What this meant for the schedule this week at the Sony was a heavy singles program from Tuesday through Friday with doubles, clearly a huge favorite of the fans here, having more of a scheduling priority on the weekend.
I tend to stay away from stadium court matches like the plague–no knock against the players who typically get scheduled there, but unless you’ve got box seats, the players look like ants, picture taking is a complete waste of time and resources, and you just don’t feel like you’re a part of the match from so far up in the stands. So while I would have liked to see the Li Na-Madison Keys match, or a match with Serena or Venus Williams, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the time climbing all the way up to the top deck for a view I wasn’t particularly going to enjoy. So I went to see Elina Svitolina and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova on court 2 instead, and I think I wound up having a better time.
I caught a couple of games of Svitolina’s win over Bouchard here in round 2, and couldn’t form much of impression based on what I saw of that, so I was curious to see her play today. While she dumped the first set to BSV 4-6. her strokes looked pretty solid, and I was impressed with both her consistency and the depth of her groundstrokes, and her ability to pick and choose her spots and place her shots snugly in the corners with what appeared to be a good amount of confidence. I thought it was pretty interesting that both of these players can and did yell pretty emphatically and quite often when they celebrated a winning point. It was almost as though, apart from the tennis match going on, there was a psychological battle of wills going on as well, played out with all of the yelling. Svitova prevailed in the end, 4-6 6-4 6-1.
Aga Radwanska topped Elena Vesnina in 2 sets on the popular Grandstand court, where a 3 set ATP thriller between Tsonga and Baghdatis started off the day, and then Dominika Cibulkova edged Alize Cornet in two tight sets 7-6 6-4. Carla Suarez Navarro crushed Kaia Kanepi in two sets, 6-2 6-1, on court 2. Other third round singles winners today included Vavara Lepchenko, Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams and Li Na.
Wildcard doubles tandem Suarez Navarro and Garbiñe Muguruza continued their surprising run here in Miami, throttling Husarova and Melzer 6-2 6-0, on court 2, in the afternoon. Initial thoughts about this pairing are favorable–with Carla’s experience and deft touch and Garbiñe’s brute power and thundering groundstrokes, this team isn’t all that unlike Black/Mirza in the assets it brings to court. With more experience playing together, I think they can improve each other’s games a lot.
With that, I’m going to wrap it from Key Biscayne. It’s been an incredible week of tennis, as it always is here at the Sony Open. The huge crowds at the Sony justify its position as one of tennis’s pre-eminent events. the huge crowds at the women’s matches, both singles and doubles, show that the television networks’ decisions to largely ignore the women’s draw at the large ATP/WTA events in order to continue to show nearly exclusive ATP coverage and only the same handful of WTA players who are repeatedly scheduled on stadium court is completely and totally unjustified and misguided.
Perhaps someday, if the Powers That Be actually get in touch with what real tennis fans are demanding, they will understand that their television contracts are hopelessly antiquated. Let’s hope that changes soon, before TV ends up killing women’s tennis.