What was supposed to be “Semifinal Saturday” turned into yet another dreary, rain-filled day of interrupted and somewhat back-logged matches at the Audi Melbourne Pro Tennis Classic at Indian Harbour Beach, Florida’s Kiwi Club.
With wet weather threatening to break at any minute, Friday’s suspended quarterfinals between Taylor Townsend and Allie Kiick and Heidi El Tabakh and Julia Boserup got underway promptly at 10 AM, as about an hour of play occurred before the morning rain hit. Taylor finished off Allie in straight sets 6-2 6-2, on Stadium court, while over on court 4, El Tabakh quickly broke and held to win the first set against Boserup, but lost her serve early in set two and let Julia claw her way back into the match. Boserup survived some break points at 5-3 in the second and squared it at 1 set all, and then Heidi won the opening game of set three with some big serving just before the rain suspended play again.
The rain delay was a long one–some five or so hours. By the time the rain had stopped and the courts had been rolled and dried, it was after 4PM, and the skies were still threatening, but play did resume.
Over on court 4, Heidi El Tabakh and Julia Boserup resumed their quarterfinal match, from 1-0 in the third. A long second game full of multiple break chances and deuce points was for naught as Boserup eventually held, but Heidi went on a three game run to build a 4-1 lead with some clutch serving and beautiful forehands. Boserup closed it to 4-3, but Heidi got the decisive break and held from 0-30 for the win.
During the third set of this match I had a lengthy conversation with the father of Maria and Alexandra Belaya, two local juniors, one of whom made this year’s qualifying field here, and the elder of whom did likewise a few years back and who is now the number 1 racquet for William & Mary (plug for my alma mater–Go Tribe!) Initially Mr. Belaya asked me about Heidi El Tabakh, as he was impressed with her rather big game and saw that I was actively engaged cheering for her, and then our discussion shifted to economics of players trying to make it on the Pro Circuit, the struggles of financing a pro’s career and the politics involved in finding sponsorships for promising juniors.
It was a really fascinating look at the difficulties involved in being a tennis parent, and the realities faced by most of today’s professionals. By his reckoning, a player ranked around 100 or lower is essentially unable to break even on earnings alone–they’ll need assistance from family and/or sponsors just to break even on the expenses involved in supporting a professional tennis career–entrance fees, travel costs, coaching, equipment, etc. If true, that’s astonishing. He told me that his daughter Maria grew up basically fighting hammer and tong battles with Chiara Scholl, who is now struggling to maintain a top 500 ranking, while his daughter went to college and is graduating with a degree in physical therapy next week. The implication, of course, being that with a college degree at least his daughter is going to have something she can fall back on in the future to earn a good living. With college, most players, he said, by the time the are 30, are teaching at clubs.
It was interesting stuff to hear from a “tennis dad” who seemed to have a whole lot of common sense about raising a “tennis kid.”
After the singles, I caught the second set and tiebreak of the women’s doubles between Falconi/Sanchez and Marand/Abaza. That was a fun one. Jan and Sanaz make quite an effective team–Marand is an exceptional net player, with superb reflexes, and it really showed in this match. She had several cat-like, instinctive stabs for putaway winners and authoritative smashes that drew “ooohs” and “ahhhs” from the crowd even as the teams split the first two sets, Marand and Abaza winning the first 7-6 and Sanchez and Falconi taking the second 6-3. The tiebreak ended somewhat controversially, as Abaza stopped play on a ball that fell just long. Abaza/Marand won 10-8 in the third.
Yulia Putinseva obviously was scratched from the schedule and didn’t get to play her semi today, but after the stadium court doubles she wanted to practice so she came back in the afternoon, and waited until the doubles finished, and took to the court for a late practice like a bull in a china shop. She’d obviously been waiting all day to hit something.
Moments later, Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad took to court 4 against Maria-Fernanda Alves and Zuzana Zlochova, and the first set was over in about 15 minutes, 6-0. The second set was closer, but Townsend and Muhammad were still overpowering and pulled away, 6-3. Though I didn’t stay for it, they were to have a short break, before coming back on court for the semifinal against Josie Kuhlman and Peggy Porter, though I believe that one might have been suspended due to more rain showers.
Women’s singles quarterfinals:
(SE)Taylor Townsend (USA) def. (8)Allie Kiick (USA) 62 62
Heidi El Tabakh (CAN) def. Julia Boserup (USA) 62 36 63
Women’s doubles quarterfinal:
(2)Muhammad/Townsend (USA/USA) def. Alves/Zlochova (BRA/SVK) 60 63
Women’s doubles semifinals:
Abaza/Marand (USA/USA) def. (1)Falconi/Sanchez (USA/USA) 76(1) 36 10-8
(2)Muhammad/Townsend (USA/USA) lead (wc)Kuhlman/Porter (USA/USA) 2-1
Just a couple of photos from Saturday: https://www.flickr.com/photos/28300821@N05/sets/72157644088124969/