Hi everyone – just a quick update on the happenings on a rainy Monday at the Sony Ericsson Open.
Monday in Miami did have some upsets, but few of them were that surprising. Top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova was upset by lucky No. 13 seed Marion Bartoli, but Sveta was suffering a muscle pull in her shoulder that she says had her seeing stars. And on paper, at least, No. 4 seed and defending champ Victoria Azarenka was upset 6-4, 6-0 by the No. 14 seed. But No. 14 happens to be Kim Clijsters. Sam Stosur got her revenge over Jelena Jankovic, beating her 6-1, 7-6(9) in a rematch of the Indian Wells semifinals. Wildcard Justine Henin took out Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-4.
The best matches of the day weren’t about unexpected results but the battle to the finish. Roger Federer beat Florent Serra in straight tiebreaks: 7-6(2), 7-6(3), fluctuating wildly between strokes of genius (a certain backhand-cross-court-half-volley-slice-dropper comes to mind) and pure passivity (a few backhand service returns that reminded me of the worst of the 2009 Australian Open final.) All credit to Serra, not the flashiest of Frenchman but certainly one of the most tactically disciplined. He went on court with an aggressive game plan and stuck with it as if he was playing a Challenger in Lyon, not a G.O.A.T. in a Masters event.
Federer praised his opponent afterwards while admitting he needed to “tidy up” his own game. But I thought this snippet was the most interesting part from his post-match presser – looking forward to that possible Nadal vs. Federer final on Sunday:
Q. Are you missing playing Rafa? Because it’s like one year that you and he played.
ROGER FEDERER: I see him play a lot.
Q. Play against him…
ROGER FEDERER: Sure, playing against him is always a lot of fun, too. I think it’s great for the game. I think it’s great for our own game, because I have the feeling we always have tendencies to go back to the practice courts and say, ‘Okay, whoever has won or lost has to go work harder,’ even though I don’t think we were ever slowing down. It’s been always a lot of fun playing against him, and I hope that day is gonna come soon again where we can play.
Nadal was watching Roger’s match from the stands on Monday. Caroline Wozniacki was also spotted with her father, marveling at some of Roger’s highlight reel shots.
No. 3 seed Venus Williams improved her record to 10-0 against Daniela Hantuchova on Monday, coming from a set behind to take it: 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. Like Roger’s seemingly straightforward match-up, there was a lot of drama between the lines. And during the changeovers: Daniela Hantuchova’s on-court coaching sessions with adidas Player Development Coach Darren Cahill provided some of the best proof positive for the WTA’s newish on-court coaching rule. Of course it helps that Darren is a TV commentator. He knows how to speak to the cameras and his encouragement to Dani – whether she was up in the first set or down in the third – made me wish that I could call for some on-court coaching in my day-to-day life.
Unfortunately for Dani, her main problem still lies in herself. Though she played a fantastic match for most of three sets, it was obvious that she let her self-doubt get to her. Down a break in the third, she buried her face in a towel during a changeover while Cahill sat at her side, beseeching her to trust in her abilities. Even he looked a little dejected, knowing there was little chance of his message getting through. This scene was in stark contrast to that of Venus Williams, sitting alone on the other side of the umpires chair. She didn’t call for any of the four possible coaches who were cheering for her at the sidelines: hitting partner David Witt, sister Serena, and her parents Oracene Price and Richard Williams remained in their seats for the duration. Venus knew she could figure it out on her own:
“I like being on the court alone. I enjoy that. I’m not a player that looks at my box every point. I look inside myself, because I feel like I have the answer. And all I need is my box to say, Go, go. You can do it. That’s enough.”
Reporters asked Venus to comment on some of the words of wisdom Cahill gave Dani, specifically his observation that Venus could be expected to play her best when it mattered most:
Q. When the coach did come down, he was basically telling her you come up big in these moments, and she kind of has to match what you can do. Could you hear any of that at all?
VENUS WILLIAMS: No, it was too far away. Obviously he’s speaking in a tone that I couldn’t hear. But that’s some tough advice. Very true, I guess, but that’s tough.
Fernando Gonzalez also had to dig deep on Monday evening, down a set to an on fire Juan Monaco. Perhaps it was thoughts of Saturday’s Champions for Chile charity event that inspired Gonzalez into Gonzo Gear. He eventually emerged victorious over the birthday boy Argentine (Monaco turned 26 on Monday): 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2.
The men’s round of 16s are set: Federer vs. Berdych, Verdasco vs. Cilic, Fish vs. Youzhny, Gonzalez vs. Soderling, Tsonga vs. Ferrero, Nadal vs. Ferrer, Roddick vs. Becker, Almagro vs. Bellucci.
The women’s quarterfinals are set: Bartoli vs. Wickmayer, Venus vs. Radwanska, Stosur vs. Clijsters, Henin vs. Wozniacki.
Here are some of the ATP highlights from Monday. Roger’s fantastic shots come after the minute mark.