And it’s all fun and games until the top seed gets beat. The crowd went wild on Thursday night at the Farmers Classic as 192-ranked American Tim Smyczek won the second set over the tournament’s lone top 15 player, Andy Murray. The violinist from Wisconsin had lost the first, 1-6 in 28 minutes, so it’s possible the crowd was just cheering at the chance for a second beer. But I doubt it. When Murray finally wrapped things up 6-1, 4-6, 6-2, I heard only the faintest sigh of relief over the Scot’s own “come on!” Maybe the tournament director was sitting in my row.
“I think I made a match of it.” Smyczek (pronounced Smee-check) said to much applause during his on-court interview. Yes, Tim is cool enough around here to score an on-court interview after losing in the second round. He heartily agreed with MC Wayne Bryan: he really was experiencing the biggest stadium (7,000 capacity), the biggest crowd (I’m guessing two thirds full) and the biggest payday of his career (winning the first round in LA gets you $6,360.)
Murray was gracious in victory, mentioning on-court that he’d “grown up” with Smyczek in the juniors and had been expecting a tough match. Murray didn’t make it easy on himself, either. He displayed a lackluster serve, huddled around the baseline and – maybe most surprising – often showed less variety and gumption than his opponent – an opponent who had just won the first ATP tour match of his career earlier in the week. (Smyczek owns a 1-3 career win-loss record in ATP tour level matches.)
Most worryingly, Andy called a short conference with the trainer right before serving for the final set. When he finally came into the press conference (apologetically) after 11:00 pm, his gait was somewhere between Frankenstein and C-3PO. Asked what was bothering him on the court, he said: “It was the top of my hips, lower back. I was getting treated (after the match) for general stiffness.”
“I wasn’t planning to play here,” Murray tried to explain why he struggled in his debut L.A. match, “So I wasn’t necessarily as well prepared as I’d like to be.”
Somewhere, the tournament director is buying another bottle of Ambien. (Speaking of, check out this interesting piece from James LaRosa on “How Murray Came to LA”)
Speaking of stiffness, people sometimes give Andy a hard time for being uh, monotone, in public. But I have to give the guy props for keeping his BS meter on high tonight. Part of his mental preparations for L.A., perhaps ? When Wayne Bryan commented that the American “kid” could really play, Murray countered: “He’s not a kid. We’re the same age, twenty-three.”
Murray plays Alejandro Falla in the third round tomorrow evening.
A few more snippets from Thursday:
I caught James Blake in his press conference Thursday evening after he beat Benjamin Becker. He had a ReddyIce sized sack of cubes taped to his knee but claimed to be having a “ton of fun” out there on court. Call it an anti-inflammatory buzz.
Or maybe he’s just feeling loved. Blake was thrilled that Celtics star Kevin Garnett and long time buddy Serena Williams had both come to cheer him on (Garnett and ReRe share an agent.) He mentioned that Serena, who is recovering from foot surgery, is “in good spirits.”
Here are James and spirited Serena hanging out in the L.A. players’ lounge this week (via TweetPhoto):
Randomly, Barry Bonds and Gavin Rossdale were spotted in the stands.
Photo via TwitPic
(“Sighhhh. . .I miss Roger.”) Photo via Twitpic
Oh, and on a personal note, it was great to see the always lovely James LaRosa onsite. He and the charming Rob Stone are producing a very funny online series called Shank for Tennis Channel. (Some inside scoop – Feliciano Lopez has a great sense of humor! Can’t wait for that episode to come out.) Also, I’m honored that Erwin from the super-stylish Tennis Served Fresh liked my earrings.
Check out Friday’s order of play and ticket info here. I’m not sure if the weekend is sold out or not, but I highly recommend that locals visit the tournament. Yes, it’s just a sleepy ATP 250 event, but that also makes it really intimate (no nosebleeds to be found) and manageable. The grounds are classy, the food is a million times better than the US Open – try the yummy lemonade, too – and, well, it’s pro tennis in L.A.
Here are some of Fritters’s photos from the Murray match: