Indian Wells, we hardly new ye. The Miami Masters has started and we already have enough stories to fill a week’s worth of blog posts.
Miami’s skewing WTA this tournament, with the simultaneous returns of Garbo-esque stars Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images via Daylife
Venus hasn’t played singles since the US Open last year, having to deal with her diagnosis of Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes joint pain and fatigue. She beat Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-0, 6-3 on Wednesday. Playing with the illness has helped focus her on court strategy, she says (via WTA):
“At this point in time it’s important for me to play smart,” she explained. “I’m an attacker – that’s what I do best, and that’s what I tried to do today. I don’t have the time to give any points away. I have to stay really focused on my game plan.
“The good thing is I’m playing well. I know how to play, so I haven’t lost any steam in that, the fact that I can play tennis. That’s comforting for me.”
I loved this story about Venus in the Miami Herald, which included this quotable from her father: “She’s always reminded me of a queen,” her father Richard Williams said. “Now, Serena, she’s a pit bull, she’s Mike Tyson. But Venus has a royalty about her.”
Venus’s reward for a first round win? A mouth-watering meeting with fellow power server and Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
More inspiration and good vibes on the WTA side: Alisa Kleybanova is back on court after 10 months of fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She won her first match back on Tuesday vs. Johanna Larsson of Sweden 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
“Doing professional sport you always have something, some pain,” Kleybanova said. “You have so much fatigue every day.
“No one was expecting something like that, but on the other hand I knew something was wrong and I wanted to figure out what was wrong. I knew it was going to be a very tough time for me, another big fight and take a long time, so I had to be focused.”
Kleybanova is in Vika’s half of the draw, and faces Maria Kirilenko in the next round.
Photo via WTA
Not exactly inspiring, but inspired: pugilistic Azarenka paired up with Ultimate Fighting. Why, yes, this is a winning combination. Love this quote from light heavyweight fighter Rashad Evans, who showed the No. 1 some moves in the cage (via WTA):
“I can tell she’s genuinely interested in MMA (mixed martial arts) – it was impressive how she grasps the concepts. I didn’t show her too much except for kicking, but she knew a lot more than I thought she’d know. There were times she really looked like she knew what she was doing.”
“I love women’s tennis,” Evans added. “It actually dominates men’s tennis in my opinion. You know they’re out there giving it everything they’ve got. They go through the same anxiety we do of not wanting to lose, and I respect that a lot.”
Who else sees Vika launching a second career in the cage? She already walks onto the court with swagger and a hoodie pulled over her head. Just add tats and silky shorts and she’s good to go – on court or in the cage.
All hail GONZO! (Fed, Murray, Nole, Nalbandian et. al do)
Olympic gold medalist Fernado Gonzalez played his last ATP level match today in Miami, and it was a heart breaker: a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (3) loss to Mahut. The players (see above) and the fans will miss this guy. He’s unforgettable, once you’ve seen him play at his white hot best. I still remember watching him at his flashiest – maybe the first time I really noticed him - while beating Andy Roddick at the Athen’s Olympics. Even Andy’s post-match reaction was memorable:
“You have to tip your hat to Fernando,” Roddick said (via Tennis-X). “You know he is going to hit some amazing shots, but sometimes it will get away from him a little bit. Today he just played great all the way through. When I saw he was playing offense on my offense, I knew it was going to be a long day.”
Then there was his splendid run to the Australian Open final in 2007, where he beat Rafa in straight sets and made only three unforced errors in his semifinal vs. Haas (The Tennis Space has a great “Top 10 Gonzo Moments” up here.)
That’s Gonzo, the guy who put the “Ooooh, WOW!” into offense.
AP Photo/Alan Diaz via Daylife
James Blake, who has not so fond memories of Gonzalez (here) also hit the courts today, losing to fellow 30-something Nikolay Davydenko.
Okay, now for a quick look at the draws.
WTA: the women’s draw has bulked up a bit from Indian Wells, with Kim, Serena and Venus all in the mix. Azarenka’s form and focus still make her the one to beat – how nice, from the No. 1 player in the world! The highest seed in Vika’s Rd. of 16 section is Cibulkova. Bartoli and Schiavone are possible quarterfinal matchups for her and either Kvitova or Radwanska could await in the semis. Good early round matches in this half include Venus vs. Kvitova and young American Madison Keys vs. Radwanska in the second round
The bottom half is packed with Major champs and runners up, with seeded round of 16 matches including: Stosur vs. Serena, Goerges (who plays Clijsters in the second round) vs. Wozniacki, Li Na vs.Lisicki and Sharapova vs. Jankovic. So much fun and drama awaits!
ATP: The men’s side is a bit of same-old-same-old, but who’s complaining? Roger will now have a chance to avenge Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, with Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal facing off on the other side. But just look at what Roger may have to get through just to reach Nole: Ryan Harrison in the second round, Andy Roddick in the third, Monfils in the Round of 16 and maybe Fish in the quarters (Roger is in the American section, I guess.) Speaking of Americans, John Isner is a possible quarterfinal opponent for Rafa (unless it’s Tsonga). Novak’s quarter is either Ferrer or Del Potro and Andy Murray’s quarterfinal seed is Berdych (but look out for his third rounder vs. Raonic.)
Phew! Time to stop reading and start watching, everyone! Can’t wait!