You gotta ask before you use my tweets, dude.
After a very restless five-hour red-eye flight from SFO to Ft. Lauderdale, a quick 30-minutes train ride to Miami, and another 30-minutes of lovely chauffering by Victoria, I found myself at the very purple, very exciting, Sony Ericsson Open, a tournament that before yesterday I had only seen on TV.
Despite the fact that main draw play has begun, the grounds were relatively empty, apart from the hoards of little rugrats running around the grounds, noshing on ice cream and hounding for autographs. Yes, it was my favorite day of any tournament: Kids Day, where the random shrieks and cries of children never fails to make me jump out of my skin. I love you little rascals, but seriously, WHY THE RUNNING AND THE SCREAMING.
The grounds aren't bustling with sweaty bodies yet (I suspect that will change starting today), so Tuesday afforded me a great opportunity to wander the grounds and get the lay of the land. Even if you didn't want to wander, the layout necessitates it. While some tournaments may centralize their practice courts so that you can get a view of four to eight at a time, Miami groups the courts in twos. It's great because it gives you access to at least one side of each court (the courts are side by side), but it does require you to wander from pocket to pocket to see who's on each court, which can be fun from a scavenger hunt perspective, but exhausting from a "ZOMGITSSOHOTANDHUMID" perspective. The grounds at Indian Wells are bigger, but I was in flip-flops the whole tournament. This morning, preparing for another day at Crandon Park, I put on my sneakers.
For the longest time, Miami has been known as "The Fifth Slam". For whatever reason, maybe because of attendance, hawkeye, etc., Indian Wells seemed to wrestle that title away. Having only been here for a day, and even though the crowds haven't come yet, Miami, by far, feels like The Fifth Slam. Believe me, it pains me to say that.
It just feels more important. From the big tents sponsored by liquor companies (Bombay Sapphire, Bacardi, Corona, Veuve Cliquot), to the huge corporate signage everywhere you go, the grounds look professional, the sponsors are names you actually recognize, and there's a chaotic energy amongst the fans that seems more Slam-like and less Masters 1000-like. Even the heat and humidity serve to make me feel more like I'm in New York or Melbourne, and less like I'm on vacation.
Yet, despite it's Slam-like qualities, this is still a premier level tournament that provides you great access. There's an outdoor player dining area (one of a few player lounges scattered around the stadium) where, if you were REAAAAAAAAALLY creepy, you can just lean against the chainlink fence and stare at players from, like 3 feet away. But don't do that. It's really really reeeeeeeeaaaaaaaalllllllyyyyyy creepy. You'll still see players milling about, walking to practice, etc. I saw Daveed jogging, unaccosted, to his practice court yesterday, fans stopping Ivo for pictures, and Judy sitting inside the pop-up Starbucks, chatting away as though it was her corner cafe in Dunblane.
All in all, not a bad first day at a major tournament. Expectations have been met. Now let's see how the next two weeks go.
(Pics: Forty Deuce)