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Tennis | Upsets and Oddities Mark First Week Of The Miami Open At Hard Rock Stadium

Photo by Hard Rock Stadium via Twitter

By: Thomas Cluck

 

There were top stars “off “ and top-flight performances to knock them out. There were topsy-turvy matches, shocking upsets, and some withdrawals from some of the biggest names in the sport. Add in delays for everything from the typical Florida rain-shower to – special effects like the blinding beams of sun reflecting off the new Hard Rock Stadium glass to a bizarre and rarely-before-seen Stadium court in tennis • complete with the funkiest of shadows and this year’s first-edition of the new-look Miami Open has shown off the oddities and unexpected occurrences only a city like Miami muster up.

 

Week one of the Miami Open, the second of two March Masters events famously dubbed the Sunshine Double which moved from lush and homey Crandon Park on Key Biscayne to the sterile and grand surroundings of inland Miami Gardens at Hard Rock Stadium, has been anything but normal. But in a city like Miami with a venue this new and untested by the players, fans, and public, would you expect any less?

 

In past years when high-profile top tournaments have moved venues or started in new cities, the results have been predictably unpredictable, with many major upsets on new courts and surfaces that most on tour would have yet to get used to, often equalizing the match and providing the underdog a new chance. Just as in the inaugural year of the new Wuhan Open in China in 2014 or the new venue at San Jose State for the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic last summer, it took many of the top players far longer to acclimate to new court conditions, even those just marginally a fraction or two faster or slower, yielding upsets galore.

 

The WTA | ATP tournament here at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens has been no different, with a total of 12 out of 32 seeded players in Miami failing to win just one match and make the third round. Six out of the 16 fourth-round competitors were unseeded and a remarkable Sunday in South Florida saw the seeded women go 2-6.

 

Bianca Andreescu of Canda reacts to winning a point against Angelique Kerber of Germany during their women's singles match at the Miami Open tennis tournament in Miami, Florida, USA, 23 March 2019.  EPA-EFE/RHONA WISE

Bianca Andreescu of Canda reacts to winning a point against Angelique Kerber of Germany during their women’s singles match at the Miami Open tennis tournament in Miami, Florida, USA, 23 March 2019. EPA-EFE/RHONA WISE

Four of the biggest upsets came with four of the biggest names in women’s tennis the victims, with world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka crashing out in a tense, emotional bout to the uber-tricky veteran Su-Wei Hsieh, 23-time major winner and eight-time Miami champ Serena Williams forced to withdraw before her second match with a left knee injury after an error-filled opening win over unheralded Swede Rebecca Peterson, three-time major winner Angelique Kerber falling for the second-straight week in a rematch of the Indian Wells final to the unseeded, red-hot Canadian sensation Bianca Andreescu past 2 AM on a Sunday morning, and finally defending champion and home hope Sloane Stephens going out meekly to German veteran and mom Tatijana Maria in another frustrating performance for the American.

 

To put it lightly, this Miami Open on the women’s side, a WTA Premier Mandatory event, has been anything but routine. How many times will one see a player as Kerber lash out at an 18 year-old upstart after falling to her for the second-straight week in a post-midnight marathon in the same tournament where Elise Mertens and Marketa Vondrousova refused to play on due to the eye-blinding beam of sun that was reflecting off the giant shining Hard Rock Stadium facade.

 

But as week two gets underway in South Florida, expect the unexpected, but also watch for some of the remaining gems of the apparently unceasing WTA depth to show what they’re made of and take this big Magic City stage and make it their own.

 

Whether it’s the absurdly unorthodox two hands on each side game of Hsieh or the pure ball-striking prowess of rising star Kontaveit to the clean and brilliant work of Wang Qiang, who survived the battle of the Wangs on Monday in Miami- another first for this funky and lovely tournament-, the second week of this showcase event is sure to see another shine. Maybe an established powerhouse such as former number one Simona Halep or two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova will hoist the Butch Buchholz trophy come finals Saturday. All we know is that knowing the WTA these days, it’s gonna be good regardless.

Simona Halep of Romania in action against Venus Williams of the US during their women's singles match at the Miami Open tennis tournament in Miami, Florida, USA, 25 March 2019.  EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

Simona Halep of Romania in action against Venus Williams of the US during their women’s singles match at the Miami Open tennis tournament in Miami, Florida, USA, 25 March 2019. EPA-EFE/JASON SZENES

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