The tournament in Memphis last week was such a treat for tennis fans in more ways than one. Not only did Memphis provide an outstanding line-up of elite players, but their venue is so intimate, it is such a priviledge to see tennis being played at that high of a level live. Television does not do justice to the way the ball is hit with such power, speed and preciseness. There is no substitute for being there.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the highlights of the tournament were these: 1. Milos Raonic 2. del Potro’s return 3. Roddick’s match point 4. Milos Raonic. Yes, the kid’s got game, but what is so impressive is his off court persona as well. In the pressers, Milos carried on like a man at least 10 yrs his senior. Answering questions like he’d been doing it for decades and with such maturity and wit. After each win, he was more spirited, more emotional, and with increasingly bigger smiles on his face. When asked how he was doing so well in back to back tournaments, his response: “I am confident”. I mean what more does a man need to say?
Speaking of pressers, the man who impressed all of us the most was Mardy Fish. He takes these press conferences seriously and listens with intent to your questions. Upon answering, he looks at you straight in your eyes to really ensure that he is answering your question properly. SO impressive. And so was his game. He took Raonic to three sets and said to us afterwards: “He played like a top ten player today, I did the best I could” .. and this was no lie on both counts.
So this was the first time I was able to see the 2009 US Open Champion, Juan Martin del Potro live, and I can tell you that watching that man belt a 100 mph forehand winner just re-defines the word awesome. Delpo’s shots just punishing and he can do it from both wings too. This is why my love of the men’s game just keep’s getting deeper and deeper. As racquet technology makes the game come at us faster and harder, it impresses me even more that these men (and women for that matter) can get these balls back in play let alone return any of these serves.
When he finally defeated Russell in his quarterfinal match, del Potro screamed out an “AAYAAHHHH! when he finally won. As someone who is thrilled to see Delpo back in great form, I was thrilled to see him yell with glee like that, to see the joy in his face was so utterly beautiful. This is a man who won the US Open against Roger Federer in 2009 and is jumping for absolute joy to get into the semi’s of a 500 level tournament after coming back from injury. Yes, it was pure JOY.
Looking forward to seeing del Potro, as well as 7 (yes 7!) American men play in Delray this week. Most of the men who played in Memphis will play in Delray, the only difference being that it is a 250 event, and of course, and outside tournament. Roddick did pull out, however, but this is no surprise to me. He looked pale in the pressers while coughing through half his questions. I actually felt for the man. Needless to say, his dive in his final match against Raonic didn’t help matters.
SO much wonderful tennis yet to come in Delray, and this year!! Looking forward to seeing the awesomensess of Philippousis serve… it’s been a long time.