All Photos Â© JD Blom for Tennis Panorama News.
Article by Craig Hickman
Thursday night, I attended by first-ever night session on Stadium Court at the Sony Ericsson Open. Outside of the Slams, this is among my favorite tournaments. I’ve always considered it the fifth Slam, even though recently, I’ve heard Indian Wells referred to as such. What I love about this slam is the high-energy crowds that come out at support Central and South American players. When JD asked me what the biggest tournament in South America actually was, I drew a blank. In my mind, this is it.
Which is why I ought to have gotten out to Court 1 a lot earlier and watched the compelling drama unfold between Paul Capdeville of Chile and Frederico Gil of Portugal. By the time I arrived, the match was at a few points shy of the final set tiebreak, which Capdeville let 4-1 and 6-3, only have the match stolen from him by the tencacious “Fred” (his fans where chanting his name after almost every point) who struck two outrageous passing shots to save two of the four match, deflating the Argentine who was gutted after the match.
Back on Stadium Court, Maria Sharapova played her first match in Miami match in three years. After she cruised to victory 6-3, 6-2 over Croatia’s Petra Martic, I was the only writer, along with five photographers, who showed up for her news conference. Because it was late and she appeared to be a bit insulted by the empty room, joking that more children showed , I kept my one-on-one with the former No. 1 and face of the WTA succinct.
Craig Hickman for Tennis Panorama News: How are you feeling?
Maria Sharapova: Good. Great.
TPN: When was the last time you played in Miami?
MS: Three years ago.
TPN: That’s what I thought. How does it feel to be back?
MS: Way too long.
Feels really good. This is one of my favorite events. It’s crazy that I’ve missed it this many years because of injuries. So I’m just so happy to get back on that court today and just I love playing in front of the crowd. They’re so enthusiastic. They love their sports and have that Latin flavor about them. You know, it’s fun.
TPN: How is your shoulder?
MS: Doing good. Yeah, stable.
TPN: Are you healed?
MS: Healed? Tough to say an athlete is healed, but, yeah, I’m doing really well. Thank you.
TPN: You are pretty popular in Asia. Can you talk a little bit about how you felt when you heard about the Japan earthquake?
MS: Yeah, it was a tragedy. You know, you still see all the coverage in the papers and on video. It’s crazy to think that something like that could just happen so quickly and destroy so many lives, so many emotions.
Japan is one of my favorite places to visit, to go to. I’ve had incredible memories ever since I think I was maybe 13, 14 years old my first time I went there. I love so many things about it. I love the people. I love the food. I love the culture. I mean, I have been to so many different parts of it, as well, I’ve got to experience. I mean, you go to a different town, people live differently. It’s so unique there. I draw so much inspiration all my life from there and from those people. It’s devastating to know what they’re going through. Yeah, but I hope that it doesn’t continue and become worse.
TPN: Where do you see yourself in the game right now?
MS: Um, you know, I see myself building from what I can. You know, my goal this year is to consistently stay healthy and just really build on you know, last week I got to the semifinals. I was really happy, because I hadn’t played a tournament in a while. So just, you know, play a lot more tournament in a while. So just, you know, play a lot more tournaments, you know, play a lot more matches, and I feel like my form will get to where I want it to be when I do that.
Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickmanâ€™s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News.