By TennisWorld Contributing Editor Andrew Burton
Greetings from California. Here are some early impressions from my first day.
Temperatures cool down pretty rapidly after 5pm here. At 6pm I went to Stadium 3 to join Tari, lpb, Jackie, Alexis and jb who were watching Juan Carlos Ferrero play Daniel Koellerer, lifetime holder of the "ATP player most likely to appear in a GEICO commercial" award. Koellerer had treatment for a groin strain after the third game of the match. He played gamely for most of the first set, mixing flat groundstrokes with dropshots into the blustery wind, all with his customary air of truculence. Then Koellerer went away: in the 2nd set, he won only 4 points out of the 32 played. After one break by JCF, Koellerer tapped a ball at his opponent's back - not quite the missile aimed at Agassi on Friday, but still an odd gesture. The handshake at the end was oddly prolonged - sympathy from Ferrero, or some pointed words? Koellerer threw his tennis bag over his shoulder and strode off the court without a backward glance. Given his penchant for playing the villain, a puff of orange smoke and "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too" might have been a better exit.
If we're handing out awards to Fabio Fognini, let's go with "Tom of Finland website design award." Fognini and Monaco played out their second set on Stadium 4. Monaco took the first set, but Fognini found himself up a break and with a set point on Monaco's serve at 2-5, 30-40. Monaco held his nerve in the long rally that followed, held the game, and Fognini proceeded to not so much as melt down as dribble down. Unforced error followed unforced error, game followed game, and 15 minutes later we were done. Fabio Fognini left to pack his bags for Miami: Monaco was surrounded on the court by Argentinian well wishers, and posed happily for photo after photo.
Steve Tignor passed me on the way to the Media Room, shaking his head ruefully. Marin Cilic, Steve's ATP pick for the week, went down in flames to Gabriel Garcia Lopez. Cilic decided that talking with the media might interfere with his own travel plans to Florida, leaving Steve (and likely a few other journalists) scrambling to rewrite their "Next Big (And Tall) Thing In Tennis" pieces.
No-one mentioned travel to Ana Ivanovic in her press conference after a not-unexpected straight sets loss to Anastasija Sevastova. Ivanovic's words tumbled out of her in torrents - her demeanor was straightforward, even cheerful, as she took sympathetic practice questions about practice, her new coach, her mental state on court, and so forth. But at least one journalist sitting in the room could see that she'd been crying before she came in, and word is that Ivanovic's ranking will drop at least into the low 50s next week. Ivanovic is thinking about how to regain her game, and the consensus in the press room is that she's thinking too much.
If I had to name one player right now who embodies the idea that a professional tennis player enjoys the glamorous life, it's Ana Ivanovic. It's a complete fantasy, of course. For the vast majority of circuit tennis players, your existence is closer to that of a backpackerthan a movie star (and before you write, yes, I know that movie stars have issues). Even when you reach Wheaties packet heights (or whatever they sell in Serbia), you're a blown service toss away from the downward spiral, the self questions, and the doubts at 3am in the morning that won't go away. Sometimes there's learning in defeat, but Koellerer, Fognini and Ivanovic would take a lot of persuading before they thought there was any glamor in it.
This is my fourth visit as a journalist to this to tournament, and this year I'm trying something new. I'll be filing video reports from IW, loaded to YouTube (channel is adburton1). This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting a bunch of TW Tribe members at breakfast - you can meet Tennis Tarkeena, Jackie, vetmama, ChrisS, Annie and rafadoc. I tried (half-heartedly) to start a Fedal War, but the ladies were having none of it. Hope you enjoy meeting them as much as I did.