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Miami diary: Wednesday March 24

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Originally published on: 25/03/10 10:05

Singin’ the blues

Situated on Key Biscayne and surrounded by turquoise water, it seems fitting that the entrance to the Crandon Park tennis centre is this year decked out in blue rather than the purple of the past few years. The fountain has disappeared too, replaced by a tree, but much else is the same, it’s still staged by IMG and called the “Sony Ericsson Open”.

This is Butch Buchholz’s last year as tournament chairman. Buchhholz was instrumental in setting up this player favourite combined men’s and women’s event, the first co-ed event outside of the Slams and the first non-Slam event to award men and women equal prize money. tennishead hopes that, as a tribute to Butch, the women will put on a great display of top class tennis in the next twelve days.

Queen Vic

Defending women’s Champ Victoria Azarenka was first up in the main interview room today. There were plenty of spare seats; perhaps it was the 10.30am start. Despite having a new coach she revealed she is not making any crazy changes to her game. “You always adjust some things,” she admitted, though. “You try to get to know yourself a little bit better”.

Her 6-3 6-1 victory on Stadium court last year over Serena Williams gave her confidence ahead of these big matches. “I don’t feel much difference except the experience you get. You know, the feeling that next time you walk on court against a big match you don’t feel as nervous as probably I was.”

She doesn’t so much view herself as defending champ as a player at the start of another tournament. “My feeling is not coming back as defending champion. For me, it’s a new year, I’m coming back as the same competitor as another 128 or how many girls here.”

If it helps, there are actually only 96 girls (and 96 boys) in this draw. But who’s counting?

Britwatch: Bally through, AK and Watson out

With three British women in action today and a 3pm Andy Murray press conference, the British journos were in danger of missing the 6pm media cocktails. Anne Keothavong was first up on Court 3 against Austria’s Tamira Paszek, followed by Heather Watson against the Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova and then Elena Baltacha took on the Czech Iveta Benesova on Court 2.

As it transpired Keothavong and Watson were both beaten 6-4 6-2, but Baltacha made it to the second round with a 6-2 6-4 win. Later we learned that Anne’s grandmother had died earlier this week, and understandably her mind was elsewhere. “Tennis just didn’t seem that important,” she said in her press conference. Our condolences and thoughts go out to her.

Teething trouble for Rafa

There were no spare seats in Nadal’s press conference, just plenty of chaos as journos and photographer’s gathered in the basement interview room – that has no windows and seemingly no air conditioning.

Over the almost deafening clicking of a multitude of camera shutters, Rafa revealed that he has been suffering from inflammation of the wisdom teeth, which has been bothering him for a couple of days. He has seen a dentist, who did little, but the diagnosis was “I have to take out all, but not now”. Yikes.

He’ll still be playing singles and doubles, using the doubles as practise on the days he does not have a match. With a full-on clay court schedule awaiting him on his return to Europe, there will be little time for him to visit the dentist any time soon.

Chardy – Jeremy Chardy…

There were a few squeals over on Stadium Court today as former tennishead hot stuff Jeremy Chardy beat Mario Ancic in straight sets 6-4 6-4. It had been a pretty quiet day in terms of scintillating matches, but the Frenchman who once revealed to us that he’d like to play James Bond in a movie, definitely proved a crowd favourite today. That’s the second time Chardy has beaten the tall Croatian who was in the draw by virtue of a wildcard. David Nalbandian and Justine Henin also made popular returns to Stadium Court. The Argentine defeated Lukasz Kubot in straight sets and Henin had an emphatic win over local girl Jill Craybas.

Apart from that it was a relatively quiet day at Crandon Park. With a 96 draw size twelve days of play and twelve competition courts there’s plenty of time for the schedule to unfold. There’s doubles action tomorrow before the seeded players join the fray – and we won’t see Feds on court until Saturday evening. That leaves plenty of time to go and relax on groovy South Beach, which must account for the popularity of this tournament with the players. Well, that and the $4.5 million prizemoney. There’s plenty to thank Butch for.

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