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Miami Open, what an experience!

Friday, April 10, 2015
Dirt Under the Nails
Carla Suárez Navarro, of Spain, returns to Serena Williams during the women's final at the Miami Open tennis tournament on Saturday in Key Biscayne, Florida. AP Photo

Last week I had the good fortune to be able to attend four matches at the Miami Open Tennis Tournament, which proved to be much more than just a tennis tourney. It was full blown entertainment for the entire day on each of the two days that I was there!

But let’s first start with the actual tennis. I had tickets for a women’s quarterfinal: American Sloane Stephens vs third seed Simona Halep from Romania, and a women’s semi-finals with Spaniard Carla Suarez-Navarro against ninth seed Andrea Petkovic from Germany. 

I was expecting a large American crowd for the Stephens-Halep match. However, either the Romanians were extremely loud, or there were just so many more of them than there were Americans. 

They chanted, yelled, commented loudly and laughed as they encouraged their countrywoman through her game, to such an extent that the referee, on numerous occasions, had to ask them for silence. 

This was in stark contrast to the seemingly-lone American in our section, who tried to compete with the chanting Romanians by shouting “Super Sloane!” in her high-pitched American accent at every chance she got.

During the Suarez-Navarro/Petkovic match, I felt as if I were in Spain, but at least I could understand a bit of what the fans were saying, and could join in with support for my namesake on the court! 

However, despite the huge Latin community in Miami, most of these supporters were from Spain, as per their thick Spanish accents. 

In fact, there were so many foreign languages being spoken around me, that I did not feel as if I were in the United States at all. There were more foreigners than Americans, with a heavy representation from Europe. 

I heard Portuguese, German, different Spanish accents representing Latin America, Spain and Argentina, among other European languages which I could not identify. How’s that for sports tourism!

I also had tickets for two men’s quarterfinal matches. While I was hoping to see Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray play, the luck of the draw had it that I saw Berdych (eighth seed from Czech Republic) vs Juan Monaco from Argentina, and 22nd seed American John Isner vs 4th seed Kai Nishikori from Japan. 

During these men’s games I felt like I was watching a 20/20 cricket match. 

With vooping left and vooping right, it was more a match of who could hit the ball the hardest. 

There were few rallies, and if it weren’t for the entertainment provided by the crowd, I would have certainly fallen asleep or altogether left the match. 

Monaco’s nickname is Pico, and the Argentinian supporters screamed “vamos, Pico!” in vain as he lost in a valiant effort to Berdych. The same “Super Sloane” supporter joined the Argentinians in their chanting, but with her hysterical Americanised version of “vamos Pico,” which had me in fits of laughter. 

Men’s tennis has not changed much from the days of Pete Sampras in terms of very short rallies. The women’s version of the game is much more interesting, with many more rallies and greater, more consistent finesse and tactical play. 

In fact, I was so bored during the Isner-Nishikori match, that I turned my attention to other events in the Miami Open which proved much more interesting.

It so turns out that the Miami Open also hosts a fun tournament for the top pro beach volleyball players in the USA. 

Being a former collegiate and national player, I was quite thrilled to be able to see such high-level beach volleyball up close, and this is where I spent the rest of the Isner/Nishikori tennis match. 

Front row seats on the sidelines of the beach volleyball court watching 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh, top defensive specialist in the world, Brooke Sweat, and best male offensive player for 2014, Travis Schooner, battle it out was an experience I never thought I would have in my lifetime.

I am not one to be star-struck by any means. I have seen all the above tennis and volleyball athletes play on television. 

Television glamorises athletes, and seeing these athletes play on TV makes them seem untouchable, unreachable, and even superior to the average joe like myself. It does the same thing to our local athletes like Lara, Ganga, Yorke and Keshorn. 

What was driven home at this Miami Open experience, seeing these athletes play in person, is that they are just people like you and me. 

Seeing them live, “humanised” them. Just as I make my living through physical therapy, they play beach volleyball or tennis in order to make theirs. They make mistakes, have emotions and have their own challenges like us all. They are just on TV a lot more. 

Carla Rauseo, DPT, CSCS, ATRIC is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Aquatic Therapy  Rehabilitation Instructor at Total Rehabilitation Centre in San Juan.


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