Feb/19

26

Final Delray Beach Notes

 

By Scoop Malinowski

There were plenty of highlights all week at the Delray Beach Open 2019 edition. Here are some of my most memorable moments…

The Albot vs Evans final was incredible to see but the second best tennis I saw all week was the practice tiebreaker played by Yoshihito Nishioka and Peter Polansky on Sunday afternoon. It appeared that Nishioka was winning the practice session tiebreakers and then with their time on court running out Polansky smilingly requested one more tiebreaker. Nishioka agreed, maybe a little reluctantly, but couldn’t back down from the challenge and offer. The tiebreaker was incredible, with amazing points, 20-30 ball rallies, punctuated by a screaming winner by the Japanese lefty. Both smiled and Yoshihito laughed, sat down on the court and laughed some more. It was rare to see two pros enjoying a practice so much. Both really wanted to win this meaningless tiebreaker and Polansky finally did 11-9. But i will never forget this tiebreaker and the crazy points and shots both made.

Taylor Fritz didn’t have a fantastic week in Delray, losing his first round duel with friend Mackenzie McDonald and then enduring tough practices the following days with Zane Khan, the 17 year old Orange Bowl finalist and Yosuke Watanaki, the young Japanese ranked 181 and main draw qualifier. While watching Lloyd Harris vs Dan Evans on stadium from the last tow, I turned around to also see Fritz vs Watanuki on the outside court behind me. Fritz seemed annoyed at his play and at one point even yelled at his team, probably coach Nainikin, “Don’t talk to me in the middle of a point!”

Jamie Cerretani and Marcelo Arevalo are one super serious doubles team. They were practicing with an unknown person, doing point play simulation against one person and when they converted successful points, they would actually low key high five and fist bump each other. So focused and serious even in practice. Unlike some of other higher ranked singles players in the draw, more known for tanking matches or practicing before their match with untied shoes (Tomic). Cerretani and Arevalo made it all the way to the semis.

Ballboy story from the locker room:  Bernard Tomic was talking to my friend getting guacamole (on the first day Monday morning). He asked my friend, What time is it? He said, 10:57. (Tomic) said, Oh no, my match (doubles with Granollers) is in three minutes (vs Nishioka and Albot). He just gives the girl a $20 bill and then runs off with the chips. And then he goes on the match two minutes later.

Needless to add, Tomic and Granollers fell behind 1-5 before eventually losing the first set 7-5. They lost in straight sets.

In other years I have spotted celebrities watching the action like Greg Norman, Michelle Wie, Fred Stolle, Richard Williams, and this year was no exception – Johan Kriek and former world champion boxer challenger Joe Gatti were spectactors. Gatti fought WBC Super Welterweight champion Terry Norris for the title on the Pernell Whitaker vs Julio Cesar Chavez undercard in 1992. Joe is the brother of former champion Arturo Gatti and  his daughter was a ballgirl all tournament. She is a rising 17 year old player who trains in Delray.

Zane Khan is a junior player from American I first wrote about at this site five years ago when he reached the Eddie Herr 12s finals and then he won the Herr 14s, finaled at Kalamazoo 16s and most recently, finaled at Orange Bowl 18s, losing to Virtanen.

He was supposed to get the wildcard into qualies but a slight hamstring injury forced him to not accept. Preston Brown, the big 17 year old, 6-6 from Boca Raton, did accept and lost a close match with Alexei Popyrin 64 63. Zane did train with several players during the week, hitting very well with Feliciano Lopez on Sunday in Boca, then okay with Fritz and Guillermo Garcia Lopez. After the hit with Lopez I asked the Spaniard for his evaluation of young Khan:  “He has to work hard every day. Improve physically, mentally and tactically. It’s a long way…Futures, Challengers, ATP Tour. I think he has to get stronger physically and to have a better serve most of all.”

Another super hard worker this week was John Millman, who was scheduled for the 8 pm stadium night match with Nick Kyrgios first round. Millman was on the practice court at 10 am working. Meanwhile, Kyrgios pre-match practices were a short time on court playing mini tennis and returning serves and then over a half hour on the indoor basketball court shooting hoops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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