Tennis Prose



Miami Open Media Tournament

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By Scoop Malinowski

One of the many highlights of the Miami Open is the Annual Bud Collins Media Tournament which is held on the womens final Saturday at 9 am.

Usually around twenty to thirty people sign up, ranging in ability from Div. I college level to beginners, and as the David Bowie 1980’s song title says, I do mean “Absolute Beginners.” It’s an interesting blend of talents. Last year there was a very good Spanish kid who played at University of Miami and served as a hitting partner for Del Potro at the Delray Beach ATP event. The first year I played this event, there was a guy named Thomas Shubert, who played at BYU and was an Los Angeles hitting partner for the likes of Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Venus Williams, among others.

I won the event the last two years and was attempting a three-peat. It takes a lot of luck to win this as each player alternates partners and opponents after each mini-set which is played to four games. You have to hope you don’t get paired with someone who can barely get a ball over the net. If you do, you will likely lose 0-4 and get no points. Each player counts all of his games won and whoever has the most at the end is declared champion.

My first partner Sandro was pretty good. He worked for IMG social media and has a nice serve motion, although he double faulted twice in the first game. He had serviceable strokes and could sustain a rally. We beat two guys both named Michael from Czech Republic who struggled with consistency, 4-0.

My next pairing was with one of the guys we just beat, versus the other weaker Czech I just beat and another apparent beginner who came over to our court six. We won 4-1.

Now it was getting tricky. My next partner was the weaker of the two Czechs. He double faulted four times in one game. The other Czech suddenly started serving much better from the tip I gave him the previous set when we were teammates: Toss the ball higher. The other Czech was now playing with Dino from New York, a friend and a pretty good tournament player.

My partner was missing almost everything. We were down 1-2 and somehow got to deciding point deuce. Right in the middle of the point, while I tried cross court moonballing the Czech on deciding point from my ad court, Jelena Ostapenko and her team walked on our court – right in the middle of the point!

The point and game was very important because every point matters in the end totals. Ostapenko and her two male coaches went to the corner of our court six to situate, as we were playing the point! Ostapenko sat down. One of the coaches even shouted out, “Someone go for something!” I yelled back, “It’s deciding point!” Finally, perhaps distracted by the Ostapenko camp, the opponent tried to go up the line and missed wide. Even if he hit it right at my partner, who was on top of the net, I’d guess there was about a 75% chance he’d botch the volley. But we got that point for 2-2. After the point, I said something like “Cmon man, this is the media tournament, we were right in the middle of the deciding point.” To which he replied sarcastically, “I think the womens final is more important than this.”

Maybe the bad karma by the Ostapenko coach came back to bite them in the final loss 67 16 to Sloane Stephens. Thank God we won that point though or I might have had a McEnroe tirade!

One more set to go. We – me and my new partner my friend Dino from New York – were moved to court one and beat a very good Korean guy and the weaker Czech 4-0. So my totals were 4-4-2-4 for a total of fourteen. As we all went back to report our scores, I hoped 14 was enough. One of the best players in the draw, Mauricio who played college tennis, had eleven points. Other stronger players had ten, twelve, thirteen. Only Mariano from Argentina had fourteen. So we were asked to play a tiebreaker to break the tie, to determine the 2018 Miami Open Media Tournament champion.

I was focused on playing but I do remember when we posed for photos at net like the pros do, he said something like “I really want to play you.” I interpreted it as him expressing that he wanted revenge for not winning the title last year.

I had hit with Mariano last year and remembered his game. Big, nice strokes, pretty consistent, strong player about a 4.5. I felt confident however I had a problem. I started a new solution the night before my contacts and for some reason it was badly affecting my contacts, making me blink constantly because they felt dry and cloudy. It was an excruciating handicap but the slower balls in the previous games allowed me to work my consistent game.

This time it would be different. I could not see or read Mariano’s shots as well. He outhit me in the warmup with more power and consistency. This was going to be a challenge. He got me with a drop shot I failed to read at all. Blinking and rubbing my eye lids constantly to try and center the lens caused me to miss early and I was down 1-4 with Mariano serving. He double faulted by a couple of inches for 2-4, then I won the next point for 3-4. I decided to slow up the pace and let him create his pace. It worked.

I was so busy administering to my eyes that I can’t remember all of of the points except for a running forehand pass on a short ball up the line which he could not reach the volley fully and netted. The gallery of observers, totaling about thirty people liked this point and applauded. Then he tried to drop shot me again to my backhand side but I got to it and sliced up the line which he could not get to. The other point I remember was he struggled with slower balls down the middle and he gambled and went for an inside out winner but it missed wide by two inches. He cried out in agonized frustration. I ended up winning 10-4, winning nine points in a row.

Lisa and Fran, the organizers called me to the media center to take photos and award two prizes – a Lacoste blue knapsack and a bottle of Moet Chandon.

I was available for a press conference and to be interviewed by Brad Gilbert on ESPN but the busy schedule of the day of the ladies final and mens doubles final caused these obligations to be canceled. Undeterred with my new fame, I’m going to lobby James Blake for a wildcard into the main draw next year.

Thanks for reading this article!


  • Hartt · April 6, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    Scoop, as I said, I am more interested in Goerges now, so a Biofile on her would be great.

  • catherine · April 7, 2018 at 2:11 am

    I asked you to do a Biofile on Julia in Miami, Scoop, but you ignored me.

    Probably you were busy practising for your media event at the time 🙂

    She won’t be back in the US until after W’don now,unless you fancy a quick spring trip to Europe.

  • catherine · April 7, 2018 at 2:40 am

    And Julia is about to exit Charleston because she plays Sevastova, ranked 2 below her and who has beaten her last two meetings, including Miami this year. A good run though and I enjoy watching her, win or lose. She’s a ‘players’ player’.

    Re Osaka – that occ coaching in Charleston did her no favours – not only did she insult the tournament and city (‘it’s depressing here’) but she admitted she didn’t want to play, grizzled and whined, and showed to all prospective opponents weaknesses which they will exploit. I know she’s young, but Sascha should be taking care of those things.

  • Hartt · April 7, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Catherine, you get me interested in Goerges and now you say she will lose to Sevastova! I was trying to watch the match, but it has been interrupted by rain.

  • catherine · April 7, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    Hartt – maybe I’m trying a reverse jinx 🙂

    Going on the H2H that would favour Sevastova who is ahead and beat Julia in Miami. I can’t get a live stream so will just have to follow on Flashscore.

    I tend to be realistic about players I support – just as well considering Kerber’s 2017. If they lose I have to accept it. Like they do.

  • catherine · April 7, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    It’s close though – 49″ and 4/4 .

  • catherine · April 7, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    49 mins I mean 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 7, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    No Catherine I did not ignore you but she lost early in Miami and ended any chances to do it and she does not play doubles much. Yes I was busy training for that media tourney, I’ve already begun training for 2019 media tourney 🙂

  • catherine · April 7, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Yes, Julia lost to Sevastova so no Biofile, maybe sometime around USO.(Still raining in Charleston I see.)

    I’m sure you’ll win the inaugural media tournament at the new Miami site with a year’s training behind you 🙂

  • catherine · April 8, 2018 at 4:30 am

    Full days’ play in Charleston. Two matches in one day seems a bit unfair. I think they should split the prize money.

  • catherine · April 8, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Julia won’t win this match because at 4 all and with 8 games gone by she has not served a single ace.

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