Saturday, March 30, 2013

March Madness in Miami

5 hours down the Florida Turnpike from the Villages lies Miami and at this time of year a big ATP 1000 point tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, just over a bridge onto one of the islands nearby.  We'd been to this tournament a couple of years back and enjoyed it mightily so decided we'd return with some friends Judy & Keith and Jo & Stan who had a place at the Villages.

We decided to stay downtown and catch the daily shuttle to and from the tournament as transport is the one thing that doesn't work for this tournament.  Most other things work fine: seats are really close to the action, all the good players turn up, the weather is good and the city is as vibrant a place as there is.

Day 1 was a disaster primarily as nobody on either side knew what was going on -- the bus driver to the event barely spoke English and asked us where we'd like to go -- nor did they know at what time any buses to or from the event would likely travel, the result being that we arrived for an on the hour departure but actually departed on the half hour, actually after the half hour as our bus driver was talking to his mum (or something).

Day 2 though and subsequently was just peachy -- same driver but this time he and we knew what was going on.  Seeing as this was Day 6 it does make me wonder why on earth nobody had wondered about this before.

The first day (Friday) wasn't so hot and in fact rained for 4 hours in the afternoon but we still managed to get some great tennis in -- Monaco vs Ramos (vamos Ramos!!); Dolgopolov vs Davydenko (davai Nikolai!!); and after a couple of rain effected false starts Simon vs Hewitt (allez vous-en, Simon!!).  It was a day for alliterations.

Dolgopolov & Davydenko -- ''Davai Nikolai!!"

Gilles Simon with some old geezer.

Drying the lines

Hewitt finally in action -- "Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie..."

The rain delay late start for the final Simon/Hewitt match plus the transport snafu meant that we made it back to the Conrad Hotel on Brickell Avenue around 11 pm and decided to try and get fed and watered there.  Now the Conrad is a nice hotel with the Concierge on the ground floor (where the shuttles left from) but the hotel began on the 25th floor and that was where the sky bar was located.  In the lift up was Pat Cash -- recognisable by the cross ear ring and the fact that I'd played tennis with him and Arri last year at Coral Beach in Bermuda.  I reminded him of this fact and whilst he was mighty gracious about things, it clearly did not stand out as an event alongside his Wimbledon championship.  But it did strike me that while he was being comped to come, stay and play, most other things (e.g. offsite food) was on his own account as he was carrying various cereals from the supermarket to which he kindly directed us.

So to sum up, Pat Cash has a lousy memory for past tennis matches but perfect clarity about the nearest supermarket.

Unsurprisingly he was thoroughly charming throughout.  But then again he's a tennis playing Aussie, so why should anyone be surprised.  I've met a bunch of the old greats and to a man, they are all the same great guys.

The Saturday was a scorcher (and I have the sun burned lip to prove it!) and the tennis on the Grandstand court was fantastic.  We had the battle of the beautiful single handed back hands with Gasquet vs Rochus followed by some big servers: first Isner vs Dodig and then Raonic vs Rufin.


Rochus' beautiful backhand - had he been 3 inches taller, he would have won Grand Slams

A side issue with Isner is that it is amazing just how bad a tennis player he is.  If he wasn't 6 foot 9 inches and had an unreturnable serve, he'd be playing with me at Pomander Gate... maybe.

We also squeezed a couple of doubles in -- the English pair Marray/Fleming losing a 3rd set tie break before the main event which was Hewitt playing doubles with new Aussie hope Tomic whose lack of interest enabled Dodig/Melo a comfortable win.

The Sunday event was again seamless.  I chatted with a Wells Fargo mortgage guy whose view on people who defaulted on their loans was fairly straightforward -- "kick those bums out, they don't deserve to own a home".  Mind you he said that they should fold now, go into bankruptcy and in a couple of years come out and try again.  That's what I like about the US.  There's no stigma in failing.  You just dust yourself off and get up and try again.

I've just finished a fantastic book by George Friedman called "The Next Decade".  It was written in 2010/11 so a couple of things have moved on but the biggest take away is all US positive (a position I usually take anyway -- also Friedman says the UK is the US' best and increasingly most important ally so of course I like that too!).

The thrust of the book is that the US have fallen into empire, not necessarily by design, and don't realise  it.  The stated fear being that without a moral framework to guide them, things may fall apart.  The next decade is key to this for a number of political and economic things are coming to a boil so the US presidents this decade have to be pretty darn skillful.  Great book, thoroughly recommended reading.

Returning to the Wells Fargo guy, being from Miami he has his finger on the pulse and told me that the place is booming again.  Cranes everywhere and they are lending like crazy.  Ladies and Gentlemen, the train has left the station...

The Sunday games took us one step on from the prior matches the best of which was Tommy Haas (no underpants) hammering Dolgopolov.  We also watched him play doubles with Malisse who also played singles against Nichigori (and lost) and then some more doubles before calling it quits.

Tommy the pantless one and Malisse

Great stuff and the following day we discovered the Metro and how to get around the city for $2 AND the best Japanese noodle shop in Miami (

Great trip.  See you next year!!

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