SONY ERICSSON OPEN 2012
Fans Cheer Great Tennis
by Peter Holehan|
The capacity crowd of 13,300 jam-packed the Tennis Center at Crandon Park to watch the women’s singles final between a pair of Top 5 World ranked players who were looking to accomplish something neither had in their careers; winning their first Sony Ericsson Open title.
World No. 2 Russian Maria Sharapova and fifth seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska tested the allegiances of the fans throughout a seesaw battle that Radwanska was able to pull out 7-5, 6-4.
But much on the minds of the largely non-partisan crowd was to merely cheer on great tennis. After a smashing forehand winner from Sharapova, the crowd roared. When Radwanska earned a crucial break, the crowd again erupted.
“It was fabulous,” said Rob Arango, who was visiting from New York City for the fifth time to come to the Sony Ericsson Open. “Maria came in hot, but I think that she couldn’t break here and didn’t play the net enough. After her shoulder surgery, she’s really come back. I love it here. It’s a mini-slam. We’re going to see Novak [Djokovic] and Andy [Murray] tomorrow.
For many fans, this was their grand introduction to the 23-year-old Radwanska, a bit of an unknown player to the casual tennis fan. That’s likely to change after this showing. Radwanska secured her ninth career WTA Tour title and beat Sharapova for just the second time in nine career head-to-head clashes.
“I don’t follow her too much, said Arango of Radwanska.“But she’s number four [world ranked] for a reason. She really played very, very well.”
Other fans were eager to see Radwanska capture the title.
“Maria has done great to come back, but I think it was a good time for Radwanska to win,” said Amanda Hall, who came from Philadelphia to see the match. “I was really impressed with her defensive play and how low she got on the ball. She used Maria’s pace and she spun it back. She picked it up on the rise and used her energy. She played smart and mixed it up.”
Fans traveled from all over the country far and wide to catch the big match.
Chicago residents Andrew and Dana Mackenzie drove down from a friend’s home in Naples to see the women’s singles final.
St. Augustine resident Mandy Simmerman said she found herself rooting for Radwanska as the match wore on.
“She was the little engine that could,” said Simmerman, who was making her second trip to the tournament. “She just kept returning those shots and did not make a whole lot of mistakes.”
Coconut Grove resident Don Kerr said he always tries to catch a few matches every year. He’s been coming to the Crandon Park Tennis Center since the event was called the Lipton Championships in the late 1990s.
“She [Sharapova] had many opportunities, but just wasn’t able to capitalize,” Kerr said. “It was impressive. It was a great match to watch. There were a lot of really long rallies that you don’t really see on the men’s side. It’s a big serve and then point over. It was a lot of long back and forth so that was great.”
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