KEY BISCAYNE – You’d think that having Rafael Nadal and Miami favorite Juan Martin del Potro practicing on adjacent courts would be one-stop shopping for tennis fans.
But despite del Potro’s popularity here, Nadal was still the hot ticket by a long, long way.
Even before the scheduled noon practice time for both, the crowds had packed the stands on Court 4. The linesup went all the way down the stairs and outside the court. There also was a crush of fans against the fence next to the walkway by which Nadal accessed the court.
For a five-second look at a guy walking with a racquet in his hand (well, assuming you didn’t have an iPhone or five in your field of vision), that’s a lot of work. Once Nadal passed, nearly all of the crowd left to line up for an infinitesimal chance at getting a seat in the stands. They completely missed del Potro, who passed by a minute later nearly incognito.
Nadal was having a longer, off-day hit while del Potro was warming up for his big third-round match against Roger Federer.
On his court, No. 5, the stands were about three-quarters full for a few minutes. Then people started to leave after watching the Argentine hit a few balls.
Meanwhile, wherever Roger Federer warmed up, it wasn’t on the woefully inadequate Miami Open practice schedule published on the tournament website. (This has become a staple at every tournament but, apparently, isn’t a priority here).
Two questions overheard in the crowd from a pair of, well, seasoned female tennis watchers
1) Hey! Del Potro cut his hair?
Yes, in 2008. At left is del Potro at the Australian Open that year, one of the last tournaments the Argentine played before taking the clippers to his coiffure – and instantly becoming a matinee idol.
2) Why don’t Rafa and del Potro practice together? They’re both right here!
Now, that’s a very good question. But it’s just not the sort of thing they do.
Plus, can you imagine how social media would blow up if word got out that Nadal warmed up del Potro to “help him” try to beat FEDERER?
Come to think of it, that would have been fun to watch unfold, as the Nadal fans and the Federer fans (you can’t be both; those circles are never concentric) went at it.