As promised, we're back in Sarasota! This was a recent sunset right in the urban core at Bird Key Park on Sarasota Bay. As I've mentioned before, many times the best part of a sunset is after the sun goes down. What do you think? The pastels stretching across the sky and the bay that evening were amazing. I'm starting to contemplate the next Theme Day -- Revolution -- thanks to a reminder from Jack at Naples and Hartford in Season via the City Daily Photo Facebook page. This is going to be a challenging Theme Day! (Fingers crossed I can make it.) Hope everyone is having a great weekend.
April 21, 2015
One of the very cool things about the Miami Open is that you never know who you'll see wandering the grounds. (More on that in a moment.) I was hoofing up the outside stairwell at the stadium court when I happened to glance down where players are transported to and from the tournament. I spotted a very tall guy with a tennis bag and knew instantly it was American tennis player John Isner. Big John, as he's called, (he's 6'10") was spotted immediately by this young fan. Looking at this photo, I can imagine his little voice: 'Hey, mister! Can I have your autograph?' Well…well. What would Big John do with seemingly no one around watching? After finishing a hot, tiring match earlier that day, would he give the kid the big blowoff so he could jump in his ride and rest? Or, would he pause for an autograph? Big John has a reputation for being a nice guy, so I was curious to see what he would do.
Not only did Big John sign an autograph, he posed for pictures. Brilliant! Makes me like him that much more. Ranked in the top 20, Isner has been a rising star for awhile and I'm anxiously awaiting his big breakthrough.
This was the first tournament in awhile that I didn't encounter any players when I was actually roaming the grounds. In previous years, I've spotted Rafa, Ana Ivanovic -- and somehow, Venus snuck within feet behind me one time and I realized it after it was too late. But, my all-time favorite encounter was one of my very first.
I spotted this guy (when no one was around) and I couldn't believe it! Roger Federer heading to a practice court. It was 2006, he was ranked #1 in the world (amazingly, he's currently #2) and I just had a point and shoot. And, boy, did I point and shoot! What a fun, unexpected encounter! This was before Roger won the French Open (to complete his personal slam), before he was married, and before he was the father of not one but two sets of twins. And, I thought he had accomplished a lot at the time I took this photo! That concludes our visit to the Miami Open this year. Back to Sarasota soon!
April 20, 2015
One of the great aspects of the Miami Open is the close proximity between spectators and players. This was a match between Alexandr Dolgopolov (who we met yesterday) and Spanish player Tommy Robredo on Court #1. This is an intimate court, and, as you can see, fans are pretty darn close to the action.
Tommy Robredo has been on the professional tennis circuit for 17 years (believe it or not) and currently is ranked #20 on the tour. He's one of those guys who seems to play consistently (when he's healthy) but that big breakthrough has been elusive. Nine years ago, he peaked in the top 10. Robredo ended up losing this match in three sets to Dolgo. Bad for Robredo but good for Dolgo, who, as I mentioned yesterday, is trying to claw his way back to being considered a rising star.
April 19, 2015
Alexandr Dolgopolov is one of those players that I try to see whenever I'm at a tournament. (Check out my encounter with him last year here.) His serve is a bit unorthodox, but he makes it work, and the combo is fun to watch. Unfortunately, he lacks consistency. One set he'll play incredible…the next, it's as though he's mentally checked out. As a spectator, it makes for some interesting viewing. I first started watching Dolgo in 2011 when the SDP Junior Editor noticed him and predicted he was a rising star. Sure enough, by 2013, he broke into the top 15 on the ATP tour. I'm not sure whether he's had some injuries, but his ranking has dropped into the 70s. He's still young and has lots of tennis to play -- and possibly have that big breakthrough, which I would be really excited to see.
April 18, 2015
This photo really epitomizes Spanish player David Ferrer. Currently ranked #7 on the ATP tour, he plays hard and is intense. Always. It's a great combination for a tennis fan! Tennis commentator Brad Gilbert refers to Ferrer as "Little Beast", since he's just 5'9" and prowls the court with the ferocity of…well…a beast. This was the first time I saw Ferrer play in person and he was lots of fun to watch. Incredible player. Believe it or not, he's 33 years old -- which, more or less, is considered geriatric in the tennis world. But, he's maintaining the intensity and sharpness..and keeping pace with the young guns. Go Little Beast!
April 17, 2015
We're taking a brief break from tennis for a weather shot. This was taken on Key Biscayne early in the evening as a storm was rolling in on the Atlantic Ocean. The multiple shades of blue and grey were incredible. I barely had enough time to take this photo before the skies opened up. Crandon Park, where the Miami Open is played, is about 1.5 miles away and as soon as the storm reached land the night matches were rained out. But, the bad weather ended up working in my favor because more matches were squeezed in the next day (which was beautiful weather-wise), when I was roaming the tournament grounds. We'll return to the courts tomorrow with an incredible Spanish tennis player. (If you're thinking Rafa…think again!)
April 16, 2015
I was really looking forward to seeing Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard at the Miami Open. Currently ranked #7 on the WTA tour, she's experienced an amazing past couple of years, reaching the semi finals in two grand slams and the finals at Wimbledon last summer. The tennis world has high hopes for her. But, since losing Wimbledon, she's been on a downward spiral. Apparently, that's somewhat common for a young tennis player (Genie just turned 21) who suddenly is thrust into the limelight where expectations for success are heightened -- and the tennis world is watching their every move. The top players adapt.
Yesterday, I mentioned that if a player is going to have a meltdown it will happen in Miami. Right from the start of the match, Genie was off her game…and on an emotional roller coaster. While there were occasional glimpses of her incredible athleticism, those were quickly replaced with fits of despair (and even what appeared to be tears) until, at last, she completely lost it and smashed her racquet. Not once…but three times. What was especially unfortunate was that she was still in the match.
It seems Genie is in a mental fight with herself. In this photo, she's taking the walk of shame, carrying her mangled racquet off the court after losing in straight sets to an opponent ranked around #100. I sure hope she's able to pull it together, turn it around, and start winning again.
April 15, 2015
Mikhail Youzhny is a Russian tennis player who currently is ranked #58 on the ATP. Here he's returning a serve from Kei Nishikori (see yesterday's post) on the grandstand court during the Miami Open. A few years ago, Youzhny was ranked as high as #8 and he's always interesting to watch.
There seems to be something about Miami that draws out fits of rage in tennis players. (Perhaps the relentless scorching heat has something to do with it. Just a thought...) Anyway, Youzhny is infamous for his Miami Meltdown in 2008 when he bashed his racquet against his forehead with such force that blood trickled down his face. It happened on this very court. I missed that display in person; however, it's memorialized on YouTube if you're interested you can watch it here. I'm pleased to report that he played well during this match and kept his emotions in check.
April 14, 2015
As part of my annual personal March Madness, once again I headed down to Miami for the big tennis tournament. Although the event seems to be having a bit of an identity crisis (this year it was the Miami Open; last year it was the Sony Open; and the year before that, the Sony Ericsson), it was a lot of fun, as always. Out of the gates, we saw this guy, Kei Nishikori. Currently ranked #4 in the world, he's the most successful Asian tennis player in history. He also was the runner up in the U.S. Open finals last year. And, Kei just happens to train right here in the Sarasota area! In this shot, he was playing Russian Mikhail Youzhny on the grandstand court, and as you can see…he was rather focused on the task at hand.
April 12, 2015
After a long work week, this was just what the doctor ordered Friday night: a serene sunset at Myakka State Park. The swirls of lavender, peach, lemon and tangerine were incredible..and, I think, enhanced because of smoky conditions in the distance. Hope everyone is having a good weekend!
April 5, 2015
With Opening Day right around the corner for most Major League Baseball teams, I'd be remiss if I didn't post about Spring Training. This year, I caught one game: New York Mets vs. Detroit Tigers in Lakeland (about 80 minutes northeast of Sarasota) where the Tigers play spring ball. As a little girl growing up in Michigan, I was a huge (read: HUGE) Tigers fan. Every spring, while the snow was still flying in the mitten state, I'd hear about spring training games being played on a ball diamond surrounded by palm trees in a warm, exotic location called Joker Marchant Stadium. So, years laters, whenever I get to see the Tigers play at that very stadium….it's pretty cool. On the mound for the Tigers was Cy Young winner David Price, who until recently, played for the Tampa Bay Rays. It was great to see him pitch in person.
It was a pretty eventful game, including an incident highlighting the potential perils of sitting in the stands. This woman took a foul ball to the face…and was escorted out of the stadium. Fortunately, she looked like she would be okay. (Something similar happened at a Tampa Bay Rays game to a guy I know. A screeching line drive foul ball drilled him in the chin. He now sports a beard to mask the scar.)
We saw a nice play at the plate. This is Tiger outfielder Javier Bentacourt sliding into home. SAFE!
And, there was plenty of activity to watch in between pitches. This is an osprey delivering a fish lunch to its brood waiting in a nest in the left field lights. Active osprey nests also are located in the right field lights and behind home plate. A total of three nests in the stadium lights. Interesting. Remember last fall, during nesting season, what happened to one bald eagle nest at Ed Smith Stadium where the Baltimore Orioles play?
It was removed from the stadium lights…and tossed into a dumpster.
Hope everyone is having a wonderful Easter weekend!
April 1, 2015