The old dump looked pretty good with its 14,359 seats filled, and Butch Buchholz handing the trophy to – can you believe it? – a tennis player from Scotland.
This was the climax of the Sony Ericsson Open, a tournament that Butch and his brother, Cliff, founded 25 a quarter-century ago, a venture as hopeful as peddling Obama buttons in North Korea. Nevertheless, after flopping in Delray Beach, then Boca Raton, the brothers were introduced to a dump in the wilds of a sandspit off Miami called Key Biscayne, and told it was available.
Despite a swamp of problems, political and residential interference and disbelief, the brothers persevered, and the tourney has become one of the world’s finest, a two week fiesta of the fuzzy ball, drawing 293,228 customers.
The silver anniversary was especially fun because the champs were as unlikely as the tournament’s prospects in the early days. The teen-age Maid of Minsk (that’s Belarus), Victoria Azarenka, and the Hot Scot, Andy Murray, carried off the major merchandise and the big dollars. Yes, prize money, as a whole, was equal, but Victoria won more than Andy ($ 700,000 to $ 605,000) because the ATP voted to spread the wealth so that the lower male finishers were paid more. Very fair.
We’ve all heard of haggis, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, tartans, Scotch whiskey – but a Scotsman dabbling in tennis?
Well, Andy is that guy, and for the last five games of his 6-2, 7-5, dismembering of Novak Djokovic, his second wind blowing through sweltering Crandon seemed a hurricane.
Seeming lethargic as he slumped to 2-5, Andy was suddenly hep to pep, dodged 2 set points in the 9th game, won 22 of the last 29 points. He had won his most meaningful title, and the British reporters who shadow him everywhere (but to bed) were ecstatic.
No, he didn’t wear kilts, but his attractive variety of strokes, speeds and spins k’ilt off the Serbian, whose semifinal victim was Roger Federer.
The pressure constantly builds because that home press mob is dreaming of 21-year-old Andy being the first Brit to seize Wimbledon since the stylish Limey, Fred Perry, in 1936. Perry also won U.S. titles in 1933, 35, 36. Murray isn’t in that league yet. But he has had a fine month in the Colonies, rising from a sick bed to beat Federer at Indian Wells before losing the title round to Rafa Nadal. Then, at the old dump, he trashed Nos. 3-7-9 Djokovic, Juan Martin Del Potro, Fernando Verdasco.
“Great Scot!” you say. Not yet quite that accomplished, but he has all the possibilities.