Best of Three: Memorable matches come and go in Key Biscayne
The top seeds have cruised through the Sony Ericsson Open early rounds
Venus Williams and Alisa Kleybanova played in their first 2012 tournaments
Lack of media coverage tarnished early rounds filled with marquee matches
1. Rolling top seeds and hearty hellos: Not unlike another March tournament, the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami has a certain rhythm. During the first week, the stars tend to cruise through and prove themselves worthy of their high seeding. (Indeed, halfway through the 2012 event, the big names remain; there have been no upsets akin to Lehigh over Duke.) Much of the first week's focus, instead, goes to the at-large players and the human interest stories.
Last week was largely about hellos and good-byes. Playing in her first event of the year, Venus Williams made a grand return. On Friday night she (allegedly; see below) beat Petra Kvitova. Then on Sunday she simply outfought Alexandra Wozniak and won 7-6 (5) in the third set. Clearly there's some rust. Clearly her fitness level isn't full capacity. But the WTA balance of powers just got a shakeup.
Another welcome back to Alisa Kleybanova of Russia. Diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma last year, she played her first tournament in 10 months and won her comeback match. Heartening on every level. A warm hello to Grigor Dimitrov, a vastly talented future star -- we will hereafter refrain from the gratuitous comparison to you-know-who -- who beat Thomas Berdych. Hello Ryan Harrison, who acquitted himself well against Roger Federer on Saturday. Hola to Garbine Muguruza Blanco, a Spanish teenager who made the wild card dispensers look prescient, as she reached the fourth round.
2. Bon voyage: Last week was also good-byes. Fernando Gonzalez, the well-liked Chilean, played his final match and received a grand send-off on Wednesday night. Kim Clijsters played her last event in Miami -- losing to countrywoman Yanina Wickmayer -- as she'll retire after the U.S. Open. And a quick scan the through the draws revealed a dozen or so other thirty-somethings likely to call it quits after the Olympics.
Now for week two...
3. All eyes on ... nothing?: To appropriate Bill Maher, New Rule: You cannot make a credible claim to being the "Fifth Slam" when your media is so shaky. On Friday night -- in a match even casual fans would warm to -- Venus Williams beat Petra Kvitova, the defending Wimbledon champ. At least we think she did. It was broadcast on no network.
Straight answers were hard to come by and they involved explanations about broadcast windows and sub-rights and world feeds and TWI, IMG's production arm. To the average fan, all this, of course, is gibberish. All they know is that they couldn't find a match they wanted to watch. This at a time when you can get streaming video of Little League games and school dance recitals. Put this on Tennistv.com. Stream this on the tournament website. Pay a fan to record it on an iPhone. Something. Failing to make a marquee match available has the effect of diminishing the event while exasperating fans.
• Andy Murray is our latest SI Tennis Podcast guest. I defy you to listen to this and not find him thoughtful/engaging/endearing.
• Billie Jean King and the other WTA "Original Nine" are gathering for a reunion next month in Charleston.
• Though the publicity from the Republic of Tennis was bafflingly shabby, the "60 Minutes" piece on Novak Djokovic was flattering in the extreme. Fans will find that little new ground was broken here. But a nice hit, both for Djokovic and tennis. This also makes for a good excuse to link S.L. Price's profile on Djokovic last year.
• Discuss: who's having the worse year: Ernests Gulbis or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova?
• Compare the 2012 Wimbledon poster with the French Open poster: