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Inside the Player's Lounge At The Sony Ericsson

You walk into a sunlit room full of plush white chairs and couches overlooking stadium court,  and you are immediately greeted by a smiling face who wants to fulfill all of your desires.  You see uncle Toni lounging on a chair and you go up to him and say, "Uncle T, am I in heaven?" and he laughs and replies, "No, no senorita...just the player's lounge."

So in reality, Uncle Toni and I didn't even make eye-contact, but I DID see him taking a load off on one of the comfortable chairs of the lounge when I walked in, and I imagined that we would hit it off grandly.  No?

While at the Sony Ericsson Open, I got the opportunity to get an inside glimpse of what it would be like to be a player on the tour.  Unfortunately, but understandably, I can't SHOW you what the player's lounge looks like, but I can do my best to give you a mental tour.

Before walking through the lounge, I sat down with the Director of Player Services, Kim Hall Uliasz to talk about the different amenities players receive when they are at this tournament.  Because it is so important for players to get a sense of a home away from home since they are on tour for most of the year, Player Services handles pretty much anything that a player could ask for, from rental cars to hair cuts.  They also coordinate most of the activities outside of the tournament, like going to the Miami Heat game, (which Caroline Woznaicki, Serena Williams, and Roger Federer attended this year) to other activities such as passes to the Miami aquarium and golf at the 18-hole Crandon Golf in Key Biscane where the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick attempt to take on the green.  Player Services also makes reservations for dinners at various South Beach restaurants, and if it happens to be a player's birthday, they take the time to write a note on their locker telling them to come to the office for a present, which is a gift certificate to a featured restaurant.

The tournament dedicates a large amount of space to the lounge which occupies 1/3 of the 200 level, and it's most striking and unique feature, is that it overlooks stadium court.  Therefore, while players are relaxing or getting a bite to eat in the cafeteria they can also assess their next opponent's game.  If they choose to watch the match outside, there is a player patio they can access which is in direct contact with the paid box seats surrounding it, and players like Rafa have been known to sign autographs for neighboring fans.

When you walk into the lounge, almost the first thing you see is a smiling face at the Welcome Desk where players make all their requests throughout the tournament.  The room is sunny and filled with comfortable looking (although I didn't sit in them) white leather chairs and couches.  The lounge connects directly with the cafeteria which has a pasta bar, carving station, and on the day that I visited, a sushi chef.   Here I ran into Jo-Wilfried Tsonga playing on his i-Pad while waiting to play the remainder of his rain-delayed match against Alexandr Dolgopolov (who was chilling in the lower lounge) as well as Jelena Jankovic loading up on carbs at the pasta bar.

There is also a smaller player's lounge on the lower level which has computer access, and also has an outside dining area.  They gym is also located on this level,  (where I briefly watched a very tall and fit Victoria Azarenka and her trainer going through her daily workout routine) and if they want to let their hair down, there is an on-site salon during the first week, where players such as Kim Clijsters, can get their luscious locks cut by someone they know and trust.

It really is an extremely nice facility with seemingly very friendly people, whose sole job is to put the players at ease so they can play their best tennis, because that is what it is really all about.

I wish I could have hung out longer in the lounge, but it was time to leave.  While walking out the door, I ran into John Inser and then a bit later Xavier Malisse who both, in my imagination, gave me high-fives as I made my way back media center.  When I was a little girl all I wanted to do was be a professional tennis player, and for just a moment I got to be them, and it rocked.


Often Imitated Never Duplicated: The Petko Dance

Today marks the end of Andrea Petkovic's Cinderella run at the Sony Ericsson Open.  I call it a Cinderella run, not because she was a complete unknown and just coming into her own, but rather because she was finally introduced to the masses as the funny, entertaining, and smart girl that she has always been.  After making it to the semi-finals, she will break into the top 20 for the first time, but unfortunately, when a new road begins another ends, and we must now say goodbye to the Petko Dance. 

It started off as a bet with her coach at the US Open.  She had not been playing well prior to the tournament, so he said that if she won her first round match against Nadia Petrova she would, "have to do something special."  And this is what she did:


Since then, it has been become a bit of a craze, with fans requesting it after every win, "I wanted to get rid of it after the US Open, but the fans just ‑‑ they said like, Hey, we are just coming to see the dance and you're not doing it anymore."

Andrea has been preparing us all week that this was the last tournament she would do the dance.  In her presser after defeating Caroline Wozniacki she said, "I tried to do it as much as I can here in the tournament, because then it's gone.  I'm a little sad, but it was ‑‑ it was a nice phase and it was nice fun, but now I'm getting a little tired of it.  Time to move on."

But some people are finding it hard to let go.....

Last night after Novak Djokovic defeated Kevin Anderson, he did a little version of the dance and Andrea gave her thoughts on his moves at her post-match press conference:

Q.  Is the dance officially retired, or is Djokovic stealing the dance?

ANDREA PETKOVIC:  I hope so.  He told me he was going to do it.  I saw him in Indian Wells doing like some kind of it, but this was not really the Petko Dance.  So I really hope he steps up his game.  Yeah, Petko Dance from Petko is retired.  I don't know if any other players will try to involve them in their games.  I would be very happy to see it.

So players take heed:  if you're gonna dance, be on your A game, because the original will be watching. 


The New #1 American? Mardy Fish Round 4 Interview Sony Ericsson Open

It's been a long time, but tomorrow we may have a new #1 ranked American, Mardy Fish.  It won't come easy, he will first have to make it past the feisty David Ferrer, but just the thought of someone being at the top of American tennis that is NOT named Andy Roddick is just plain odd, and I think Mardy feels that way too. 

Click to read more ...


Photos: Roger Federer Round 3 Press Conference Sony Ericsson Open


Rafa And I Have a Misunderstanding

After the defeating Feliciano Lopez in the Double Your Pleasure Match, I went to Rafa's presser.  He gives a lot of the same answers to the same questions, so I thought I would change it up a bit and ask about Davis Cup (since I'll be going.)  So here was the Q & A, and within the parenthesis is my added commentary to explain our.......misunderstanding:

ME:   Are you planning to play the upcoming Davis Cup tie in Austin?
RAFAEL NADAL:  Remain a lot.  (Pause....I look at him confused)  Remain a lot.  (Pause....I continue to look at him confused and now he realizes he needs to explain.)  Remain a lot of months to go there and a lot of things can happen.  We will see what's going on here, in the clay season, grass season.  Is difficult for me. Too important things for me to come to think about the Davis Cup next round, no?

I smile and nod.  We're now on the same page.

Here are some photos from the presser.  Rafa gives good face.

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Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

I couldn't get the Doublemint gum commercial out of my mind while watching the Rafael Nadal and Feliciano Lopez match today at the Sony Ericsson Open.

I mean, COME ON, was there a more sexy match on Stadium Court?  And it seemed like every pose I got of Rafa, Feli tried to to one-up him:

Rafa and Feli trade who's got the better thigh pics.  I think it's a tie.

Here's the competition to get the most cat-calls.  Rafa won.

But.....when it comes to who's more EMO.....?  It's Feli every time! (click to enlarge to see facial expression is mandatory)

Good Times....


Petko! Petko!  Petko!

Andrea Petkovic delivered one of the biggest upsets so far, taking out #1 Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals of the Sony Ericsson Open.  It was an exciting match to watch, with Petko "mixing it up" and being aggressive with her shots.  But of course, the MAIN reason I was watching is that I wanted to witness the Petko Dance, (which will be unfortunately going out of style) in the flesh, and let me tell you, it was 10 seconds of pure fabulousness.

It's interesting how a player's personality can affect the entire media room, and the moment Petko stepped in after a tense Caro presser, I felt my whole body relax.  She's smart, funny, personable, and just has that "IT" factor that so many players lack.  Her post-match press conference is still being talked about in the media room as I type this at 10:00 in the morning.  It was classic.  Pictures and highlights of the interview (with my question about her next Petkorazzi video) after the jump:

Click to read more ...