Day Two at the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles started out quiet enough with plenty of veteran and up and coming American players taking the blue courts at the UCLA Tennis Center. And while there weren’t any big upsets, it took a surprise appearance by the world’s best female tennis player along with the the first sighting of the top seed on the men’s side, who made some news of his own while flying from Miami to LAX, that caused the most excitement today.
And who says the early rounds at ATP 250 events are boring?
No major upsets happened today as Robby Ginepri, Alejandro Falla and Kevin Anderson all won easily. American Ryan Sweeting, who won the wildcard shootout earlier, made good use of his direct entry into the main draw by winning his first round match against Belgium’s Kristof Vliegen. Another young American hopeful, current University of Southern California junior Steve Johnson, had very loud local support in his match against India’s Somdev Devvarman. Johnson, who made it through qualifying, was playing in his first ever main draw ATP Tour match and despite displaying a ferocious forehand and skillful net play, a lack of patience and experience in the big leagues proved too much as he went down to Devvarman 6-4, 6-4.
The most anticipated match of the day saw American James Blake take on Leonardo Mayer of Argentina. Blake, who looked fit and hit shots, especially his forehand, with more power than in recent matches, cruised through the first set before some shaky serving allowed Mayer to get close with Blake in the second set. However, Blake’s hustle in chasing down drop shots, hitting skyhooks and, on match point, a ball that went behind him at first, gave Blake a 6-1, 6-4 win. After the match, Blake told the crowd that he felt “a hundred percent physically” despite his recent travails at Wimbledon where he mulled retirement after his early exit there.
In his press conference later in the evening after his match with doubles partner Sam Querrey, Blake confirmed that he had started using anti-inflammatory medicine to help his ailing knee after earlier saying he never would use such treatment for health reasons. “I sort of gave in to the persuasion of doctors and a lot of people close to me and realized that I couldn’t keep going and playing in that kind of pain for too long. So I wanted to do everything I could do to keep my career going and I had to do it. At this point I’m very happy I have because I’m feeling really healthy and my knee feels great for the first time in over a year. Just excited to be back playing and I know it’s a process for me to get my game back to where I want it to be but to be healthy now and be able to train is a big bonus for me.”
No mention was made in the presser about Blake’s surprise visit from none other than Serena Williams who, after fans spotted her in the stands during Blake’s singles match, made a very conspicuous exit across the stadium floor at the end of the match while still wearing her now trademark medical boot on her right foot. Williams entered the players lounge where she chatted with Blake briefly and posed for a photo before leaving the grounds as quickly as she could.
Finally, as if all that excitement wasn’t enough, top seed Andy Murray arrived on site late in the day and was spotted having a practice hit on an outside court. Murray made news earlier when he announced that he had parted ways with longtime coach Miles Maclagan setting off a wave of rumors as to who might take over the position. Murray cited that the split was amicable and that he really wouldn’t begin looking for a new coach until after the end of the U.S. Open.
Murray will take the courts for real in his second round match against American qualifier Tim Smyczek on Thursday night.