French players welcomed in Miami
French players welcomed in Miami
Seles calls for better security; Surfs up for Philippoussis
By Sandra Harwitt
FROM THE NASDAQ-100 Open IN MIAMI – As one can imagine, the subject of the War on Iraq is on a lot of minds here at the NASDAQ-100 Open. Taking into account that France has chosen not to align themselves with the United States in regards to the attack on Iraq, the issue of how the French players would be received here in Miami came to the forefront.
Thus far, the French players have reported that they’ve experienced no ill will towards them from fans at the tournament. This is probably not surprising since Miami is a very international city and has many French citizens living in the region.
In fact, the French players love this event and one reason is that they can dine at Le Bouchon De Grove, an authentic French restaurant run by a French proprietor in the trendy Coconut Grove neighborhood of Miami.
Former Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement never gave any thought to the possibility that American fans might react unfavorably to French players. So far, Clement has had no negative reaction to being French in America at such tenuous times.
“I have no apprehension at all about being here,” Clement told ********************. “Nothing bad has happened, no one has been arrested. I hope to have no problem because I think just because two countries have a disagreement doesn’t mean they’re citizens should suffer.”
After Nicolas Escude won his first round match 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 6-4 over Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia, he addressed whether France’s position on the war is affecting him in any way, although he declined to say where he stands on the political controversy.
“The war is far away from here so I’m feeling safe for sure,” Escude said. “I feel no pressure now, but who knows a few days from now.”
For Emilie Loit, who lost a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 first round decision against Nicole Pratt of Australia, the Miami reception has been no different than usual.
“It was okay for the moment,” Loit said. “There’s nothing I can do. I’m a player on tour and I have to try and play good tennis.”
Loit was more outspoken than Escude, rallying behind her government’s position to back away from this world conflict “because I’m against violence.”
The Frenchwoman is comfortable for the moment in the United States and is happy that her next events in Charleston and Amelia Island won’t call for any air travel. “I’m afraid to take a [plane] flight,” Loit said. “I’m going to take a car, drive to the next tournaments. But it will be difficult not to fly home.”
Seles calls for better security
Monica Seles, who pulled out of the NASDAQ-100 Open right before her match on Friday with the same left foot injury that kept her off the court at the Pacific Life Open, is of the opinion that security on the WTA Tour is not sufficient. Seles, who was stabbed by a deranged Steffi Graf fan at the 1993 Hamburg tournament, does not see much improvement in this area since her horrific incident.
Seles said, “I don’t feel [security] is sufficient. In a lot of ways – our accessibility to people to get to us on site, in matches, after matches. And just not me I think, any of the higher-profile players. There’s no other sport that you’re as accessible as in tennis.”
Surfs up for Philippoussis
For many years, Australian Mark Philippoussis headquartered himself here in South Florida – first, in Miami, and then in Delray Beach.
When in Miami, it was likely the club scene of South Beach that attracted the playboy Philippoussis had in his earlier days on tour.
The move to a horse farm in Delray was brief and the property is still on the market for $2.995 million to which Philippoussis, smilingly, told journalists, “I’ll throw in a couple of horses” for any scribe interested in picking up the property.
The reason for Philippoussis’s departure from South Florida is he was looking to catch a wave and surfing is a much more conducive sport in Southern California than South Florida.
Based on Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Calif., Philippoussis lives close by to some professional surfers: Rob Machado, Damian Hobgood and Aussie surfer Heath Walker.
Despite his passion for the sport, Philippoussis admits that riding the board has one main drawback.
“You know, surfers are pretty laid back,” said Philippoussis, looking towards a second-round match against Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, a player with a serve that can rival the Australians. “So, for me, it was pretty easy for me to adapt to the way they are. So, the only thing I would say was you have to wake up really early, There’s a swell coming in, they’re up at the crack of dawn, just crack of the day waiting to surf. That was the toughest thing, getting used to waking up and still trying to open your eyes while you’re paddling out.”