The humid air was thick and the sun didn’t peek out Tuesday until most of the Sony Open matches were over, but that didn’t dampen Allie Kiick’s mood.
The 17-year-old wild card from Plantation advanced to the main draw of the prestigious tournament with a 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 win in the final qualifying round over tour veteran Vania King.
She will play 18-year-old Madison Keys of Boca Raton in the first round on Wednesday afternoon. Keys is ranked No. 76 in the world. Kiick is ranked No. 426 and is verbally committed to play at the University of Florida in the fall. But, she said sheepishly, if she keeps winning and the right offer comes along, she could be persuaded to turn pro and forgo her college eligibility.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, to be honest,” Kiick said of playing in the main draw of a big-time event for the first time. “In a couple hours, I’ll be jumping off the walls. It’s very surprising. I never expected this. This is a whole different level. I’m so happy to even have this opportunity to play in this tournament. From now on, I’m just going to have fun. No stressing. Of course, I want to win one, but I’ve proven a lot to myself and that’s what matters.”
She was hoping her next match would be on Court 2, where she won the Orange Bowl 16s title as a junior two years ago, and won Tuesday’s match over King.
“The atmosphere is a lot different, a lot more people for this than the Orange Bowl, but I do think that’s my favorite court,” Kiick said.
Her father, Dolphins legend Jim Kiick, was at the match. He had a history of being very nervous and excitable at his daughter’s matches, but she said he has learned to calm down, and she was proud of him for that.
Her mother, Mary, was skiing in Colorado. When Allie first called her with the big news, she was on a chairlift and unable to take the call.
“Once she skied down, she called me and was so excited,” Kiick said. “She said she’s getting on the next plane to come home so she can see me. Unless I have to play Serena [Williams]. Then, I’ll tell her to stay out there. Serena’s a little up there for me.”
Kiick had to rally after losing the second set at love.
“She’s a great player, in great shape and I started to get pretty tired and worn down in the second set,” Kiick said. “I sweat a lot, so I think that’s a big problem for me. When I was down 4-0, I just thought, ‘Give her these next few games, try to rest up a bit,’ and I went to [the] bathroom and came back and was a lot more rested.”
She said the win gave her a much-needed boost of confidence.
“I showed myself that on any given day, I can win,” Kiick said. “I haven’t been doing as well as I’ve been wanting to, but it’s so good to get these wins under your belt because your confidence level just increases a tremendous amount.”
Top stars practice
Among the players who practiced on the grounds Tuesday were Maria Sharapova, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Sharapova, coming off a title at Indian Wells, Calif., didn’t mind the weather.
“Well, we all know we’re playing in Miami, so if it’s not humid, something is wrong,” Sharapova said. “If you don’t have thunderstorms, there’s also something wrong. We’re all used to it.”
Other qualifying-round winners who advanced to the main draws included: Bethanie-Mattek Sands, who beat Shuai Zhang of China 6-2, 6-3; Robby Ginepri, who beat fellow American Jack Sock 6-4, 6-4; Shahar Peer of Israel, who beat Tatjana Malek of Germany 6-4, 6-0; and 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who got past 29-year-old Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa 6-2, 6-0.