It was a good day at the Sony Open on Thursday for two Miami residents who are close friends and share a passion for the Miami Heat.
Scotsman and second-seeded Andy Murray, who spends close to three months of the year at his Brickell apartment, moved into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-3 win over ninth-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia. Murray was a finalist here last year, losing to Novak Djokovic, and won the Sony Open title in 2009.
Curacao native Jean-Julien Rojer, who moved to Miami when he was 13, helped Miami Killian win the state championships in 1997 and ’98, now lives on Brickell Key, just a few minutes’ walk from Murray’s place. Rojer reached the doubles final with regular partner Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan as the fifth seeds, taking a 6-3, 6-2 semifinal victory over second seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez of Spain earlier on Thursday.
Murray, 25, and Rojer, 31, train together during the offseason and spend time hanging out. One of their favorite pastimes is attending Heat games.
“We bother each other quite a lot when we’re both here,” said Rojer, laughing. “I’m a big Heat fan and so is Andy,” Rojer continued. “We go to as many games as we can. We share a box together; Andy, myself and Ross Hutchins [Hutchins, a British doubles player, is one of Murray’s best friends and is currently undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma].”
Both were disappointed to see the Heat’s 27-game winning streak snapped by the Bulls in a 101-97 defeat in Chicago on Wednesday night.
“It would have been nice to see them win or to keep the streak going, but, yeah, it’s a very tough thing to do,” Murray said. “It’s still amazing what they managed to accomplish.”
Murray had to battle to get the job done against Cilic. He offered Cilic eight break-point opportunities of which the Croatian took advantage of three: two in the first set and one in the second set.
Serving for the match at 5-2 in the second set, Murray dropped his serve, but immediately broke Cilic’s serve for the sixth time to post the win.
“I think today was probably the best match for me,” Murray said. “It was a tough, tough match. Obviously took a while to get to the finish line, but I thought I played a solid match, not too many errors and was tough in the important moments.”
When Rojer came to Miami he lived with his private coach at the time, Robert Gomez, and they trained here at Crandon Park. At Killian he played for coach Michael Kypriss and was a two-time All-American. Through those years, his parents would usually come to Miami every other weekend to see him.
“Stayed pretty much here ever since except for my college years when I went to UCLA for three years,” said Rojer, the son of a dentist and a preschool teacher. “I was a star there [Killian] but only played No. 2 behind my friend Keith Fromm. We won back-to-back state championships, and it was a good time there.”
For Rojer, the Sony Open is his home tournament, so doing well is a bonus. Rojer and Qureshi started to play together at the beginning of 2012, and won the Halle, Germany, and Estoril, Portugal, tournaments last season. The duo also reached the final at Marseille, France, this year.
“This is great for me because I’ve never done well before here,” Rojer said. “There’s a lot of people here, and it takes me a long time to get from the court to the locker room because I have all my friends here.”
Win or lose at the Sony, it’s likely the two friends will be in their box watching the Heat when they play the Knicks on Tuesday night.