March Madness visited the Sony Open in the form of a three-hour rain delay, a 14-minute blackout, a lucky loser’s victory and an underdog’s upset of one of the tournament’s top contenders.
Tobias Kamke was the Cinderella of Key Biscayne on Friday after his 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 defusing of No. 5 seed Juan Martin del Potro and Delpo’s fearsome forehand.
The elimination of Argentina’s Del Potro combined with the prior withdrawals of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal mixes up the men’s draw and means a mid-major player could advance to the Final Four at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park.
Wacky would be good for the entrenched state of tennis.
And Kamke, ranked No. 89, would welcome more interruptions.
“In the second set, after the break, I felt even better,” he said.
Del Potro, trailing a set when the sky began spitting on purple Stadium Court, felt even worse. He missed on two forehands that usually turn opponents into cannon fodder and it was all downhill from there.
“I came to the court again, try to be aggressive, but I made a lot of mistakes,” Del Potro said. “I was excited to play here but just a bad day and he play really well.”
Germany’s Kamke spent his three hours of down time taking a shower, munching on two bananas and an energy bar and chatting with former coach Matias Jaeger about fatherhood and old pals back home.
“I tried not to think about the match,” Kamke said. “When I went back to my locker, Matias said, ‘Just go out and enjoy.’ ”
Kamke wasn’t flustered by two rain delays in the first set, either. It was his second win over a Top 10 player (he beat Tomas Berdych in 2010) and the first time he advanced to the third round of an ATP Masters 1000 event.
“The delays are not easy when you are in a rhythm,” said Kamke, who won a raffle for tickets to the Miami Heat game against Detroit, but gave them away when it became clear that he wouldn’t be finished in time to go downtown.
Del Potro, the world No. 7, was coming off a massive week. At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., he beat Andy Murray in the quarterfinals and Novak Djokovic in the semifinals before losing to Rafael Nadal in the final while savoring the selection of Pope Francis, a countryman from Argentina.
Del Potro seemed to be rounding back into the form that made him 2009 U.S. Open champion, dominating with his whipsaw forehands and backhand slices. But the three-set matches against Murray, Djokovic and Nadal may have taken a toll on his surgically-repaired left wrist.
He said in California that his wrist was “getting closer to being 100 percent” and that it hurt a bit “but nothing dangerous.”
He didn’t blame his wrist for his lack of power Friday, but conceded “sometimes it is bothering me, but sometimes I can manage it, my pains.”
Kamke, 26, playing the big bopper for the first time, aimed at his backhand and hit off-speed shots to his forehand.
“I tried to give not too much forehand pace, and tried to angle it instead of hitting to the baseline,” Kamke said.
Lauren Davis, who lost during qualifying but gained entry into the main draw when Victoria Azarenka withdrew with an ankle injury, proved doubly lucky by defeating fellow teen Madison Keys the same day she got a phone call informing her she was back in the tournament.
Kamke summarized how one momentous dance can change perspective for the Cinderellas of the sports world.
“It gives me motivation to say, ‘Hey, I can beat these guys,’ ” he said. “I don’t have to think, ‘Oh, my, God, he is top 10, I must do something really special.’
“After a victory like this, I don’t have to be afraid anymore.”