Tennis

A very Miami day: Local teen, iguana appear at Miami Open tennis tournament

Amanda Anisimova, a 15-year-old wild card from Aventura, got a taste of the big time in her Key Biscayne debut. She dominated the first set against Taylor Townsend, but the more experienced American prevailed 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Amanda Anisimova, a 15-year-old wild card from Aventura, got a taste of the big time in her Key Biscayne debut. She dominated the first set against Taylor Townsend, but the more experienced American prevailed 2-6, 6-2, 6-3. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

The oldest and youngest players at the Miami Open lost on Wednesday, but they had very memorable matches.

Tommy Haas, who turns 39 in a few weeks, was tied at 3-3 in the third set against Jiri Vesely and about to serve when a giant iguana climbed atop the baseline scoreboard in an “Only in Miami” moment. The players and fans noticed it and the umpire said: “If it’s not moving and it’s just like that, we’re going to try and play.”

Vesely, near the sun-bathing iguana, said: “I cannot concentrate.”

“It’s not a dangerous animal,” the umpire said.

But officials decided to try to make the iguana move by waving a towel at it. Haas took a selfie with it. The iguana jumped onto the court and ran around, delaying the match while the crowd and players laughed. The court crew was finally able to capture the reptile and escort it off the court.

“Maybe the iguana got the note that this is most likely the last time I’m playing here, and he wanted to say hi and take a peek or something,” Haas joked after losing 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-5. “It was pretty cool. Of that size, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that. I don’t know where he came from and why he wanted to come out on court and say hello to everyone.

“My main concern was getting him safely away from there. It was an interesting picture to take. I don’t think it’ll ever happen again, to be honest, especially because my career is almost over anyway. Nice of him to stop by. Good looking iguana.”

It was the 20th anniversary of Haas’ first appearance in Miami and likely his last. He recently took a job as tournament director of the Paribas Open at Indian Wells, California.

“To have played here one more time, to stop on my own terms, is something special,” Haas said. “I appreciate the crowd coming out there and giving me a nice wave-off.”

A few courts away, Amanda Anisimova, a 15-year-old wild card from Aventura, got a taste of the big time in her Key Biscayne debut. She dominated the first set against Taylor Townsend, but the more experienced American prevailed 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Anisimova made the final of the French Open junior tournament last June, earned a wild card into the qualifying rounds at the U.S. Open and won tournaments in Mexico and Costa Rica last year. She trains in Plantation with coach Nick Saviano. Born in New Jersey to Russian parents, the family moved to South Florida when Amanda was 3 so her older sister, Maria, could have better tennis training. Maria played at Penn and works on Wall Street.

“My sister always sends me lots of tennis advice, long paragraphs,” she said. “I think I lost my focus a little bit after the first set and stepped back. That’s something I have to work on. But this was a great experience and I can take a lot from it.”

Townsend, 20, said she didn’t panic after dropping the first set.

“She was hitting winners, hitting her spots well, and my coach told me to stay the course, so that’s what I did,” Townsend said. “It’s not like I was playing badly. She didn’t have anything to lose. I’ve played younger girls like that before, [you] have an opportunity, so you play free, they don’t have any pressure. That’s how she played.”

In the late-night match, Olympic champion Monica Puig, a Miami resident, did not have the homecoming she had hoped for, losing 6-2, 6-4 to Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

“An unfortunate day, nothing was going my way,” said a teary-eyed Puig, who was the first Puerto Rican gold medalist in Olympic history. “I tried to turn it around, but she was playing really well. Today definitely wasn’t my day.”

Asked if the medal has put more pressure on her, she said: “It’s not a burden, I’m really proud of what I did at the Olympics, but it comes with a lot of responsibilities and a lot of pressures, that’s just something I have to get comfortable with...I did it once and there’s no doubt I can do it again. It’s just a matter of finding it again. After the Olympics I was so overwhelmed with everything that happened that I dropped from where I was and now I’m just trying to find my way back there.”

Other women’s winners included Christina McHale, Varvara Lepchenko, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Madison Brengle. Men’s winners included Dudi Sela, Taylor Fritz, Nicolas Mahut, Jared Donaldson, Jeremy Chardy, Fabio Fognini and Donald Young.

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