At the Miami Open, Latin American Players Feel at Home

At the Miami Open, Latin American Players Feel at Home

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — This year’s Miami Open is about 20 miles north of its previous home on Key Biscayne, but the tournament’s cultural epicenter is unmoved. It’s still somewhere thousands of miles to the south.

Because there is no tournament of its caliber in Mexico, the Caribbean, or Central and South America, the Miami Open has developed into the de facto Latin American Slam, drawing fans from the region and its diasporas, transforming this Florida fixture into a virtual homecoming for Latino players.

“It’s really nice to have the support,” said Leonardo Mayer, an Argentine. “It’s almost like playing in Buenos Aires.”

The top South American player, Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina, missed this year’s tournament because of a knee injury, but fans had to change only one letter in their customary cheer for him in order to root for his compatriot Federico Delbonis, who took a set off top-ranked Novak Djokovic on Sunday. Instead of “Olé, olé, olé, olé! Delpo, Delpo!” they chanted, “Delbo, Delbo!”

In one of the last matches played at the old venue in 2018, the American John Isner, the eventual champion, had little support when he met del Potro in the semifinals.

“The fans were great, but it was not 50-50,” Isner said, smiling. “There were a lot of Argentinian flags, that country loves their sport, loves their soccer and their tennis. To see all the flags in the crowd, it was a very, very cool atmosphere.”

Many other non-Latin American players similarly relish the passionate crowds.

“I’ve always played the best in countries and in places where I felt that energy,” Alexander Zverev of Germany said. “In Rome I always felt great. Italians are very energetic, powerful people. Madrid, Mexico, Miami: It’s always those kind of places I’ve played well in. For me, I enjoy when the crowd is loud, energetic, and it’s nice when this happens.”

“I could hear it was like a soccer-like atmosphere,” Wozniacki said. “It’s cool. It’s obviously more fun when they cheer for you. At the same time it’s also fun to quiet the fans. It’s fun when all of a sudden it goes dead quiet.”

Jérémy Chardy enjoyed silencing the cacophony of Chileans who were raucously supporting his opponent, Nicolàs Jarry, in their first-round match. After he won, he blew kisses toward the Chilean contingent.

“You always know when you play a South American here it will be difficult,” Chardy said. “The crowd was difficult all the match, and I didn’t say a word. Just at the end when I won, I wanted to send them kisses, and they replied with some fingers.”

Chardy said he appreciated the animated crowd, despite the animus.

“Even if it was not always respectful,” he said, “I prefer when there’s atmosphere to no atmosphere.”

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