South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
Latin players enjoy home crowd
Argentine fans pack the stands
By Kevin Clark
March 30, 2008
In the polite world of tennis, even the most emotional crowd displays usually maintain decorum. Just not this one.
Australian Lleyton Hewitt had challenged a questionable call against Jose Acasuso of Argentina, and the contingent of Argentine fans erupted so loudly, boos might have been heard in Buenos Aires.
As Hewitt presented his case, the pro-Acasuso crowd whistled and heckled him. This was not a normal crowd.
Flags in hand, supporters chanted "Chucho!" — Acasuso's nickname — throughout the match. They gasped in mock horror when Hewitt managed a point. When it was over, and Acasuso had upset Hewitt, it was clear: At the Sony Ericsson Open, the closest major tournament to Latin America, some players have a home-court advantage.
"Of course it gave me a boost, having all those people behind you. Hopefully it is like that for the next match," Acasuso said through an interpreter. "This is the one, the one with the most Argentines, just because so many of them live down here."
Added fellow Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela: "It feels like lots of them travel here to see the tournament, so it can feel like playing in Argentina."
Latin American players like Acasuso, Chela, Fernando Gonzalez, Agustin Calleri and Juan Monaco all enjoyed raucous crowds, and all used the support to their advantage. All but Chela won their match. Argentina and Chile soccer jerseys were common among the huge crowds packed into stands to watch matches with Latin American players.
"It's a lot more different playing Indian Wells or Vegas, obviously, where there's a lot more Americans pulling," Hewitt said. "A lot more South Americans [in Key Biscayne]."
The overflow crowds at Chela's match and at the doubles match featuring the Chilean Gonzalez and another Argentine, Calleri, suggest that in South Florida, Latin American players and small-capacity courts do not mix.
Both matches were held on two of the smaller courts on the grounds, and both were filled to the lid with supporters.
During Chela's match, his fans climbed to the top of other courts' bleachers to overlook Chela's packed court, though he eventually lost to Ivo Minar.
"There are plenty of Latins here cheering, for the Latins especially. It's a nice thing about the tournament, and I believe they enjoy it very much." Chela said.