Even on a persistently drizzly day like today, the spectators are here to be entertained, punctuating points with the popping of champagne corks and encouraging the players indiscriminately. For the players, however, the shadow of Wimbledon looms large. Even practice seems a little bit more serious, or at least strategic, than usual; Ferrer plays an intense practice set, Simon tries to work on his return off Troicki’s first serve (it goes better after the Serbian starts calling it for him), del Potro hits nothing but serves and forehands fed to him by coach Franco Davin for half an hour, then sits down for a long, serious conversation.
As play begins, it’s far from a hit-and-giggle; the consensus seems to be to compete pretty seriously for at least a set and a half, then relax into entertaining once the outcome looks inevitable. Del Potro and Simon, first up, both seem to be focusing on polishing their serves and—in del Potro’s case—volleys; the Argentine looks in better shape than Simon, whose lower back is taped and isn’t stretching himself any more than necessary.
It’s not until the Argentine is a set and a break up that levity really enters the proceedings—del Potro hitting a between-the-legs volley (and winning the point), Simon mock-pleading with the crowd to cheer for him, then blowing a kiss when they do. “Without you it would have been six-love,” he announces to a particular group of women in the stands after del Potro wins, 6-4, 6-1, earning a gale of horsey laughter.
Well, hopefully that taping at the back is precautionary. Hopefully he'll be 100% by next week when his first match starts.