As legends of tennis’ past entertained the Delray Beach tennis crowd on Sunday, the buzz here turned to the singles main draw for the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships.
Andy Roddick’s opening-round match is slated for 9 p.m. Tuesday, immediately following the ATP Champions Tour final. Top-seeded John Isner and world No. 21 Marin Cilic, the second seed, haven’t received their first match start times yet.
Last year’s finalists, Juan Martin Del Potro and Janko Tipsarevic, aren’t in this year’s draw.
“There are still quite a few tough players in the field,” said seventh seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa, who lost to Del Potro in last year’s quarterfinals. “Every tournament’s tough these days, but looking at this one, every match is going to be a challenge – a fun challenge.”
Roddick will be the center of attention Tuesday night. Slowed by nagging hamstring and ankle injuries, he lost his opening match at Memphis’ Regions Morgan Keegan Championships to Xavier Matisse on Wednesday.
Not only was it the first win in nine tries against Roddick for Matisse, who could play Roddick in the ITC quarterfinals if they both win twice, it was further damage to Roddick’s stumbling reputation.
He’s dropped 10 spots in the world singles rankings, down to 27th, and he won’t get a chance to rest his ailments any time soon. He retired from the second round of the Australian Open because of injury, and he’s scheduled to play in March tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami after Delray Beach.
“It’s not easy, but he has the ability to turn it around,” said former world No. 1 and French Open champion Carlos Moya, who’s playing in the Champions Tour event at Delray. “The best thing is to stop if you aren’t 100-percent healthy because you’re hurting yourself.
“But when you’re playing, you think you’re OK and you want to play. One win here, one win there, maybe that changes things. But he has time to be back where he belongs, which is the top 10.”
Isner, the highest-rated player in this year’s ITC, only reached the third round in Australia, but helped the U.S. team beat Roger Federer’s Swiss team in the opening round of the Davis Cup two weeks ago.
He’s the favorite in Delray, but he has a tough bracket with Tommy Haas, Jurgen Melzer (who broke a toe in Memphis) and 19-year-old Wimbledon quarterfinalist Bernard Tomic.
“He’s tough on his serve and he’s an experienced player,” Tomic said of Isner, adding that he’s only seen the American on television. “You have to be on your game against someone like that.”
Sunday’s Champions Tour matches showed Moya, who retired in 2010, still has some game himself.
Moya, 36, defeated Aaron Krickstein 6-4, 6-4 in the afternoon to finish undefeated in round-robin play. He’ll could play three-time U.S. Open winner Ivan Lendl, who was also a world No. 1 during his days on the singles circuit, or Johan Kriek, who played in the late match.
A final against Lendl would be a surreal, strange moment for Moya, who grew up idolizing Lendl. But he acknowledged that playing any of the players on the Champions Tour is an odd experience, especially the first meeting.
“I’m starting to get used to it, playing guys I watched as a kid,” Moya said. “It’s certainly interesting to see them across from you on the court.”
AT A GLANCE
WHERE: Delray Beach Stadium and Tennis Center, 201 W. Atlantic Ave.
WHO: Competition is split between eight-player Champions Tour (through Tuesday) and a 32-player field in ATP competition (Monday through March 4).
PARKING: $5 at South County Courthouse at Atlantic and SW Second Avenue, and Old School Square Parking Garage on NE First Avenue. Valet parking ($20) also available.
TV: Tennis Channel for ATP semifinals and final.
TICKETS: $20 to $90 per session.
INFORMATION: (561) 330-6000 or YellowTennisBall.com