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Around The Grounds In Miami

WTA players kept busy in various ways before taking the court at the Sony Ericsson Open.

Published March 21, 2012 09:27

Around The Grounds In Miami
Anna-Lena Groenefeld, Galina Voskoboeva

MIAMI, FL, USA - From kids clinics to swimming with dolphins to MMA demonstrations, WTA players spent their leisure time in a variety of ways in the days leading up to the start of competition at the Sony Ericsson Open. Here is a synopsis of many of the activities:

Monday morning: Fresh off her rise to a career-high No.14 in the world, Angelique Kerber was given the honor for the first time of helping pick the draw. She talked about her confidence entering Miami.

"The US Open last year where I reached the semifinals was where I really started to believe in myself," said Kerber, who will play Zheng Jie in the second round after receiving a first round bye. "After that tournament I had a lot of confidence for the future. I have played very well this year. I will just go out and try to play my best and hope to win here."

Monday afternoon: Former Top 20 player Alisa Kleybanova held a press conference to talk about her recovery from Hodgkin's lymphoma after being out of action since last May.

"I'm really curious to see how I'm going to feel out there because I've never had such a big break from tennis," Kleybanova said. "You never forget how to play tennis. Mentally I'm prepared to go on court. I missed hitting so much. The only concern is the physical condition because for such a long time I literally couldn't do anything, so I had to start from zero."

"It's impossible to say where my game is right now, but I'm just happy that I'm here, able to play again, feeling healthy and having a lot of fun."

Read more about Kleybanova's press conference right here.

Tuesday afternoon: Gisela Dulko, Michaella Krajicek, Sabine Lisicki, Flavia Pennetta, Paola Suárez and Elena Vesnina joined a group of ATP players to swim with dolphins and watch them do tricks at the Miami Seaquarium in Key Biscayne.

"It has been a dream of mine my whole life to swim with dolphins," Vesnina said. "They're the friendliest and smartest animals in the world. They were so nice and friendly with us, showing us all their tricks, and it's just amazing what they can do."

"It's nice to have a chance to do something different," Pennetta said. "We have so many things we have to do as athletes, so it's important for us to be able to relax and do activities other than tennis."

Wednesday morning: Maria Sharapova held a meet and greet with 20 fans to talk about her Nike collection.

"I've been doing this for three years now and it's always about finding inspiration when choosing a new line because there are so many tennis clothes out there," said Sharapova, whose 2010 deal with Nike was the biggest endorsement deal ever for a female athlete.

Wednesday afternoon: World No.1 Victoria Azarenka went to the MMA Masters Gym near downtown Miami to learn some moves from former UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans, who is 22-1-1 in his career and is fighting to win back his title on April 21.

"It was a great experience," Azarenka said. "I wish I had a little bit more time to train. I'd love to do this without all the cameras because I'm ly curious about how these athletes train. I could maybe pick up something interesting for myself."

Read more about Vika's MMA experience right here.

Other activities: Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Galina Voskoboeva participated in a tennis clinic for kids Tuesday morning ... The Top 8 seeds took part in All-Access Hour with the media on Tuesday morning ... Samantha Stosur hosted an autograph session Wednesday afternoon.

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