- Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
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MELBOURNE, Australia -- Oogy oogy oogy Monaco!
That's the phonetic spelling of what Bosnian fans chanted constantly through five exhilarating sets of tennis as Bosnian-born Floridian Amer Delic almost pulled off another American upset Thursday.
Asked for a translation afterward, Delic smiled wearily. "It means, beat him, beat him, beat Monaco," he said.
Delic did his best to upend 21st seed Juan Monaco of Argentina, but in the end, the heat and the cumulative fatigue from winning three qualifying matches and a first-rounder caught up with him and he succumbed 6-3, 7-6 (6), 5-7, 6-7 (8), 8-6 in 4 hours, 11 minutes.
We got lucky. Slipping into the first available front row seat in the far corner on Court 13, we found ourselves next to Rodney Harmon, director of men's tennis for the U.S. Tennis Association, who met the 25-year-old Delic shortly after he immigrated with his family as a young teenager.
Harmon was as excited, if not quite as loud, as the Bosnians, who drowned out "olés" from the Argentinians across the court. At one point, Delic looked up at his supporters, whose ranks have swelled each year he returns here, and uttered a stern word we took to mean "cool it."
"He's playing his best tennis since Miami," said Harmon, referring to Delic's breakthrough win over Nikolay Davydenko there last year. "His tennis rides on his confidence. He's a top-50 player. His best tennis is in front of him."
During the games Delic played on our end of the court, he hung his towel over the chain-link fence in front of Harmon and came over frequently to dry his hands. (He has a condition called hyperhidrosis, which causes his hands to sweat so profusely, especially when he's nervous, that he had trouble gripping a pencil or pen while taking exams.)
"C'mon, Del," Harmon would murmur. He kept up a steady play-by-play, trying to predict when Delic would unleash his fearsome kick serve, when he would go down the middle, when he should come to the net.
When Delic struck winners, Harmon exhaled deeply. "It's courage time," he kept repeating. "Chip and charge, chip and charge." When Delic made questionable choices, Harmon ducked and winced. When Delic started cramping in the fourth set, we could swear we saw Harmon kneading his own legs.
Harmon and the Bosnians weren't the only avid Delic fans in the crowd. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley, Delic's former coach at the University of Illinois, took a break and took in some of the late-match action.
Delic had chances in the second-set tiebreaker that might have changed the tenor of the match, but the No. 136 seed found some bright spots amid the disappointment: "Today I didn't serve as well as I hoped to, but I was able to dig it out. I left everything on the court."
Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. E-mail her at email@example.com.
1dKevin Van Valkenburg