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A Special Miami Open Recap: The Positives, Complains and Surprises

Updated: Apr 14

The Miami Open 2019 presented by Itaú, the so-called “fifth major of tennis”, unfortunately did not occur in 2020 due to Corvid-19 but we got some noteworthy impressions to share.  Nostalgically departing from the trademark intimacy and greenery of the Crandon Park Tennis Center at Key Biscayne (the host of the tournament for the past 32 years), the move to Hard Rock Stadium marked a new era for the Miami Open.  And once you adjusted to the quirky, grand scale of it all (the new tennis center is actually located on the widespread vastness of the Miami Dolphins football stadium and surrounding grounds), it was fun and full of Miami flair. 


Fans packed in more than ever to partake in the tournament’s new venue this year, remarkably breaking several daily and overall attendance records.  The overall tournament attendance was recorded at 388,734; well over the previous record of 326,131 set in 2012.  There were a total of 15 out of 24 session attendance records set over the two week period, led by session 9 on Saturday, March 23, in which 32,831 people showed up (the previous single-session record was set at 18,910 in 2007).   




Analysis by Adriana Garuolis


THE POSITIVES


Receiving rave reviews from both tennis players and fans alike, positive feedback about the tournament’s new state-of-the-art venue included:


- The player’s lounge, restaurant and fitness center are all much larger than at Crandon, the increased space experienced by the players as being much more comfortable, relaxed and organized.


- Abundant with mouthwatering eateries, attendees could sample cuisine from hot pop-up restaurants such as Kiki on the River, Bourbon Steak, Novecento, SuViche, Sushi Maki and Casa Tua Cucina.


- Offering luxury amenities unprecedented in tennis, visitors to the Miami Open grounds had more than enough to explore and enjoy besides tennis, including distinguished watering holes (the Moet & Chandon champagne garden, Kim Crawford wine bar, Stella Artois Lounge), Instagrammable tennis-stamped photo opportunities (such as a selfie cabana featuring a leather lounge chair with three neon green throw pillows inscribed with the words ACE ACE BABY), games for adults and children alike, and an Art Open Miami pavilion space housing six different galleries.



THE COMPLAINTS


On the other side of the coin, factors upon which to improve were also loudly voiced in concern by quality-seeking repeat fans of the long-standing professional tennis open:


- Widespread reports of weighty dissatisfaction concerning the tournament site’s hefty parking fee: $40.  For a lot designed to accommodate 65,000 Dolphins football fans, many found this “welcoming” to the new stadium to be a frank rip-off and future dissuader to coming back to the tournament. 


- Stadium court prices were reported to have increased a whopping 40% more than they did last year, and even though the fan-on-a-budget had the option of purchasing a $15 per day grounds pass to enjoy the tennis action on the outer courts, some fans complained that those ran out early and were then being offered only at a 400% price hike: a $64 resale value.


- On the experiential side of things, another complaint about the tournament’s new venue is how this modified-football-field-stadium-to-tennis-court-stadium did not properly contain the affability of a tennis-only stadium court.  There were critiques of a lack of intimacy when watching the stadium matches as the trademark sounds of tennis balls being hit and the head umpire calling the match were barely audible and/or garbled in the vast echoing expanses of the surrounding football stadium, even when sitting in one of the nearby luxury VIP boxes.  Many fans with stadium tickets were reported to join the folks with ground passes to sit in the bleachers on the outer courts instead, as the giant stadium court was just not close-up enough of a desirable tennis watching experience. 



THE SURPRISES


And last but certainly not in the least, the tennis action this year did not fail to surprise nor please this year’s record-breaking crowds.  


Notable from the onset of the tournament were multiple top seed upsets on both the men’s and women’s sides of the draw.  A whopping 12 out of 32 seeded players failed to win even just one match to make it to the third round of the tournament.   


World number one and two-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka crashed out in her second match, while eight time Miami champ Serena Williams was forced to withdraw from the tournament’s start, citing a left knee injury.  Three-time major winner Angelique Kerber was ousted by red-hot Canadian sensation Bianca Andreescu, and defending champion and home hopeful Sloane Stephens went out meekly amongst this slew of giant downfalls during Miami Open’s opening weekend.  Likewise on the men’s side, Alexander Zverev (No. 2), Dominique Thiem (No. 3), and Kei Nishikori (No. 5) all shockingly lost on their opening matches.  Novak Djokovic, top seed and amongst the tournament favorites to win the Open, soon followed suit with a fourth round fall to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut (No. 22).


In the grand finales, Roger Federer demonstrated his mastery yet again in dominantly winning the entire Miami Open.  Dispatching defending champion John Isner 6-1 and 6-4 in the final, Federer displayed full flowing form as he had been throughout the tournament.  Winning this title put him second on the all-time list of champions in the history of tennis, marking his hundred-and-first tour championship title, second only to Jimmy Connors who tops the list with one hundred and nine.  


On the women’s side of the draw, 22-year-old Ashleigh Barty (seeded 12th) won her fourth title at the Miami Open and the biggest of her career, becoming the first Australian woman to reach the top 10 in the world.  Facing the 5th seed of the tournament baseline pounder Karolina Pliskova from the Czech Republic, Barty came out on top with a final score of 7-6, 6-3, winning with a dominant serve and a wide variety of shots from the baseline.   Barty won the Wimbledon girl’s title in 2011 at age 15, but gave up tennis to play professional cricket in Australia.  She returned to the tour in 2016 and reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at this year’s Australian Open.