A Look At Miami Open's 'Hard Rock' Future - UBITENNIS
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A Look At Miami Open’s ‘Hard Rock’ Future

MIAMI – Key Biscayne and the Crandon Park Tennis Center are now history for the tennis pro circuit. Let’s have a look at the new home for the Miami Open

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The IMG (International Management Group) fought tooth and nail to keep and grow the Miami Open in its historic location of Key Biscayne, but in the end they had to concede defeat. Over five years of legal battles, court cases and committee meetings to spend the $50m needed to update the aging Crandon Park venue, build a permanent Grandstand and some other service facilities, they have not managed to curb the determination (coupled with very deep pockets) of Bruce Matheson, the descendant of the Matheson family who owned the island of Key Biscayne until the 1930s, before it was handed over to the County of Miami-Dade in exchange for the construction of the Rickenbacker Causeway. The Mathesons were able to include in the agreement a commitment to maintain Crandon Park a naturalistic oasis, preventing any invasive construction. In 1992 Matheson reluctantly agreed to build the current Stadium on the site, but managed to install a 4-person committee (in which he essentially controlled two votes) in charge of approving any further development. “Our purpose was to invest in Crandon Park and give it back to the people of the Miami-Dade County, so that they can enjoy the beauty of that place – says Adam Barrett, Executive Vice President of IMG Sport and of the Miami Open – This has not been possible, and it’s now the County’s duty to fix this problem, it’s out of our hands now”.

The IMG, the international sports management behemoth that has owned the rights to the Miami Open since 2000, has decided to follow “a vision” in cooperation with Mr. Stephen Ross, real estate mogul and owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL team. “One day Mr. Ross got in touch with our CEO Mark Shapiro and presented the idea to move the Miami Open to the Hard Rock Stadium – says Barrett while he is leading the press delegation in a tour of the new venue – building a temporary center court on the pitch. We thought it was a crazy idea, we agreed to listen to him just out of courtesy, but the more he was explaining his vision, the more enticing it became”. This move to Miami North, where the Miami Dolphins stadium is located, about 30 mins from Downtown Miami (when traffic is clear on the I-95, i.e. hardly ever) is intended to be a rebirth for the Miami Open, making this very prestigious tournament into a unique event, able to compete with the best in the world (Indian Wells and Shanghai in particular) in terms of players facilities and spectators experience.

A vision from above of the new venue (artist rendering – Miami Open)

The project aims at creating a synergy between the tennis tournament and all the other event hosted at the Hard Rock Stadium (the Superbowl will be staged there in 2020) allowing the Miami Open to use the existing facilities inside the stadium and to build a permanent tennis center outside the stadium (thanks to the investment dollars committed by the IMG and the Miami-Dade County) open year-round.

It will be a gargantuan leap forward for the Miami Open in terms of player facilities: the dining area will treble in size to reach 2800 square meters; there will be two gyms, one indoor and one outdoor; the locker rooms will be 70% bigger and the players’ lounge will treble as well and will be over 3000 square meters. “There will be 900 dedicated parking spots for players and their guests, all of them on the North Side of the stadium, which will be entirely dedicated to them – explains Barrett – that area is normally used by VIP customers during the Dolphins games and is also served by a ‘black lane’, a reserved lane connecting the freeway junction to the entrance”.

Example of premium seats and mini suite – this one above has been designed to resemble the rear of a yacht

Traffic has always been a sore note for Crandon Park: its location on the island of Key Biscayne forces all people and goods to use the only available road, the Rickenbacker Causeway, which becomes clogged with cars and vans throughout the tournament. General parking is on a different island altogether, Virginia Key, forcing spectators to shuttle back and forth via courtesy buses, which means a 30-40 minute trip from the car to the gate. “This will all disappear once we move to the Hard Rock Stadium – triumphantly states Barrett – here were have 8000 parking spots around the stadium, 3000 of which dedicated to premium customers, and further 9000 spots in the overflow parking, all of them reachable without crossing roads or needing buses”.

The location of the new center court

Center Court will be built inside the Hard Rock Stadium, using the existing South stands (entirely reserved for premium customers, club seats, mini suites and corporate suites) and using modular stands for the remaining seats. The modular structures will not be entirely dismantled at the end of every tournament but will be disassembled into modules and stored inside the stadium ready for the following year. “We will start building the center court every year as soon as the NFL season is over for the Miami Doplhins, which means at ‘worst’ after the AFC Championship Game, the third week of January – says Barrett jokingly, as he is a lifetime Dolphins supporter and that ‘worst’ scenario would be very welcome to him – During 2020 it will be particularly challenging, since we will host the Superbowl on February 2nd and we will only have six weeks to prepare everything. We won’t have a lot of leeway, but we believe we can do it”.

The new Center Court will have a capacity of around 13,800 seats, roughly the same as Crandon Park’s Stadium Court, while the new permanent Grandstand (which will boast its own players’ lounge, locker room and gym) will be able to seat 5,000 spectators and the new Court 1 and Court 2 will have a capacity of 3,000 and 1,500 seats respectively. The total daily capacity of the venue will increase by about 30% (from 25,000 to over 32,000 people) and there will be 29 permanent courts, 20 of which will be floodlit. The “heart” of the venue will be the Plaza, very similar to the Plaza in front of the Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, with a fountain and a giant screen (40 by 90 feet) on one side of the stadium, and a smaller one on the side of Grandstand.

Two view of the building site as of March 2018 – At the back of the site, the area dedicated to the future Grandstand

The IMG seems to be intentioned to bring the Miami Open back to the past splendor, when it was considered the “fifth Slam”, singles draws had 128 players and men used to play best of five sets from the first round. The facilities will undoubtedly be world-class, but the location remains a question mark: all official hotels for players and staff will remain in Downtown Miami and Coconut Grove, roughly 20 miles away to be driven on one of the most congested freeways in the United States, the Interstate 95. Shuttles and transportation cars will be able to use express lanes (costing anything between 25 cents and 6-7 dollars or more depending on traffic) allowing to avoid hold-ups and queues. The overwhelming impression is that IMG is mainly concerned about the experience of premium customers, players and staff, with the rest of the patrons representing a somewhat lower priority. “We believe the possibility that are open to us in this venue are endless – explains Barrett – we will be able to create new price points, to attract new fans with new experiences”, adding that the intention is to tap also into the Fort Lauderdale/Broward County catchment area. Which is quite funny, considering that the Miami-Dade County is providing a $2m subsidy to this event under an existing agreement between the County and the Miami Dolphins ownership aiming at keeping a world-class event like the Miami Open (and the $387m it generates annually, according to a study commissioned by the IMG) within the territory of Miami-Dade.

It will be necessary to wait for the completion of the next edition (if not more than one) of the tournament to fully evaluate the effects of this move and how much the distance to downtown Miami will affect patronage. In the meantime we can just admire the suggestive artist renditions of the new grounds, hoping that giant screen, fountains and convenient parking lot will balance the loss of Key Biscayne’s palms, beach and turquoise sea.

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Team World Gets First Lead at Laver Cup

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-Chicago, Illinois

Team World was in really bad shape midway through Day Two of the Laver Cup. They were down 7-1 after the losing the first two singles matches on Saturday. Fast forward 24 hours and two wins later and John Isner and Jack Sock combined for a remarkable victory on Sunday winning their doubles match over Roger Federer and Sasha Zverev in dramatic fashion 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 11-9 giving the World Team an 8-7 edge, the first time Team World has led the competition in the two years it has been played.

It was a highly entertaining affair from the start. Sock and Isner who won the Indian Wells doubles title together this year the favourites over the No. 2 and No. 5 players in the world. Federer and Zverev hadn’t played together as a team before but they held their own. They won the first set in 28 minutes making just three unforced errors along the way.

In the second set there were no breaks of serve so the teams went to a tiebreak. Team World jumped out to an early 5-1 lead after Sock hit a great backhand crosscourt return and ran over to his bench to celebrate. A monster serve from Isner forced a deciding match tiebreak set.

In the tiebreak Team Europe got out to an early lead after a big backhand service return from the 6’6 German was unreturnable.

Sock, again, came up big down 8-6. He hit a beautiful backhand crosscourt shot past Federer to close the gap. After a Federer serve made it 9-7 it was Isner’s turn to steal the show. A big forehand which Zverev chose not to hit thinking it was heading out made it 9-8 and then a monster serve set up a Sock put a way volleys to to even it at 9-9. An Isner ace made it 10-9 and then on the next point a Zeverev backhand sailed long sending the stadium into a frenzy. Sock fell to the ground and Isner jumped for joy like a young kid. It was a great thing to watch something you don’t see in tennis often.

@Sportshorn

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Team World Back in the Laver Cup Heading Into Sunday

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-Chicago, Illinois

Kevin Anderson played some phenomenal tennis and exacted some revenge for his loss to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon Final.

In a highly entertaining match on Saturday night at the United Center it was Anderson who put two important points on the board with a 7-6 5-7 10-6 win over the No. 3 player in the world.

Anderson came out strong from the start perhaps inspired by playing in front of the Chicago crowd. He attended college here after moving from his home in South Africa.

Anderson had 19 winners in the first set which included some solid play from the baseline. Two of those shots came in the opening set tiebreak. The best of the bunch a brilliant cross court forehand to give him a 6-5 lead. Djokovic then doubled away the set on the next point.

The second set was highly contested as well and included a huge rally in the eighth game won by Djokovic after a crosscourt winner. The only break from either player in the match came in the 11th game when Anderson hit a backhand long one of his 38 unforced errors in the match. Djokovic held a game later to even things up.

In the tiebreak Anderson got out to an early 3-1 but Djokovic came back to go up 4-3. A big crosscourt forehand and a huge serve put Anderson in the drivers seat up 7-5. Two points later, the 6’8, World No. 9 crushed a huge forehand service return which the 14-time Grand Slam champ couldn’t reach. On match point Djokovic hit a forehand into the net giving Anderson the win and seeing Djokovic lose for the first time in singles since the third round in Toronto in early August.

“Right from the beginning I was feeling really good,” said Anderson. “I was serving well, I was staying in points a lot and doing all the things I needed to do against him. I thought all in all it was a really high quality match.”

“I enjoyed it. The atmosphere was electric, said Djokovic. “I got to experience the Laver Cup at it’s best in my singles today. I tried, I gave it my best but Kevin was playing fantastic, playing amazing, serving amazing, just brilliant match, brilliant performance he deserved to win.”

Team Europe closed the gap in the competition even further as Nick Kyrgios and partner Jack Sock got a routine straight sets win over Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin 6-3, 6-4 in the final match of the night.

So after things weren’t looking so good after two more singles defeats earlier in the day, Team World has closed the gap to 7-5 heading into the final day. On Sunday, starting with doubles, each match win is worth three points so the Laver Cup is fully up for grabs.

@Sportshorn

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Team Europe Takes Commanding 7-1 Lead at Laver Cup

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-Chicago, Illinois

Team Europe has taken a commanding 7-1 lead after the day session matches at the Laver Cup in Chicago. In front of another packed house at the United Center, Alexander Zverev and Roger Federer came away victorious. Zverev coming from a set down to defeat John Isner 3-6, 7-6, 10-7 while Federer easily dispatched Nick Kyrgios 6-3, 6-2 in just 65 minutes.

Team Europe has now won five of the six matches so far at the event and guarantees themselves a lead heading into Sunday’s final day no matter what happens in the two remaining matches this evening. Each of Saturday’s wins was worth two points. The winning team needs 13 to capture the Laver Cup trophy.

Zverev started off slowly going down 3-0 in the first set with Isner playing some knockout tennis. The 6’11 American hit 15 winners including eight aces.

Zverev turned around his play in the second set keeping the ball in the court and forcing a tiebreak. In the breaker, the 6’6 German saved a match point with a huge backhand winner which drew a great reaction from Zverev and his European teammates. Another backhand winner locked up the tiebreak as well.

In the match tiebreak Zverev got ahead 4-0 and 5-2 but Isner fought back to make it interesting with help from his big serve. On match point it was another Zverev backhand winner which sailed past the approaching Isner. The youngest member of the European team dropping to his knees in celebration.

In the second match of the day, Federer played some of his best tennis of the year against Kyrgios on Saturday. His beautiful one-handed backhand was on target throughout, he served reasonably well and he broke his opponent three times. Kyrgios was left dumb-founded and frustrated on several occasions as Federer’s winners were just catching the lines.

There was an entertaining moment in the second set, hard to believe in a match involving Kyrgios. Down a set and 3-1, a Kyrgios serve appear to be called “out” but was quickly changed to “in” with Federer barely getting his racquet on the ball. The chair umpire said they should replay the point which irked both the Australian and Team captain John McEnroe. Both players had their turn criticizing the umpire with the on court microphones picking up the commentary. Kyrgios called the umpire “delusional”, McEnroe in an angry voice yelled “No chance was he going to get that return back” and waved his arms in disgust. Kyrgios went on to lose the game and the match. As Kyrgios said to the press afterwards, the call didn’t impact the match as he was getting beaten quite badly.

“I had a good training week,” said Federer. ” I have been now in the States for almost two months, so I didn’t fight with jet lag, you know, like maybe some of the other guys on my team. I think that all helped. And then I think I had a clear game plan and just had the feeling like I was making a lot of returns against Nick. And from the baseline I was calm, composed, knew when to attack, when to wait. I was moving my feet very well.”

@Sportshorn

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