Rain delays Miami Open start at new Hard Rock home

Rain falls on the court after the Miami Open tennis tournament was postponed. (Source: AP)

Rain wiped out the opening day play at the Miami Open on Tuesday, delaying the start of the tournament at its new Hard Rock Stadium home.

Having outgrown the cramped quarters of Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, and unable to secure the necessary approvals to renovate and expand, the Miami Open has moved to the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins but the day-long rain spoilt the moment.

With a 25 percent jump in ticket sales, tournament director James Blake, the former world number four, had been expecting a record crowd but instead the 14,000 seat temporary show court inside the stadium stood empty and the luxury boxes were silent.

Germany’s Andrea Petkovic and 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova were scheduled to christen the action on the main show court with Mari Osaka, the sister of Japanese world number one Naomi Osaka, taking on Whitney Osuigwe in the nightcap.

Tuesday’s first round play was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s official opening, which will see Serena Williams, who is a part-owner in the Dolphins, Roger Federer and world number ones Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“When we get through the first day or two and see what we are in store for I have a feeling we will be announcing a lot of (attendance) records broken this year,” American Blake told Reuters in a pre-tournament interview.

“I don’t want to be too pie-in-the-sky but I do think we are going to break a records.”

Once the rain disappears fans can expect a wide open tournament if the season follows the current trend.

There have been 19 ATP Tour events this season and 13 WTA events each producing a different winner.

Bianca Andreescu, the 18-year-old Canadian who stunned the field in Indian Wells last week to claim her first career win, is on that list and comes to Miami looking to complete what would be an even more unlikely Sunshine Double.

Sloane Stephens, the reigning Miami champion, and Serena Williams, an eight-time winner of what she considers her home event, can count on having the American crowd in their corner as will John Isner, who is back to defend his crown.

Serena, whose name is not among the 13 women’s winners this season, has sister Venus in her quarter of the draw along with the always dangerous second-seeded Romanian Simona Halep.

The men’s draw is also thick with former champions led by six times winner and world number one Djokovic and three-time winner Federer.

The Swiss comes to Florida in superb form after collecting his 100th career win in Dubai and coming off a finals appearance in Indian Wells but will be on alert after crashing out in the first round here a year ago.

World number one Osaka will also be wary with in-form German Angelique Kerber, a losing finalist in Indian Wells, lurking in her quarter.

Blake enjoying challenge of Miami Open move to Hard Rock

As a player James Blake endured many a rain delay but on Tuesday the Miami Open tournament director was forced to sit through a painful day-long drizzle, delaying what was expected to be a record-smashing move from Crandon Park to Hard Rock Stadium.

Even for a man once ranked in the world’s top five, these are nervy days for American Blake, now 39, as he watches over the transformation of one of tennis’s biggest events.

Moving the Miami Open from upscale Key Biscayne’s leafy Crandon Park, with its swaying palms and ocean breezes, to the baked pavement of Hard Rock Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and better suited to tailgating than tennis, was a risky but necessary one.

After 33 years the tournament had outgrown the cramped quarters of Crandon Park and, unable to secure the necessary approvals to renovate and expand, was in danger of leaving Miami until Dolphins’ billionaire owner Stephen Ross stepped up with a bold solution – plunk a court in the middle of his stadium.

When Blake retired from competitive tennis in 2013, like many elite level athletes who spend most of their young lives criss-crossing the globe fuelled by the adrenalin rush of competition earning as much as they might need in a lifetime (in Blake’s case close to $8 million), the future seemed unclear.

What comes next after the thrill of battling Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal or leading the United States to a Davis Cup title?

After a couple of years at Harvard there was the possibility of diving into the business and banking world.
Articulate and attentive with a world view, there was speculation that politics or activism might be the career path for the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year award winner.

But talk to Blake and it is not long before the word “challenge” enters the conversation.

The competitiveness that marked his athletic career has not faded and the position of Miami Open tournament director and managing the move from Crandon Park to Hard Rock Stadium provided him with the challenge he needed.

“Ticket sales being up 25 percent, that shows us there is great trust in us doing a good job,” Blake told Reuters as he anticipated presiding over a record attendance at the event.

“That’s something I am proud of and it puts a little more pressure on us but that is one of the few things I have missed about being on Tour — that you are doing something that makes a difference when you have that pressure.”


While the suburban Miami Garden area of the city lacks the charm of Key Biscayne, the Hard Rock Stadium complex has plenty of what Crandon Park did not have — space that will provide the canvas for an ambitious transformation.

Along with a 14,000-seat temporary show court inside Hard Rock, which has undergone major renovations itself ahead of hosting next February’s Super Bowl, 12 permanent match courts and 18 temporary practice courts have been constructed outside.

Blake acknowledges the word “temporary” often brings a shabby setup to mind but is certain that fans and players will find everything about the Hard Rock first class.

“I think most people associate temporary with throwing up a couple of tent poles and slapping down a few lines and calling it a tennis court but that is definitely not going to be the case,” said Blake. “I think anyone who knows Stephen Ross will know he wouldn’t do anything that wasn’t really first class.

“It is a bold idea but I think it is one that is going to pay dividends. We’re keeping it (the tournament) in Miami.

“I wasn’t involved in those discussions (about moving the tournament) but from all the rumours I heard it seemed pretty close, it was not a sure thing it was going to stay in Miami.”

Players have grumbled about the move but fans have indicated they are prepared to give it a chance with ticket sales jumping.

The tournament’s two major sponsors, Lacoste and Itau, showed their confidence by renewing deals without seeing how the new-look tournament would work.

The second half of what is known as the Sunshine Double, the Miami Open has lived in the shadow of Indian Wells, which behind the considerable investment of billionaire Larry Ellison has grown into the biggest tournament outside the four Grand Slams.

That mantle once belonged to Miami which will now try to reclaim some of that lost stature with the move to Hard Rock.

“As a lot of people know, new events that first year can be difficult because you don’t have that familiarity,” said Blake. “But we are going to do everything we can to make sure we knock it out of the park and keep it in Miami.”

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