As I have often written on this blog, I like to say that Miami is a city that is what you make it. It has a ton of stuff to take advantage of and do in terms of restaurants, cultural institutions, sights, etc. It also has a lot of signature events like Art Basel, South Beach Wine and Food Festival Festival, Ultra, the International Boat Show, and more. Many of these are equal, if not greater, than similar events across the country (and the world sometimes). One other big event on the Miami calendar is the Miami Open (called the Sony Open up until 2014), which draws 300,000 fans. I had never been before, but this year I was very generously given a set of tickets to the men’s semifinal round.
The “Miami Open presented by Itau” (as it’s now called) takes place on Key Biscayne at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park. The Miami Masters (whatever it’s called in a given year) and the Indian Wells Masters in California are considered the most prestigious US tennis tournaments outside of the US Open. They earn winners more prize money and more points than regular tournaments. In recent years a lot of articles have talked about upgrades to Indian Wells’ facilities and how it’s outpacing the Miami Open. There has been a big push to upgrade the facilities at Crandon Park (a public park) and Miami-Dade voters signed-off on a $50 million improvement plan. Since then the improvements have been held up by a lawsuit from a descendant of the family that donated the land for Crandon Park, which was donated with restrictions on development.
That still remains to be resolved, but just from being an article reader over the years, there seemed to be some new experiences awaiting fans at this year’s Open anyways. The main upgrade was the Miami Open Experience. They took space that previously was a private and closed off hospitality village and turned it into a big “beach,” with a volleyball court and lounge chairs. They also replaced asphalt with pavers to give it a more attractive look. There also is the “Taste of the Open,” which has food from well-known Miami restaurants and chefs.
My tickets were for the men’s semifinals the last Friday night of the tournament, which turned out to Novak Djokovic vs. John Isner. The match started around 7ish and my friend and I left downtown around probably 5:15 or so. Traffic to the Open can sometimes be heavy just since there is only one way onto Key Biscayne. We made decent time and luckily had a parking pass that was just a short walk across from the Tennis Center (general parking you have to take a shuttle from near the Seaquarium). We got there with about 45 minutes to start time.
We decided to check out the “Taste of the Open” and Miami Open Experience. My friend loved this! Usually I’m the one getting overexcited about things and he’s shaking his head at me, so I found his reaction really funny. I did however agree that it’s a cool part of the Miami Open experience. There’s booths with souvenirs and luxury goods, a lot of food stands, seating to enjoy the sun and beautiful Miami weather. It’s an “experience” of many different senses and a pretty upscale one.There’s even like a full on legit pop-up Starbucks, so you know this is serious business.
I was beyond excited that one of my favorite restaurants in Miami, Pincho Factory, had a stand. I went for my favorite Toston burger and fries. Their burger patties are made with a combination of a short rib, ground chuck, and brisket. It’s awesome! The Toston burger then puts it between two tostones (fried plantains), so it’s naturally gluten-free! Alas for my friend it was Good Friday, he’s Catholic, and he had been good about not eating any meat that day. He decided to stick to it and went for some shrimp tacos instead. As I savored my delicious Toston burger I was really glad that us Lutherans have no church-wide restrictions on eating meat, fasting, etc. during Lent.
It was getting close to the start of the match, so we made our way past the “beach” and the volleyball court (which did look very cool) to the main stadium. Our seats were great and it’s a great atmosphere for a tennis match (or any sporting event) with the Miami sun setting and the glow filling up the sky (to sound cliche). The North was still having snow at this time (it was almost Easter people!) and I’m enjoying the evening in shorts.
I would describe myself as a minor tennis fan. I enjoy watching Grand Slam tournaments when I catch them on TV (and when they aren’t in the middle of the night or too early in the morning), but I don’t follow tennis very closely. I do really enjoy seeing tennis in person when friends play or had tournaments. I’ll claim enough interest to be a “fan” and not disinterested or a tennis hater. However I didn’t have enough commitment to consider myself a “moderate” tennis fan. But after the Miami Open I might see myself moving more from minor to moderate. It had everything I love about tennis in person (the intense competition between players right in front of you, the rhythmic relaxation of the game), but greatly intensified. It made it easier to draw connections between the sport on a amateur level and what you see on TV. Plus I love how quiet it gets to enjoy the match (although some people were committing a huge faux pas and talking too loud or having their phones go off…).
It was a decent match between Djokovic and Isner. It was awesome to see Djokovic compete in person. The first set Isner really put up a good fight and took it down to a tie breaker. Unfortunately I think when Djokovic won that, Isner had given it all he had and didn’t have much left in him. Djokovic kind of easily took the second set. Isner also unfortunately had a lot of errors throughout both. Just kind of impossible to win when you have so many errors against the best player in the world. It was still an enjoyable match to watch, especially the first set.
I think even non-tennis fan Miamians or other “minor” fans should check out the Miami Open at least once. Tennis fans I think will love the experience of such a big tournament and the venue in Crandon Park on Key Biscayne. There’s enough “Miami” in it that it takes advantage of Miami’s best assets. Next time my friend and I will get there earlier and enjoy the fan experience and food for longer before the match. There’s a lot going on to make it an “experience” and worth spending time there outside the match. Pics of the stadium and outside fan experience below!
Miami Open- http://www.miamiopen.com/