The Miami Open is one of the biggest and most prestigious stops on all of the ATP and WTA, being classified an ATP Masters 1000 and a WTA Premier Mandatory. While hosting the world's best players and being located in a global vacation hot spot, VAVEL USA gives you an exclusive look into what it's like to be at the Miami Open.
Players: Five Stars
With the Miami Open being one of only nine exclusive ATP Masters 1000 events and one of four WTA Premier Mandatories, the Florida tournament is guaranteed a stellar field, attracting nearly all top 50 players, including almost all the top 10. Arguably the tournament's biggest draw this year was world number one and eight-time Miami Open champion Serena Williams, who bowed out in the fourth round to eventual finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova.
On the men's side, the biggest draw was four-time Miami runner up Rafael Nadal. With the high percentage of Latins in the Miami community, Nadal was given thunderous support, but unfortunately for the fans, the Spaniard could not continue in his opening match due to an illness. Another one of the big name casualties was two-time Miami Open champion Roger Federer, who was forced to withdraw due to a stomach illness. Also absent was five-time finalist Maria Sharapova, who is currently provisionally suspended due to a failed drug test. Even with the high profile losses early on, this tournament delivers one of the best player fields all year, being second in prestige, only to the four Grand Slams.
Venue: Three Stars
Probably the biggest knock against the tournament is their fairly outdated venues. The tournament has been trying to renovate the site, but is currently being blocked by Bruce Matheson, a member of the family which donated Crandon Park to Miami Dade County. The tournament boasts one permanent stadium which holds 13,300 and a temporary Grandstand along with courts one and two. While facilities might not compare against the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, the main stadium at Miami boasts impressive skylines throughout and four levels of seating: box level (100), suite level (200), terrace level seating (300), and bleacher seating (400).
Outside of the courts, the facilities feature beautiful palm trees throughout, many areas to relax and watch matches on big screens, activities for fans, and various sponsorship booths throughout. Overall, the facilities at the Crandon Park Tennis Center might be in need of some renovation, but the stadiums on-site still make this event one of the best on the ATP and WTA.
Fan Experience: Four Stars
As a fan at the tournament, you are guaranteed to see some of the world's best daily with all the best players descending upon Miami to show their skills. Other than world-class matches, fans can relax at a sandy beach with Adirondack chairs and a big screen, play ping-pong in the sand, or get food at the Collectors Club. Fans can also visit multiple different shops for tournament memorabilia and the latest in tennis fashion, see sponsor activities, and check out drinks at the Moet & Chandon Sushi Lounge.
For fans looking to get closer to their favorite players, the Itau experience booth has daily autograph sessions with the world's best, and the practice courts give fans an exclusive look to see how their favorites train. Meeting players is fairly easy here, but sometimes the high security can be tough for fans looking to get pictures with the biggest stars. Overall, the Miami Open gives an excellent experience to all fans, providing a truly unique product on tour.
Atmosphere: Four Stars
The atmosphere at the Miami Open is definitely, at times, the tournament's best selling point, and at others a knock against it. When South American or Spanish players play, the Latin support comes out highly, with players like Nadal, Garbiñe Muguruza, and Thomaz Bellucci garnering a great deal of support from locals. Americans also get fairly good support, particularly Serena and Venus Williams and John Isner. While yours truly was at the Isner vs Smyczek match, a match which Isner went on to lose, the six foot ten American received some of the best support most had ever see him get, with the crowd fully behind him.
At the Nadal - Dzumhur match, arguably the best-attended match of the tournament, Nadal gained loads of support form Latins, with the Stadium nearly full for the match, truly exemplifying the title of the Latin Grand Slam. With the energy and buzz of the local Latin community and American support, fans at the Miami Open truly bring a loud voice in supporting their favorite players.
Food: Five Stars
After previous years of average food offerings, the tournament really stepped it up this year with a multitude of offerings for even the pickiest of eaters. Yours truly enjoyed great meals at Putinto Pizzeria, All American Classics, and Crepe Express. This columnist devoured his beloved meatball hero at Putinto Pizzeria and the next day, got a delicious pepperoni, personal pizza there as well. In addition, the classic American food at All American Classics was great as well, with my chicken tenders and fries being great as well. With the variety of different food options the tournament offers, the food court at the Miami Open truly has something for everyone.
Hotels: Four Stars
One of the best things about the event being hosted in a big city is the many choices of hotels to fit any budget. With this being my third year visiting the Miami Open, this columnist had been to many different hotels across Miami, including the Hilton Miami Downtown, the Hyatt Miami, and the JW Marriott Marquis Miami. The Hilton allowed for shuttle access nearby and a nice suite, as does the JW Marriott Marquis Miami, which is also the official players hotel of the tournament. With the Marquis being a five star hotel, it offered many different amenities including three fine dining restaurants, a fitness center, and a rooftop pool. While staying there, yours truly bumped into many players including Stan Wawrinka, Petra Kvitova, and Rafael Nadal.
This year though, yours truly stayed at the Hyatt Miami, which had the best rate on IMG's travel site for the tournament. Unfortunately, the hotel had an old, run-down room, with furnishing and style from around the 80's. The hotel had trouble providing ample towels and toiletries and was not up to Miami Open standards. Next year, a better option will definitely be to go back to the JW Marriott Marquis, as the service and rooms there were much better than that of the Hyatt.
Access: Two Stars
The biggest knock against this tournament has to be the grueling fight to get to the site daily. With the tournament being located at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, staying in downtown where most of the hotels are can prove to be a challenge. Though the hotels have shuttles, the shuttles have tended to be way off of scheduled times and expensive. The only road into Key Biscayne, the Rickenbacker Causeway, is a two lane road, and moves quite slowly. Getting onto site can be a big pain as often times, it takes 30 minutes to get there.
Leaving site is often worse, as at night, the shuttles are reduced to hourly and often leave way off of schedule, causing for commuting nightmares. Getting to the tournament is definitely the worst part of the tournament, ultimately most tennis fans will tell you it's worth it, as would yours truly.
Overall, for a hardcore tennis fan or a casual club player, the Miami Open has something for everyone, giving fans the chance to see the world's best at a fairly low price in beautiful weather in Miami. All tennis fans need to have this world class event on their calendars for next year to experience the bright, Latin American vibe of this incredible tournament.