Miami Open: Tennis stars have mixed reviews of Dolphins stadium venue

MIAMI, March 21 (UPI) — Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Simona Halep were among the tennis stars with mixed reviews of the Miami Open’s venue change to Hard Rock Stadium.

The annual 12-day tournament was first played in Delray Beach, Fla., before it moved to Key Biscayne in Miami, where it stayed for three decades. The Miami Open signed an agreement to move the tournament to Hard Rock Stadium starting this year.

The new venue features a 14,000-seat center court within the Miami Dolphins‘ home stadium and 28 additional permanent tournament and practice courts on the campus. Despite the massive scope of the venue and state-of-the-art upgrades, memories remain of the beauty at Key Biscayne.

“It is very different,” said Federer, a three-time Miami Open champion. “We have a tennis stadium within another stadium. In some ways it’s incredibly exciting for one-off exhibition matches or some Davis Cup ties. In the past, we’ve seen these situations happen, but not for a full-blown event for 12 days.”

“I think it’s a big change. Look, we left an iconic venue in our sport in Key Biscayne. Back in the day we had best of five set first rounds at Key Biscayne.”

Many tennis players consider the Miami Open an additional Grand Slam tournament. Williams, a part-owner of the Dolphins, likes that she lives near the new tournament location.

“I’m glad to be able to witness it, play in it and enjoy it,” the eight-time Miami Open champ said.

“I had so many unbelievable memories at Key Biscayne,” Williams added. “But it’s now time for me and the tour and everyone else that has been here today, Roger, Novak [Djokovic], Naomi [Osaka], to start to create new memories at Hard Rock Stadium. As partowner, it’s super cool because they worked really hard on this. I’ve never played in a tournament where I’m part owner of it.”

Halep, ranked No. 3 in the world, said the venue is an improvement for the players, but it’s a little bit far from her hotel in Miami.

“I think they did a good a good job for the first year,” Halep said. “We will see in the future. I’m sure they’ll improve year-by-year.”

Osaka, the top women’s player, thought the idea was interesting when she first heard the tournament was moving. She was in Miami weeks before the 2019 tournament in order to check out the venue.

The two-time Grand Slam champ has yet to win a Miami Open title. Osaka was born in Japan but raised in nearby Fort Lauderdale.

“It would definitely mean a lot [to win],” Osaka said. “I grew up watching all of these great players winning it. I think I was there for one of the finals. Just to come from being a kid in the audience to being the one holding the trophy would mean a lot.”

The 2019 Miami Open women’s singles final is at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 30. The men’s final is at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 31.

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