South Florida tennis fans dont have to wait until March to see world-class tennis players on Key Biscayne.
The inaugural Miami Tennis Cup, an exhibition tournament which runs Friday through Sunday, features U.S. Open and Olympic champion Andy Murray and recently-retired former No. 1 Andy Roddick. Other players participating are top-ranked American John Isner, who is No. 14 in the world, 11th-ranked Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, and No. 54 Alejandro Falla of Colombia.
It will feel like a home event for both Andys, as Murray has a condo on Brickell Avenue and Roddick spent much of his youth in Boca Raton. The location was also appealing to Isner, who lives in Tampa.
Its a very easy commute for me, Isner said. I dont have to hop on a plane. I just drive to Miami, a really fun place, and I get really good practice against some top players. It is a very, very tough field. We are all looking for competition before the Australian Open, and there is no better practice than matches against good players.
The tournament is being presented by Group NOS, an Argentina-based sports and entertainment promoter. It is a Super Six double-elimination round-robin format. Murray and Roddick got automatic byes to the semifinal, and will play each other Saturday at 5 p.m. The final is Sunday at 5 p.m. All matches will be played on stadium court at the Crandon Park Tennis Center, site of the Sony Open. A crowd of 7,000 is expected.
Roddick has many memories on those grounds. He won the Orange Bowl Jr. Tennis Championship in 1999, beat Pete Sampras there, and beat Juan Carlos Ferrero in a final there. Roddick announced his retirement during the U.S. Open in September.
Isner said he will be missed on tour, and that it will be strange not to have him around the Australian Open locker room. He saw Roddick recently at James Blakes wedding.
Hes been spending a lot of time on his golf game, Isner said. He has the luxury of being able to travel and play golf, so hes hooked now. Im not sure how much tennis hes played since his retirement, but Im sure hell still play good matches here. He still knows how to hit a ball.
Isner, who is 6-10, said though he had ups and downs this season, he fulfilled one of his annual goals to finish ranked higher than the year before.
I was 100-something, then the next year 35, then 20, then 18, and now 14, so Im happy with that, he said. I could have done better, but overall I felt I had a good year.