On the first day of the last Miami Open to be played at Key Biscayne there were mixed emotions among the players about the pending move from the Crandon Park Tennis Center to a new state-of-the-art facility located at the Hard Rock Stadium next year.
There was hardly anyone Tuesday who didn’t express sadness at leaving the tropical confines of Key Biscayne behind after 31 years, but many were excited about the promised bigger — and better — relocation venue.
Eighth-seeded Jack Sock, the top-ranked American in the men’s game, is pumped about playing at the home of the Miami Dolphins.
“It’s going to be like a day in the life of an NFL player,” said Sock, a Kansas City Chiefs fan, who projected about the atmosphere he’s expecting for the tournament going forward. “As s big NFL fan I’m very excited to go over there and see the locker rooms and be able to use their facilities.”
Reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki, who reached the Miami Open final last year, is torn between her affection for the current locale and looking forward to experiencing something different.
“I think it’s a little bit of mixed feelings,” said Wozniacki, a longtime owner of an apartment in Miami. “I’m really sad to see it go from here. Ideally, it would’ve been amazing if it would’ve stayed here, and would’ve been able to expand here, because there’s something special about playing at Key Biscayne.
“In my head, having been to the football stadium, I have a hard time seeing how everything is going to work out, how it’s going to feel as cozy and special as here,” Wozniacki said. “But, obviously, there’s great plans for the expansion and it was needed.”
Players familiar with the Hard Rock Stadium location know that the Florida Turnpike won’t offer as grand of a welcome as the current drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway with the Miami skyline and ocean in full view. But there’s hope the renowned Miami Open fans — who have always rocked the house at Key Biscayne — will make the drive north to the new facility.
“I definitely think that coming to that tournament next year is going to be different,” said third-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. “You’re not going to go over that bridge every day.
“To be completely honest I’m one of those guys whose not pretentious and I’m happy with the way things are,” Dimitrov said. “I like the history behind tennis, but I guess it was time for a change.”
Ninth-seeded Novak Djokovic, who along with Andre Agassi, shares the record for most Miami Open victories at six apiece, is coming off of a serious elbow injury. The former No. 1 missed the last six months of play last year, and had minor elbow surgery following the Australian Open this January.
Djokovic understands why there’s a tug to remain in the lush surroundings of Key Biscayne, but supports the move knowing that legal restrictions preventing the improvement and expansion of Crandon Park necessitate a positive evolution for the event.
“A lot of people are connected and emotional about Key Biscayne and I’m one of them,” Djokovic said. “I have great memories and success at this tournament, and good times on this island. If someone wants to take this tournament to another level and create more buzz and prosperity for the fans and players, I don’t see any negatives there.”
As has become tradition, the women’s main draw commenced on Tuesday with 12 first-round main draw matches on the schedule.
Two American woman advanced without having to complete their first-round matches. Christina McHale was trailing Kaia Kanepi 1-3 when the Estonian retired, and Alison Riske was leading 6-1 when Oceane Dodin of France retired.
Sixteen-year-old wildcard recipient Amanda Anisimova of Aventura, who upset ninth-ranked Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells last week, posted a 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 first-round win over Wang Qiang of China. The 130th-ranked Anisimova's win over Wang is her fourth-career victory over a top 100 ranked player.