Rain washes out Miami Open, but this puppy was a big winner

Rain washed out all 36 matches at the Miami Open on Tuesday, but there was one big winner: Pop, the 2-month-old Terrier mix who was adopted on Tuesday morning by world No. 3 Alexander “Sascha” Zverev.
Rain washed out all 36 matches at the Miami Open on Tuesday, but there was one big winner: Pop, the 2-month-old Terrier mix who was adopted on Tuesday morning by world No. 3 Alexander “Sascha” Zverev.

Rain washed out all 36 matches at the Miami Open on Tuesday, but there was one big winner: Pop, the 2-month-old Terrier mix who was adopted on Tuesday morning by world No. 3 Alexander “Sascha” Zverev.

The German tennis star and nearly a dozen other players spent part of the soggy day visiting the Humane Society of Greater Miami as part of Miami Open Unites, a tournament community service project that also included visiting sick children and feeding the homeless. The puppy will be moving to Monte Carlo with his new owner.

“I’m taking him home with me, taking him to Europe,” Zverev said of his new furry friend. “He chose me, actually. I came into the room with all the little puppies and he came up to me and kind of never left me, so he’s very happy and I’m quite happy, too. I didn’t expect to take a dog home today, thought I would just come visit. I already have a dog and hopefully, they’ll become best friends.”

After 31 years, the Miami Open said goodbye to Key Biscayne in 2018. But Hard Rock Stadium seems to be ready to host the world-class tennis tournament in 2019.

Among the players who were scheduled to play on Day Two of the tournament were 2016 Olympic champion and Miami resident Monica Puig, charismatic former Miami Open semifinalist Andrea Petkovic, and 17-year-old Amanda Anisomova of Aventura, who reached the fourth round of the 2019 Australian Open.

As players waited out the extended rain delays, they enjoyed the amenities of Hard Rock Stadium, the event’s new home after 30 years on Key Biscayne. Player lounges, dining areas, locker rooms and gyms have been considerably expanded. One of the most popular spots was the artificial turf mini soccer field in the northwest corner of the stadium, where some tennis players showed off their soccer skills while others used the green space to work out.

A view of the rain falling over the stadium during second day of the Miami Open tennis tournament on Tuesday, March 19, 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. Tuesday’s matches (Session 2) at the Miami Open have been cancelled due to inclement weather. DAVID SANTIAGO

Meanwhile, outside in the vast entertainment plaza, fans stayed under cover while enjoying food and beverage at stylish spots such as Kiki on the River, Casa Tua Cucina, Bourbon Steak, Moet Chandon/Sushi Maki Garden and Novecento.

Huddled up at Casa Tua were Miami friends Geraldine Anel, Ameli Padron and Mairelys Diaz – veterans of the Miami Open. Anel attended “at least 10 years” at Key Biscayne, and Padron and Diaz the past few years. They were unsure what to expect from the new venue, but said they were pleasantly surprised.

First day of the 2019 Miami Open tennis tournament at Hard Rock Stadium after 30 years on Key Biscayne, March 18, 2019.

Seventy-eight percent of the Miami Open ticket buyers in Key Biscayne were from Miami-Dade County. Tournament organizers say the new location has led to increased ticket sales in Broward and Palm Beach Counties and the Naples area.

“I really like the space here, the food options, and that every corner there is something for kids,” said Diaz. “It’s much better than I expected. I like the vibe. Definitely it’s a different ride from my house to Key Biscayne, with the scenery on the bridge, but when once you get inside here, it’s tennis and it’s very nice. The stadium court looks cozy and more intimate.”

“I like it here, it’s bigger and they have more places to eat,” said Padron. “I have to say, it looks a little more high-end, the setup is a little more open, airy. It’s got a lot of potential.”

“The parking lot is much, much better than the parking lot at Key Biscayne,” said Anel. “You are right at the entrance and then you go in. At Key Biscayne you had to cross the busy street. I like it here a lot, even though it is raining.”

Those words were music to the ears of tournament executives Mark Shapiro, the president of IMG parent company Endeavor, and Tom Garfinkel, the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium Vice Chair, President and CEO.

In addition to collaborating on the $70 million project, they tripled the staff, doubled the food counters to 300 spots, tripled the garbage cans, and added bathrooms and seating areas.

“It’s so alive, there’s so much energy, so much to of our biggest challenges is going to be making certain people are in the stands watching tennis because the rest of the festivities are so fun, so exciting and engaging that you’re not going to want to leave the couch,” said Shapiro. “You’re sitting on a couch at a first-class restaurant and don’t even realize you’re in a parking lot. Rarely does something outperform your blueprint, but that’s what happened here.

“The art, the food, the drinks, the scenery, the people-watching, music, and oh, yeah, there’s a top-flight tennis match breaking out.”

Garfinkel said the new venue is a reflection of Miami, and exactly what they were aiming for when Ross first dreamed up the idea in the summer of 2016.

“We had more faith that we could turn it into something special than the skeptics,” Garfinkel said. “People were expecting tents in parking lots, but we knew we could create a unique, upscale event that is also accessible to a lot of people. Miami’s a curator of culture for the rest of the country, and in some ways the rest of the world. Art, music, food, fashion, and sports. We wanted to create a great experience for casual tennis fans and hard-core fans.”

“In Key Biscayne they had a smaller footprint and had run out of room to do more. Because we have a bigger footprint, we figure if we want to compete with the U.S. Opens and the Indian Wells of the world and get over 500,000 people, we can do that.”

Note: Ticket holders for Session 2 can exchange their tickets for grounds passes for Session 3 (Wednesday March 20) or Session 5 (Thursday March 21). Guests can make the exchange at the South East box office beginning at 9 a.m. on both days. Session 2 parking passes will also be accepted those dates. For more information, call the Miami Open ticket office at 305-943-6736.

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Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.