Tennis

Miami Open starts as director talks future, Raymond Moore dispute

Novak Djokovic, the top seed in the Miami Open who won the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, will play his opening-round match on Friday night in Key Biscayne.
Novak Djokovic, the top seed in the Miami Open who won the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, will play his opening-round match on Friday night in Key Biscayne. AP

naThe Miami Open got started Monday in Key Biscayne with chillier-than-usual temperatures and under overcast skies and a cloud of uncertainty about the long-range future of the 31-year-old tennis tournament.

A lengthy legal battle over proposed improvements has led to rumors that the tournament will eventually move to another U.S. city or overseas.

Miami Open officials say they have to upgrade facilities in order to keep up with the swankier tournaments and plan to fund the $50 million project with private money. A countywide ballot item passed with 73 percent of the vote. But the project is opposed by Bruce Matheson, whose family made a deal with the county to give up the land in the 1940s, but still has a say in how the land is used.

“We continue to be focused on running a world-class event year to year, as well as looking toward the future,” tournament director Adam Barrett said. “We have eight years, eight tournaments left on the current lease, and we will make every improvement, while working with our partners, to make it one of the finest in the world.”

“We will be here as long as we can continue to run a world-class event, and we will continue to do everything we can. We have eight years to look at all of our options, and are keeping them all open.”

Barrett was also asked to respond to inflammatory comments made Sunday by BNP Paribas Open tournament director Raymond Moore regarding women’s tennis.

Before Sunday’s finals at Indian Wells, California, Moore said women in tennis “ride on the coattails of the men.”

He also said: “They are very, very lucky. If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport.”

Moore went on to refer to women’s players as “physically attractive and competitively attractive.” He later issued an apology.

Barrett, a member of the WTA Board, said: “We were all shocked to hear what came out of California.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done with the WTA and extremely proud of an event that led equal prize money in 1985. We are the one sport in which the men’s product and the women’s product play on the same playing field.

“Yes, Roger and Rafa have been unbelievable for this game and have risen the game, and we have all taken advantage of that whether you’re a tournament director, men’s player, women’s player. They’ve helped us all sell more tickets and be better as a sport. But they’re not the only two. Venus and Serena did the same thing. A 17-year-old Maria Sharapova winning Wimbledon did the same thing. When you had Steffi Graf and Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati and Lindsay Davenport, same thing.

“The game is cyclical.”

Steve Simon, the WTA CEO, called Moore’s comments “disappointing and alarming.”

“The WTA stands on its own and was founded on the principles of equality and empowerment. I am proud of all the strong athletes on the WTA who put in hard work and sacrifice every single day. Tennis as a whole is enriched by the contributions and accomplishments of every player, both male and female.”

The Miami Open men’s draw was held Monday, and Roger Federer, making a comeback from knee surgery, could face Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in his opening match and could face David Ferrer in the quarterfinals, No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals and Andy Murray in the final.

Defending champion Serena Williams plays her first match in the Thursday day session. Federer and Venus Williams make their debuts Friday afternoon, and Djokovic on Friday night. Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal headline the Saturday day session.

It was a good day for Americans in Monday’s qualifying rounds. Among the winners were Sachia Vickery, Ana Tatishvili, Taylor Fritz, Noah Rubin, Alex Kuznetsov, Bjorn Fretangelo, Dennis Novikov, Tim Smyczek and Tommy Paul.

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