Tennis

Serena Williams backs Miami Open: ‘I feel like this is my home’

Serena Williams talks equal pay, Novak Djokovic at Miami Open

Serena Williams talks about Novak Djokovic's remarks concerning women tennis players' lack of salary parity versus men's.
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Serena Williams talks about Novak Djokovic's remarks concerning women tennis players' lack of salary parity versus men's.

Serena Williams does not want her favorite tournament to leave Key Biscayne.

Williams, the three-time defending champion at the Miami Open, wrote a New York Times op-ed in support of the South Florida event that was published Tuesday, and later in the day she restated her desire for the tournament to remain in Crandon Park during a media session.

“This is a tournament that I’ve grown up coming to,” Williams said. “It’s been just so great for tennis for decades. I feel like this is my home here, I feel like I play well here, I feel like things click for me here … it’s always a good stepping stone for the rest of my year.”

Leaving Miami would be a blow to our sport, to the city of Miami and to me.

Serena Williams, on the potential loss of the Miami Open

Williams wrote about attending the tournament with her father, Richard, and her sister Venus, when it was known as the Lipton International Players Championships. She also praised the Miami Open’s support of up-and-coming players as well as its early willingness to combine the men’s and women’s events and pay the male and female winners equal prize money.

“As a tennis tournament, Miami has always achieved greatly despite the odds,” Williams wrote. “It doesn’t take place in the biggest city; it’s not the oldest, nor is it the most traditional. But the tournament keeps moving forward, finding creative ways of improving each year.

“Leaving Miami would be a blow to our sport, to the city of Miami and to me. The tournament has, in many ways, set the standard for tennis events around the world in a unique time and place, and I hope we can all work together to improve this home court.”

Adam Barrett, the Miami Open’s tournament director, said he was “humbled” and “flattered” by Williams’ op-ed.

“She’s always been a good friend of the tournament,” Barrett said. “This has always felt like her home court … when she’s here, there’s an extra bounce that she has.”

The Miami Open has been involved in a legal battle with the Matheson family, the original owners of its Crandon Park location, over permission to renovate the tournament facilities. In December, the tournament lost an appeal that would have allowed them to make their desired renovations, and the tournament’s lawyer, Eugene Stearns, discussed the possibility of leaving Key Biscayne before the end of its current contract.

“Our goal is not to move, not to stay, it’s to run a world-class event, and we need to continue being able to run that world-class event,” Barrett said.

William Morris Endeavor, which represents Serena Williams, bought IMG Worldwide in December 2013. IMG also runs the Miami Open, but Barrett said he first read Williams’ op-ed on Tuesday morning.

“No one puts words into Serena’s mouth,” Barrett said. “The coordination would be no different if it was any other thing.”

Williams is the top seed in the women’s draw and has a bye to the tournament’s second round, where she will face the winner of the match between Japan’s Misaki Doi and American Christina McHale.

Williams remains in search of her first tournament victory of the 2016 season after a loss to Victoria Azarenka in the final at Indian Wells, California. Williams also lost the Australian Open final to Angelique Kerber, who is the second seed in the Miami Open women’s draw.

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