Time to do some tennis-watching — and many other things.
The qualifying matches are over at the Miami Open and the big names are loosened up and ready to start whacking tennis balls on those purple courts at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne.
Here is a survival guide/information center for attending one of South Florida’s top sporting events that is half-tennis and half-multicultural festival.
▪ Plan ahead, diversify: Pick out the big names you want to see on stadium court and set aside time to watch them.
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However, lesser-knowns compete on the outer courts, and you should also plan to check out a match or two there. The outer courts don’t often offer the big names, but some of the most competitive, entertaining matches occur there. Also, some of the biggest upsets.
It’s also fun to watch a lesser-known player compete on the outer courts and — if they win — then adopt and follow them for the rest of the tournament, or even for the rest of their career.
▪ Scout out the Crandon Park Tennis Center early: First thing to do, particularly if you are attending the Miami Open for the first time, should be to check out the whole complex by walking around the entire stadium. Get a lay of the land, and know where things are at — tennis courts, food, gift shops, areas of interest to kids, etc.
▪ Leaving: Particularly at night, and if it’s a big match on Stadium Court, expect a decent wait (half hour or so) to get out of close parking lots or to take a shuttle to get to your car. There is often a logjam of exiting immediately after a big match ends.
▪ Tournament schedule: Wednesday — Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 7:30 p.m. Thursday — Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 7:30 p.m. Friday — Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 8 p.m. Saturday — Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 8 p.m. Sunday — Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 7:30 p.m. Monday — Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 7:30 p.m. Tuesday — Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 7:30 p.m. March 30 — Men’s and women’s singles and doubles quarterfinals. Day session at 11 a.m.; Night session 7 p.m. March 31 — Women’s singles semifinals, Men’s singles quarterfinals, men’s doubles. Day session at 1 p.m.; Night session 7 p.m. April 1 — Men’s singles semifinals, women’s doubles semifinals. Day session at 1 p.m.; Night session 7 p.m. April 2 — Women’s singles final, men’s doubles final, 1 p.m. April 3 — Men’s singles final, women’s doubles final, 1 p.m.
▪ Parking: The main general parking is located on the Rickenbacker Causeway across from the Seaquarium — there are plenty of signs to get you to the general parking area. From the parking lot, shuttles will take you to the tournament’s main gate. It will take approximately 30 minutes from parking to the main gate. Shuttles run throughout the day and up to an hour after the last evening session match ends.
▪ Food, drinks and snacks: All sorts of cuisine are available at the Miami Open, from your basic hot dogs, burgers and fries to much more exotic cuisine. There are tents, booths and stands with food throughout the tournament grounds and certainly inside the stadium.
▪ Gift shops: There are many store tents throughout the grounds — from trinkets to more expensive items such as tennis rackets, sneakers and other equipment. Even expensive watches. Also available are used tennis balls from tournament play. You don’t know who hit them, but you can always tell your friends it was from a Novak Djokovic match. They won’t know the difference.
And if you are really looking to spend a big chunk of change, there are usually expensive cars on display with a hefty price sticker attached to their windows. If nothing else, you can admire the cars for free. Thankfully, purchasing them is not required.
▪ Getting clocked: Do you go around bragging you hit a 120-mph serve? You might get a harsh dose of reality at the service-clocking area when you step up and find out that your serve is actually clocked at 38 mph.
▪ Tickets: Go to miamiopen.com and click on tickets to find out how to order tickets and ticket packages.
That’s just a portion of the things available at the Miami Open, which offers — besides tennis being played by the world’s best players — a little bit of everything for everybody.
FIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH AT MIAMI OPEN
Novak Djokovic: The world No. 1 is a five-time champion here and has won three of the four tournaments he entered this year, including Indian Wells (Calif.) last week. His record last season was 82-6, and he is the heavy favorite again.
Andy Murray: The part-time Miami resident feels at home at the Miami Open, has won the title twice and made the final four times. He beat Djokovic in the 2009 final.
Roger Federer: Coming off arthroscopic knee surgery, it remains to be seen whether Federer will be in peak form. But he is a two-time champion here (2005, 2006), and eager to get back into the swing of things.
Rafael Nadal: A four-time finalist, the 29-year-old Spaniard has been inconsistent of late. But he is always in the conversation and Miami suits him because of the slow courts, climate, and Hispanic crowds.
David Ferrer: Never count out this resilient Spaniard, who reached the final in 2009.
Serena Williams: An eight-time champion in Key Biscayne, Williams is always the favorite here. But for the first time since summer of 2004, she has lost back-to-back finals -- Australian Open to Angelique Kerber and Indian Wells (Calif.) to Victoria Azarenka.
Victoria Azarenka: “Vika” has won two titles in Key Biscayne, is 16-1 so far this year, and coming off a confidence-boosting victory over Williams for the Indian Wells title.
Angelique Kerber: Anyone who is ranked No. 2 and beats Serena Williams in the Australian Open final is worth mentioning. But she has lost three matches in a row.
Agnieszka Radwanska: Always a threat to make a deep run. She is the new world No. 2 and has made the semifinals or better in all of her tournaments so far this year.
Simona Halep: She was injured and ill early in the season, but seems to be regaining her form and enters the tournament as the No. 5 seed.