One by one, the best tennis players in the world lamented the departure of the Miami Open from Key Biscayne to Miami Gardens. Not a single player said they were gleeful about the change – while acknowledging they have no control over the situation – and plenty had emotional opinions about playing tennis in paradise lost.
This year’s Australian Open winner and one of the most popular players on the WTA, Caroline Wozniacki, wasn’t shy about sharing her feelings about playing on Key Biscayne for the final time. “I’m really sad to see it go from here,” she said. “Ideally it would have 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.”
Gone, players said, will be the scenic drive over the Rickenbacker Causeway that fans and players alike rave about as they experience tennis at Crandon Park.
Caroline Garcia, a French player of Spanish descent, wore a big smile when talking about her team and their accommodations during this year’s Miami Open. “We are staying on the island on Key Biscayne, so we are definitely going to miss this place,” Garcia said.
The new stadium will be at Hard Rock Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins play.
The surrounding area is neighborhood that statistics show has experienced a higher-than-average crime rate among communities in Miami-Dade County: According to City Rating, in 2010 the Miami Gardens violent crime rate was higher than the violent crime rate in Florida by 77 percent and the city property crime rate was 38 percent higher. That said, City Rating states crime rates have decreased in the past seven years, especially in terms of property crimes and violent crimes.
Of course, the players and fans will be as insulated from the world outside the stadium grounds as part of the new Miami Open experience, but some say it is still a far cry from leaving Stadium Court on Key Biscayne to relax on the beach or stroll along the walkways lush with plant life and exotic birds.
America’s top male player, Jack Sock, admitted he will miss playing at Crandon Park – but as a huge sports fan, he did say he looks forward to seeing how other athletes live in Hard Rock Stadium. “It’s going to be like a day in the life of an NF player,” Sock said. “As a big NFL fan, I’m very excited to go over there and see the locker rooms and be able to use their facilities.”
Grigor Dimitrov was eloquent in his assessment of the situation. He talked about playing on Court 1 at Crandon Park as a 14-year-old, saying he has been coming to the Key for so long that it “just feels natural.”
The 4th-ranked Bulgarian superstar added, “There’s so much history for me coming to that tournament going back to juniors until now. The buildup to that is great and I’ve spent so much offseason here and I know everything around, so that makes it feel even more like home. It will be different, it will be very different. I think going to the tournament next year is going to be different; you’re not going to go across that bridge every day, and you’re not going to go to Key Biscayne at all, so it’s going be a different event for us.”
Dimitrov went so far as to say the improvements at the venue where less important to him than the history of the site.
“To be completely honest, I’m one of those guys who’s not pretentious at all,” he said. “I’m just happy with things the way they are. I’m very like, I don’t want to say old school, but I like things as they are, like the history behind tennis and those things, but I guess it was time for a change.
“There’s a lot of history here for me coming to the Orange Bowl, driving through the bridge, coming to Key Biscayne, basically knowing you’re going to be on that little island, but that’s that. There’s not much I can say about it, but for sure it’s going to be missed. I think we all have accepted it and made peace with it, and we have to move on.”
Novak Djokovic, a 12-time Grand Slam winner and one of the sport’s all-time great players, came through Crandon Park on his path to superstardom. He summed up the feelings many have about leaving the iconic tennis venue: “A lot of people are connected and emotional about Key Biscayne, and I’m one of them,” Djokovic said, reminiscing about the Miami Open’s longtime location. “I have great memories and success at this tournament and good times on the island.”