Key Biscayne, Florida – Time seems to move slower in Miami. The humidity and warmth of the day relaxes you into a mood of ease as you cruise the I-95 and the familiar bridges or causeways over to the Keys. The people, a mix of Americano, Latino, South American, Caribbean, and European, coexist to create an immensely cultural and diverse group of tennis lovers. Here, it’s all about the culture, the accessories, and the tans.
I arrived in Miami late last night, groggy, but eager. I rushed to get my rental car but like I said, time moves slower here. I waited and waited… And that was just to get off the plane! It almost reminds me of Hawaii, the reduced traffic speeds, the nice breezes at night, even the palm trees. But there is a stark difference. Hawaii doesn’t boast world class tennis on an exclusive island just five minutes away from one of the major metropolitan destinations in the world. It’s an absolutely luxurious location filled with many of the rich and powerful, infamous for its development history, and deeply rooted in its tradition for cultural influences. It is the perfect setting for the world’s elite tennis players to call home for the next two weeks.
As I walked the grounds of the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, there were more people at the bars and restaurants than there were in the stands watching tennis. Everybody garbed in designer this or designer that, lounging for the world to see. And it was mid-day on a Wednesday, I wonder what the weekends look like? It was the combination of wonderful weather, plenty of alcoholic sponsors to choose from, a great mix of good looking people, room for the kids to run around and play, and luxury super cars adorning the shopping areas that caused me to rethink where I was for a second. Then I heard some serious ball striking, a noise only pro tennis players can create. In this unique setting, it was still clear what the attraction was.
The grounds are quite expansive and they’ve managed to stuff a white-tented shop into every nook and cranny. If there isn’t a court or a building, there’s a palm tree – I’m waiting to see a leaf fall onto a court during a point. As I walked to the very edge of the grounds where the Grandstand court was, I was already muggy and sweaty in my polo shirt. I can only imagine how the players are dealing with the immense humidity after coming straight from the desert in California.
The outer courts are somewhat cramped, with stadium seating on one side or the other of the court. It does have a sort of “back-court” feel, the kind of court at a tennis club you don’t want to be on because of lack of exposure to your peers. But the dark backdrops with Sony emblazoned on them really complimented the blue/green court well. Shooting a couple pictures of the players against this really makes the player and the ball pop out in the final shot.
After a few sets, I had to retire to the air conditioning inside of the main stadium to dry my shirt. As you walk through the under belly of the Crandon Park stadium court, you’re reminded of your highschool’s bland and dreary hallways, a nightmarish maze with unmarked doors leading to who knows what.
But just as quickly as I froze in the intense air condition, gloomy skies and thunder began to overtake the skies. A few drops, here and there, began to peck at the awnings surrounding stadium court. In anticipation, locals gathered their belongings and exited stage left while Davydenko and Lorenzi continued to avoid each other during their baseline rallies. When both felt it was time to stop play, they casually packed up their belongings with no sign of stoppage coming from the chair umpire. Flabbergasted, the chair umpire finally called play even though outer courts were still active. With all the prize money increases lately, it seems the players are running the show at the moment.
In about three and a half minutes, the sky turned to death and unleashed a torrential downpour, blanketing everything with huge raindrops. They battered signage and flooded drains; Stadium court looked like a pool. A once hot and humid day turned into a full on rain storm in a matter of hours. I wonder if things like this are to be expected around here since so many of the day’s matches started as blowouts then turned into full on three-set battles.
As Novak posted self-taken pictures of himself and his press conference audience exclaiming how excited everyone was for his pre-tournament conference (cue everyone into wacky excited poses in the background – Murphy Jensen won for biggest pose), I’ll adopt what seems to be the common mentality around here: To have fun, relax, and enjoy, whatever comes my way. Miami is an entirely different animal, but it seems manageable if you can blend in and enjoy the vibes.