The mercury peaks above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and tennis athletes are all set to take the stage at Crandon Park in Miami to amass a lot of ranking points. The Miami Masters, one of the most significant tournaments has kicked off on the slowest hard courts on tour. So what is the secret behind the success of the Miami Open? Let us trace back our steps and dwell into its interesting history.
Butch Buchholz was a former World No.5 and was a part of the “Handsome Eight” of tennis. Due to a chronic tennis elbow injury, his career faced an abrupt end. But Buchholz didn’t want to end his association with tennis so soon. Almost a decade after his retirement, he became the executive director of the ATP. During that time Buccholz met the vice president of the Thomas J. Lipton Company and proposed an idea of creating a 2-week tournament.
During that time the Australian Open was held in December. The tournament proposed by Buchholz was the first tournament of the year. First time in 56 years, a two-week tournament was launched in 1985. The tournament titled by Lipton was thus dubbed as the Winter Wimbledon. The first tournament was held in Laver International Tennis Resort in Delray Beach Buchholz made a deal with ATP and WTA and eventually bagged the tournament rights for the next 15 years.
The first Lipton International Players Championships was held in 1985. Tim Mayotte and Martina Navratilova were the first champions. It was a huge success but the Laver Tennis Resort was facing a financial crisis which forced the tournament’s venue to be shifted. The next tournament was held in Boca West. Obstacles continued despite the tournament’s growing success in its second consecutive year. The venue at Boca West was sold and the tournament was once again homeless.
A Permanent Home
Merrett Stierheim, the then WTA Executive Director helped Buchholz to shift the tournament to Miami. He suggested multiple venues in Miami and Buchholz chose the one that borders Key Biscayne. This is what Buchholz had to say about the tennis center at Crandon Park:
“You go over that bridge, and it’s like leaving a city and entering tropical paradise. It had that postcard feeling I was hoping for, and then I saw those 5,000 parking spots [by the beach], and I thought, ‘This is it.’ “
The event in Miami was widely appreciated and enjoyed by the players and the spectators. In a lightning quick speed, the draw at Miami showed one of the most competitive fields on tour and was surpassed only by Grand Slams. The Stadium Court which was worth $20 million was widely known for being the best center courts in the world.
One game, different names
Now into its 32nd year, the event in Miami has been renamed on multiple occasions. In 1992, it was known as the Lipton Championships. Buchholz sold his tournament rights to IMG. The following year, it was renamed to Ericsson Open. Two years hence, it got a new name, the Nasdaq-1000 Open. In 2007, Sony Ericcson signed a deal for seven years to be its title sponsor. As a result, it was once again tagged as the Sony Ericcson Open.
Recently, in 2014, the International Bank Itau became the official title sponsor.
Ever since it made its way into the big picture, the Miami Open has seen an increasing attendance every passing year. In 2016, more than 3,00,000 visitors attended the event. The Miami Open is known for having one of the best on-site guest experiences. Food, dance, music are sources of entertainments for all the tennis fans.
The Miami Open is estimated to receive over 14000 hours of global TV coverage and will be broadcast to 193 countries/territories to near 70 million viewers worldwide in 2017.
Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic hold the record for most Miami Open titles (6) in the men’s singles category whereas Serena Williams leads the women’s singles category with 8 titles.
The Miami Open is becoming one of the most important international global events in sports. 15,000 hotel nights are booked each year. Moreover, the tournament generates a county-wide economic impact of $386 million; almost equivalent to a Super Bowl!