The future of the Miami Open is in doubt. The facilities at the Crandon Park Tennis Center are woefully out of date. IMG, a sports management firm that owns the tournament, wants to spend $50 million to renovate and expand the facilities. Miami-Dade voters approved of the plan at the ballot box in 2012.
There's just one problem. His name is Bruce Matheson, and he happens to be the subject of New Times' feature story this week. His family gifted the Key Biscayne parkland where the center is located
So it appears the Miami Open may soon move.
That doesn't sit well with the sport's most dominant star, Serena Williams. She took to the pages of the New York Times today in a plea to keep the Miami Open in the Magic City while explaining how much the tournament has meant to the sport of tennis and to her family.
"One place that’s been a true home for me over the past 20 years is Miami, the host of one of the world’s most special sporting events: the Miami Open," she writes.
Williams says that after her family moved to West Palm Beach from Compton when she was 9 years old, the Miami Open was where she was first exposed to the play of the sport's stars.
A few years later, Williams herself was a star of that very tournament. In her second appearance at the tourney, she faced off against her sister Venus in the finals. It was the first of only 11 times the sisters would meet in a tournament final. Serena lost that day but has gone on to win the open eight times — more than anyone else, male or female.
Williams also points to the Miami Open's unique history as a force for gender equality in the sport. It was the first major tournament besides the four grand slams to feature both men and women.
"Perhaps even more significant, the Miami Open paid equal prize money to men and women during the first staging of the event in 1985."
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Williams doesn't take aim at anyone in particular. She doesn't lash out at Matheson or IMG. But she hopes an agreement can be made.
"As a tennis tournament, Miami has always achieved greatly despite the odds. 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," she writes. "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."
Though one man is blocking the necessary improvements to the tennis center, it's unlikely that even the sport's biggest star can single-handily save the tourney.
Seventy-year-old Matheson seems unlikely to budge. He's long been against the tournament and continues to block any potential upgrades.