Tennis legend Roger Federer warms up on a practice court before hitting the stadium for his match.
As a fan who's been to a Dolphins game (or 50), walking into Hard Rock Stadium and seeing a massive, temporary, 14,000-seat tennis utopia was, well, a little weird.
With nearly 30 courts lined between its Southwest and Southeast gates, planted amid the exterior parking lot, this was not your average tennis tournament.
This certainly wasn’t the National Tennis Center in New York hosting the U.S. Open, Indian Wells Tennis Garden hosting the BNP Paribas Open, or even Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, which hosted the Miami Open prior to 2019. The move to Hard Rock Stadium marked a new era for the Miami Open. And once you adjusted to the quirky, grand scale of it all, it was fun and full of Miami flair.
Kiki on the River's Miami Open pop-up.
Peter Stepanek Photography
Complementing two weeks of world-class tennis action, Miami Open fans perused a row of food trucks adjacent to the practice courts, South Florida-inspired street art, an art gallery with work by Fernando Botero, and regional grub galore. You could snack on tacos at Avos ‘n Tacos, Argentinian empanadas at Novecento and ahi de gallina
bowls at Suviche. You could also dance your ass off at Kiki on the Rive, a popup rooftop club of sorts that overlooked the tournament’s principal, bustling promenade. Lacoste, the official apparel and footwear sponsor, slapped its colorful crocodiles on all tournament worker uniforms, with scattered shops throughout the grounds selling more branded gear.
There was so much more than just tennis at the Miami Open.
But on the tennis front, there was no shortage of enthralling action. In fact, it was so entertaining that 15 of 24 total sessions at Hard Rock Stadium set tournament attendance records.
Twelve-seeded Australian Ashleigh Barty took down the five-seed, Karolina Pliskova, 7-6 (1), 6-3 on the women’s side. The Miami Open win was the biggest of Barty’s career in a field that saw Serena Williams withdraw (after the round of 64) and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka as well as last year’s champ (Sloane Stephens) fall in the round of 32.
Roger Federer signs tennis balls before embarking on his Miami Open journey. He later won the tournament.
On the men’s side, it was a major coming-out party for two Canadian teens, unseeded Felix Auger-Aliassime and 20-seed Denis Shapovalov. While they both lost in the semifinals, it became crystal-clear that we’ll surely be seeing much more of them on the big stage. In the final, fan-favorite and legend Roger Federer, took down defending champ John Isner 6-1, 6-4, to claim his fourth Miami Open title and 101st ATP singles title.
With its first stint at Hard Rock Stadium in the books, the Miami Open setup is being dismantled. It’ll soon appear that the whole thing never happened. But after this successful first year, you’ll want to be at Hard Rock Stadium when the Miami Open returns next year.