When Madison Keys was 10 years old, the Miami Open, then hosted at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, was the first pro tennis tournament she ever attended.
"I just thought it was so cool, and I remember wanting to see every single top player possible," she tells New Times. "I remember those days when I was first trying to decide if I wanted to be a pro later in life."
Fast-forward to today, and the 28-year-old Orlando resident has made a name for herself in the fast-paced sport. She's ranked as high as number seven in the world, made it to the quarterfinals of every Grand Slam tournament, and is easily one of the leading ladies of American tennis.
One of her first big breaks came at the Miami Open in 2011, when she earned a wild card entry into the tournament at 16. In 2023, she hopes to take home the title at one of the most competitive tournaments in professional tennis. This year's Miami Open kicks off on Sunday, March 19, and runs through April 2 at Hard Rock Stadium.
"Since the tournament has moved to Hard Rock Stadium, everyone thinks it's just so cool. I mean, there is a chance to play on a court in a football stadium. It is unlike any other stadium we play in," Keys says. "I've had a good start to the season so far and am really trying to build off that momentum. I also have a little bit of a home-court advantage. Being so close to home has that feeling of a home tournament."
While the tennis action reaches its pinnacle during the championship weekend on Saturday, April 1, and Sunday, April 2, some of the tournament's most intimate moments are experienced throughout the week. The grounds include ten competition courts and 17 practice courts, where fans can get up close and personal with competitors.
Still, there is so much more to the Miami Open experience than just tennis. On the art front, count on murals and art installations scattered throughout the grounds of Hard Rock Stadium. There will be a Final Set concert series, a first for the tourney, with performances by Cimafunk on Friday, March 31, and Kool & the Gang on Saturday, April 1.
Local restaurants Omakai Sushi, Ella Café, Kiki on the River, Novecento, and more will be onsite, mixing bites and drinks. Speaking of Novecento, Keys is a big-time fan of the Argentine restaurant.
"Every single time I'm in Miami, I go to Novecento," she says. "Their dessert is out of this world, and as the night gets later, it gets busier and livelier. It's a good time, just like Miami itself."
Miami Open. March 19 through April 2, at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami; miamiopen.com. Single-session tickets start at $15 via ticketmaster.com.