Roger Federer was on hand at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the brand-new Hard Rock Stadium—which is really a stadium within a stadium (more on that later)—alongside tennis superstars Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka, and tournament director James Blake.
The 20-time grand slam champion is both excited, but among the many tennis players who have mixed feelings about moving from the traditional, picturesque, and much-beloved locale of Key Biscayne after 32 years. “It feels bittersweet, I guess,” Roger Federer told Tennis Channel’s global correspondent, Prakash Amritraj.
“I played at Crandon Park, and I know that the greats of our game walked there before, and played best of five set tennis from the first round on. “It’s been an iconic venue for a long, long time, so moving here has its benefits, I’m sure.
I’m sure in many years’ time we’ll look back and say what a great change that was. But for now, I’m a bit mixed about it but very excited about this new arena here at Hard Rock Stadium… the home of the Miami Dolphins… It’s cool, and I think it’s going to be great”.
The Hard Rock Stadium has been transformed into a unique concept, a “stadium within a stadium,” converting the home of the Miami Dolphins—a 65,000-seat football stadium into a 13,800-seat main stadium, roughly just short of the seating capacity of the 14,979 Wimbledon Centre Court venue, although not quite as mammoth as the U.S.
Open’s Arthur Ashe Stadium, which seats 23,771. The stadium parking lot has been converted into a “tennis campus” that includes a grandstand and outdoor courts that will support all the qualifying and main draw matches during the fortnight of the tournament.
The Miami Open had outgrown the Key Biscayne landscape and the renovated tournament now boasts more onsite courts, added practice courts, capacity seating, and lit-up courts. Upgrades have been employed at almost every turn with the largest video board at the VIP entrance (90 by 40 feet), an Art Open tent featuring $15-20 million worth of works including Picasso, a new VIP entrance and privileges, and many international dining choices.
The Miami Open has made the most of their new Miami Gardens move after being forced to relocate once the Key Biscayne landowner, the Matheson family, refused the tournament’s proposal to upgrade the original location to meet increased capacity.
So far, the consensus seems to be mixed, with several players taking a “wait-and-see” approach. Federer noted the similar conditions to the U.S. Open and talked about the differences between Miami and the other “Sunshine Double” venue.
“Not bad, no, I really think it’s actually pretty good. I think it’s just humid here instead of the dry heat in the desert,” Federer said, comparing Miami with Indian Wells, to Amritraj. “And I think because of the dry heat, the ball maybe bounces and jumps and travels through the air maybe just slightly faster.
But other than that, I think it’s the same ball, it’s the same court speed, and here, you have just less wind… and less sun, because now we’re seeing… the court is in the shade already basically at 1:00, which is crazy.
It reminds me a little bit of the U.S. Open nowadays, with the new dome on top”. Federer is looking to improve his performance from last year, when he shockingly went out in his first match, after having lost the Indian Wells final to Juan Martin del Potro.
The Swiss lost the BNP Paribas final again this year, to Dominic Thiem. However, he won a historic 100th ATP title at Dubai (only behind Jimmy Connors’ all-time record) and seems to be playing more freely and with greater confidence than he did coming into Miami in 2018.
“My focus has got to be doing better than last year,” Federer said in a press conference. “I really have to make sure I do my utmost to get through that first [match] and hopefully catch momentum”. The world No.
5 has committed to a fuller schedule this year, opting to participate in one clay tournament prior to his goal of playing at Roland Garros after three years. Humid conditions disrupted Federer’s turn at the U.S. Open last year, with a surprise loss to John Millman in the fourth round, despite having played stunning, finessed tennis in the earlier rounds there.
However, the 37-year-old is feeling healthier than he did then when he was dealing with a niggling hand injury. Fed seems to be taking the loss at Indian Wells in stride as well. “I'm just very happy to be at 100 [ATP titles] already,” Federer said.
“It's exciting to have won that many and to have gotten another chance in Indian Wells. It was a pity [to lose to Dominic Thiem]... but it's how it goes, so I just have to keep plugging away and hopefully give myself some opportunities.
“The important thing is to be healthy, happy playing and that's exactly how I feel right now sitting here in Miami”.