Hello guys, I am very excited to write about and share with you my experience at this year’s Miami Open, a tournament I attended for the first time. As far as other tournaments go, I have only been to the Western and Southern Open located in Cincinnati in the past, 2013 and 2014 and those were amazing experiences. Now, towards the end of 2014 I strongly started to consider going to the Miami Open because I always like to try new things and I knew it would be another great experience if I could go because tennis is amazing in person. This wasn’t the first year I considered it either because this event is at a perfect time every year and the location is very good for me. It’s always during my birthday at some point, and I always figured it’d be fun to spend a birthday at a huge sporting event, particularly my favorite sport. I also have relatives in Florida that don’t live very far away from it, and lo and behold this was the year I finally made it happen.
I want to try to write some pros and cons about this event and perhaps compare some of them to Cincy because some there were a few things that stood out.
- Grounds: One of the first things you realize as you start to get familiar with the grounds is how controlled and open it really is. What I mean is no matter how crowded it got, it seemed there was never any trouble getting around or getting too hectic at any point; it wasn’t really hard to find anything either. I was also especially surprised how there were never any huge lines for food stands or bathrooms, ever! Like in Cincy it seemed to me you were always standing in huge lines for like 15-20 mins, and here I could just walk right up to anything even during the crowded days.
- Stadium/Match Atmosphere: For those who have gone to a live event, you know it’s important to have good crowds to enhance the matches. I was only there for the first week so the crowds were a little sparser than normal but still it seemed the crowds were always pretty good. The stadium is really nice even if I was up top but I got to sit lower than my assigned seats every day because there wasn’t a whole lot of people there and I loved my seats. At nighttime too it’s hard to beat it, especially during that Sharapova match was probably the best match I saw with the crowd into it. It was also nice to be able to walk into any court on the grounds and watch any match I wanted and get really close, obviously closer than you get in the stadium. I prefer seeing outer court matches because of that reason but stadium can get you some great ones too which I saw. My favorite match I went to was Simo’s match which I got into a little more detail later. Aside from her I would say Sharapova’s match, Stan’s match and Delpo’s match were ones I really enjoyed.
- Player experience: The whole fun of going to tennis events is seeing how close you can get to the players and in Cincy it was very easy to be able to see them up close during practice. Here was the same thing as you could sit right on the practice courts and get really close which is always nice to enjoy.
There was something else about that though that I thought was even cooler. It literally seemed like you could not go very long without spotting a player walking around on the grounds where all of the fans were, and a lot of times they went unnoticed by many, even some of the bigger ones. I’m talking they would just stroll through the food court area because it was set up where they had to go through there to get to some of the practice courts and it was fun to just see them blend in with the others. I would catch myself being able to walk casually right behind a top player and it was just cool to me. Now I’m not one of those people who feel the need to approach them all of the time for autographs because a lot of times you see them walking to practice and that’s not the best time. You just have to be able to pick the right time, like after, and most of them are very friendly. I feel in Cincy I didn’t really bump into as many players, and even if I did, it was so crowded at times you couldn’t really get that close. Maybe it’s just me.
- Fan Events: There were two big events I wondered how easy it would be to access and they were the draw ceremonies and media day. Both passed my expectations with flying colors. The draw ceremonies were Monday and because there weren’t many people there for the first day of only qualifying, it was easy to get right up there and watch them do both draws and get close to the players helping too. The ATP one did get a bit jammed at one point, probably because nobody knew it as the WTA one got leaked the day before, but nothing I couldn’t handle since I was in the front anyway. I never saw a draw made live before so that was neat to get to share some of it first with you all.
- Fan Events cont: The next day they had media day with all of the top players and this was really cool to experience as well. I came into this expecting there to be a mob scene filled with fans because a lot of the top players were going to be there. Surprisingly, that didn’t come to fruition as I was able to stand pretty much anywhere I wanted at least where we were allowed, and take pics of all the big names. I don’t even think most knew where this was as it was kind of hidden in the far back away from everything. It was especially fun as you all know by now how close how I could get to Simo and from what I saw throughout the day, as usual she drew the least amount of attention from the fans which was ok with me 😉 And I’m sure everyone saw me appear in the background of a lot of photos Simo was in so you kind of knew what it was like for me to stand that close. I mean it’s kind of hard to explain what it’s like when you’re inches away from a fave, especially for a decent amount of time. I just stared and admired Simo and enjoyed her in all of her cuteness glory. She also doesn’t seem as short as you might think in person, to me at least. She’s just so friendly too like there was just mainly kids there besides me because it was kids day, and when she signed for all of them she was asking them questions like “do you guys play tennis? What are some of your favorite players?” This one I liked too: “Did you guys watch me at Indian Wells? Did you like?” Too funny.
- Concessions: Now I’m not one of those people that go to events like these to taste all of the food they have because I just like to get whatever I’m feeling, so I didn’t really try a ton of different things. However, I must say everything I had was great, so if you were curious about that, don’t worry because it was good. The Pinto burger and crepes were some of the foods that stood out to me, and the Michelob Ultra bar was a fun time. Nothing out of control there though 😉 Like I said before, the lines were always short, and there was always places to sit too which was nice.
- Friendly People: I was happy to see how many friendly and generous people there were here in Miami, and I really emphasize the latter in a moment. For me it was fun because there were a lot of casual fans there as you would expect and I was asked many times who a certain player was that walked by and practiced and I was always happy to answer. Everybody would say how they were glad to have me around because I knew virtually everyone and that made me feel kind of important for at least this week 🙂 It was fun having chats with everyone about their different autograph and pic stories with their fave players and I just never had any problems with the other fans around me.
Two fan stories I want to share with you; one you most likely already knew but a little more in depth, and another you didn’t. Suspense….
So both happened on the last day of the trip and the first one was at the beginning and it’s about my experience watching Simo’s 2nd round match on stadium court. Well you already know by now how fun it was for me to watch her play because she doesn’t disappoint, but the crowd made it that much better for me. I discovered a couple of fans with a Romanian flag actually a few seats next to me so I approached them and asked if I could take a pic with them because I always wanted to meet Romanians in real life because of how passionate they are about Simo. They then let me hold the flag and pose for a pic with it and that was pretty neat to me because I obviously never held that flag before and I felt a tiny bit Romanian lol. We had a little conversation and they noticed my shirt and knew I was a big fan too and there was a really funny thing they asked me I just loved. First they asked, “Are you from Romania?” I said no, from here in the United States” and they go, “Wow and you still love Simona that much?” I just laughed because it’s funny how it might not seem Simo can have diehard fans from the U.S. but yeah it’s true.
They didn’t mind me sitting with them after that and boy did that turn into a blast, because much more Romanians than just those two showed up and I swear whenever she hit a good shot or needed some extra encouragement, the SI-MO-NA chants were in full swing and I loved doing them too. I tweeted I was able to cross that off of my bucket list and I just really enjoyed it because it was different. You know in team sports when you’re at an event you have thousands of other fans on the same side as you. Well tennis it’s obviously not like that where people don’t have jerseys and don’t cheer hardcore for only one player but for Romanian fans that’s exactly how it is. I always wanted to have another hardcore group to cheer with because it’s more fun when I’m not alone and this gave me that and I just embraced every moment.
Ok so this next story I never told you guys because it was actually quite frightening. It’s not life or death don’t worry but it certainly wasn’t good. First try to think of the worst thing that can happen at an event like this that doesn’t involve physical harm or anything dangerous like that? If you guessed losing something valuable, then good for you. Yep that’s what happened to me, at some point I realized I dropped my wallet which had literally everything you could think of in there and a little too much cash to go along with it (thousands….) well it’s a big sporting event you tend to carry around a little more than usual. This being on the last day of the trip near the end of the day it wasn’t easy to stay calm because it’s kind of hard to fly home without an id. Anyway, saving all of the dramatics, someone returned it with everything still in it. Trust me they don’t have to return anything if no one knows, or they could’ve taken it all and then returned it. I said earlier I really emphasized the generous part of the people there and I’m just thankful the trip didn’t end on that sour note.
It’s hard to pick out cons at a great event like this, but there were a couple of things that really stood out that were a bit annoying. Now I’m just comparing these to Cincy, so maybe this could be similar to other tournaments too I don’t know.
- Practice Schedules: Most who have been to a live event know how critical knowing the practice schedules is because it’s another chance to see the players up close. Now I’m saying this because in Cincy it was nice because every morning I could wake up and check online and the whole schedule was up there and I can plan every single thing I want to do that day. Well here in Miami, that wasn’t the case at all. Maybe it’s not as a big of a deal as I’m making it but it’s just annoying that you have to guess what time to leave that day and who is gonna practice early in the morning and hope you don’t miss someone you want to see, in case you don’t arrive right when the gates open (which happened most days for me because the traffic wasn’t too good, more on that soon) Because chances are they won’t practice again that day.
So another thing, it really wasn’t that long after they opened the gates that they released the practice schedule, it’s just for the first couple of practices you had to walk all around the grounds to see who was out there. So if you decide to stay on a court and watch a practice, you risk missing someone else you might really want to see that’s practicing at the same time without having any idea. Once they got it out however, they would post it at a guest services stand and there was only one copy, you couldn’t take a paper copy or get it on your phone until later; and the guest services was pretty far away from the practice courts so you had to take pics of the schedule which was kind of annoying too. That explains the problem I had with one of Simo’s practices and how I almost missed it because of the weird system they have.
- Simo’s Sneakiness: Ok so if you don’t care about Simo, or already heard this story, then skip this part. I thought since I just brought it up again I’d either refresh your memory in case you wanted to hear it again, and here I can explain it in more detail, or tell people who hadn’t heard it yet. It’s not really a con, it’s just that I had to work harder than I expected to and it was a bit of a hassle lol but at least it was worth it.
I arrived to the grounds close to 10 as usual because that’s when they open the gates. Another thing that wasn’t surprising, no practice schedule available yet. So I do what I normally do and walk to some of the practice courts, and these are the ones that are farthest away from where they post the schedule, keep that in mind for later. I spot Sabine practicing on one and thought that was a good place to start because lots of people enjoying seeing pics of her and I like to watch her practice too. So as I’m watching and taking pics of her, quick funny thing happened I tweeted where Vika said “excuse me” to me from behind because she needed to open the gate to get into another practice court. I was taken aback a bit lol because she was right there without warning and I’m just like ok yeah of course. Anyway, so I’m watching Sabine and Vika for about the whole hour since that’s how long the practices usually are, and I get a text at about 10:55 of a photo of the practice schedule that just came out.
I look at it and see Simo on the schedule at 10 and insert all of the obscenities here because it’s frustrating that the player I want to see most is practicing and I don’t have a clue. So at this point I’m pretty bummed out because I know this is the last day I’ll have a chance to see her practice since the practice would probably be too early to see on match day. I couldn’t see which court she was supposed to be on because it was like cutoff from the pic or something so that added even more chaos. The person that texted me it wasn’t near the guest services stand anymore so I literally ran all the way over there, it’s far I tell you. I’m just hoping I can at least catch her walking out and get an auto or pic or something to salvage it. I make it to the schedule, turns out Simo was practicing on the court right behind where I was sobbb! So if I had just walked around quick while I was watching Sabine/Vika I would’ve saved all of that running, but obviously there was no way I could’ve known she was there and no time to check. Plus, there are courts kind of close to the GS stand as well so I thought she could be there too.
So now that I know she is on the court behind the one I was just at, I run all the way back to it, and she’s not there of course; probably because it’s past 11. At this point I really don’t know what to do because she could’ve left and that’s it I missed it, can’t do much about it. I start to walk back to other practice courts again and lo and behold I see a tiny girl with a bun hairstyle, in a pink shirt with a big bag come around the corner and I had to do like a double take to make sure it was her and it was! I didn’t quite know where she was going though because she wasn’t walking to a court that top players practice on, I followed her and turns out she was just starting a practice. So not only did she practice at a different time, she also practiced on a court that wasn’t listed on the practice schedule! So sneaky! I was very lucky to catch her and thanks to my detective work, you guys saw extra pictures, and I got another selfie and she signed my shirt which I always wanted. Plus she liked it too so everything worked out amazingly!
So that’s my story, sorry it was so long. BUT THIS IS WHAT DIEHARD FANS DO!! I DID IT FOR YOU GUYS TOO!! Hope you enjoyed that story in a little more detail 🙂
- Traffic/Parking: This one wasn’t a huge issue for the most part, there was just times and specifically one time, where it was a bit confusing. The first day we went, on the way there they had signs posted all over saying general parking and what not so we pulled in there. The first time there was like a police guy that said “no this isn’t it, go to Lot 5 farther back from this.” So we did and that’s like some random dead end place with a loading dock boat area it was very strange. So we’re confused, we ended up driving way further up and there was a lot 2,3,4,6,7 and there wasn’t really one where everyone was pulling into. So we basically just went into one until it was the right one which you’d think is a little absurd to have to do but whatever, we eventually found it. The rest of the days it wasn’t that hard but still it could be better set up. They also have a shuttle going to the park for some lots and that’s a bit annoying too but whatever lol this isn’t that important but I’m just telling you another con that I didn’t really like. In Cincy it was very straight forward where you parked, signs everywhere and they just put you in the grass and you walked up into the place.
Last but not least the traffic was pretty brutal in the morning in Miami like you’d expect though because it’s a big city and it’s rush hour early in the morning on weekdays. The only problem with this is that it delayed us getting there and it caused us to miss a bigger portion of practices than I wanted. All in all though, you just have to accept it and as long as we got there I didn’t complain.
So that’s it. Sorry if it seems a little long, not sure how much you guys read but I wanted to make sure you got as much of the experience as possible in case you were ever thinking of going here. The cons aren’t really a big issue, I easily found ways to live with them so don’t worry too much about them. This is a great place and I didn’t know what to expect but it definitely did not disappoint and I would recommend this to everyone. I got lucky with the weather too as besides the very last portion of my trip, it was nice and sunny all week which always make these kind of events way better. One last thing, as weird as it sounds, I didn’t really notice too much that my number 1 faves from ATP and WTA (Roger Federer and Petra Kvitova) weren’t there because of how fun the whole week was. I got dealt with some very unlucky cards in that regard but it just goes to show favorites aren’t everything in tennis. As long as you love watching the sport, you can easily learn to adjust and while I obviously wish they were both there, that’s how it goes sometimes and I’m glad it didn’t affect me at all during the week, considering I thought it might. (Now if Simo wasn’t there…. We’d have to see how calm this paragraph would be lol)
Have a great day, thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed. Also thanks again to all of you on Twitter who made this fun for me to share all of the info and photos as it was happening. I was very happy to do it, it was a unique experience for me and i’m glad you all liked what I had to say. If you have any other questions about my experience, just let me know 🙂 Jake