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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Monica Puig

"We’re committed to staying in Miami, our players love all that surrounds the tennis," IMG president Mark Shapiro said.

Photo credit: Miami Open

The Miami Open lost some star power, but may well have gained something more vital: A firm future.

Launching the 33rd edition of the tournament this week, tournament officials confirmed their commitment to keeping the Miami Open at its current Crandon Park home on Key Biscayne.

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Mark Shapiro, president of tournament owner IMG, shot down growing speculation the tournament could relocate to the USTA’s National Campus in Lake Nona, Florida, telling The Miami Herald “We’re committed to staying in Miami.”

“The bottom line is, there are other suitors,’’ Shapiro told The Miami Herald. “Ever since we lost the court case and rumors have been swirling about our intentions, we’ve had cities across the country and outside the U.S. borders that are interested in bringing such a glorious event to their shores.

"However, we’re not open for business. We’re committed to staying in Miami, our players love all that surrounds the tennis, from the culture to the beach to the music — just the overall flair. We want them to remain happy.”

The IMG-owned tournament lost an appeals court decision in December of 2015 denying its challenge to expand its current home at Crandon Park.

The Matheson family donated the land for Crandon Park to Dade County in 1940 and still retains approval rights over building projects on the public park.

One member of the family, Bruce Matheson, took the tournament to court to halt planned construction of a second stadium on the site and prevent proposed upgrades to the site.

Once widely regarded as a jewel of Masters tournaments, Miami’s facilities have been outclassed by the BNP Paribas Open as billionaire Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison has invested millions of dollars upgrading Indian Wells, which many players regard as the unofficial fifth Grand Slam.

Miami Open organizers proposed a $50 million renovation, funded by IMG, that would expand the current stadium and build two new additional stadiums at the public park on Key Biscayne.


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However the tournament’s expansion aims were denied by the appeals court decision in December, 2015.

Following the court ruling, the tournament's attorney said a move was inevitable because the Masters event had outgrown its facilities.

“At some point, it’s going to be gone. The only question is when,” Eugene Stearns, a Miami attorney who represents the tournament, told The Miami Herald.

"I mean, Key Biscayne, it's just like paradise, I think, for the players," Hall of Famer and Florida resident Chris Evert said. "But when I do hear mumblings and rumblings a bit about the venue it's from the spectators...

"Getting there and the parking, it is a hassle. It isn't Indian Wells... it still has a lot of heart and a lot of history and it has a lot of fans. So I for one, am really disappointed if it would move or when it moves. I'm going to be sad about it."

Last March, eight-time Miami Open champion Serena Williams made a strong case for keeping the tournament at its current Key Biscayne home in an Op-Ed piece she wrote for The New York Times titled "Why Tennis Needs the Miami Open.”

Williams, a long-time Palm Beach Gardens, Florida resident, called the tournament one of the world's "most special sporting events" and praised Crandon Park as a public park treasure.

The world No. 2 touted the tournament as a pioneer for gender equality by featuring both men and women's events and paying equal prize money since its inception back in 1985 pointing out that when sister Venus successfully led the fight for equal prize money at Wimbledon in 2007, Miami had already met that vision of equality 22 years earlier.

"Leaving Miami would be a blow to our sport, to the city of Miami and to me," Serena said.


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Given a quartet of former tournament champions—Serena Williams, reigning champion Victoria Azarenka, world No. 1 and part-time Miami resident Andy Murray and reigning men’s champion Novak Djokovic—all withdrew before the tournament began, IMG’s commitment to Key Biscayne was a ray of positive sunshine for the tournament, which has seven years left on its lease with Dade County.

On a sunny kids day in which pros, including Monica Puig, Grigor Dimitrov, Lauren Davis and Jack Sock, hit with juniors, Shapiro shared optimism for the tournament’s future on Key Biscayne.

“The book has been written. We’ve lost some chapters, that’s for sure,” Shapiro told The Miami Herald. “More importantly, the city and fans of Miami have lost some chapters in [the courts] not letting us spend our own money to make the physical improvements we want to make.

"But I don’ think the story is over. I don’t think the book has closed. I know the mayor is going to continue working to try and get the Mathesons to play ball. But in the event they don’t we’re still going to each and every year deliver a great product.”


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