Miami Living Magazine

Amanda Biderman

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Page 34 of 115

EVENT: Words by Claudia Paredes | Interview by Markin Abras | Images by BEA Architects Inc. Tennis has been an integrated part of the state of Florida. Many world- class academies reside in the Sunshine State, including top tennis players and, of course, the Sony Open Tennis Tournament. In the 1960s, international tennis tournaments began to peak Miami’s interest, however, it wasn’t until 1984 when it officially became its host. Ever heard of Jack Kramer or Butch Buchholz? They were top tennis players of that time. Before the days of Open Tennis, they would tour the country and play tennis where they could. It was Buchholz who started it all. He became the executive director of the Association of Tennis Professionals — the player’s union— and proposed the idea of creating a 2-week players tournament to the VP of the Thomas J. Lipton Company, who sponsored it and owned the title. His passion for tennis is what made everything happen. The tournament was first called the Winter Wimbledon, and it was held at the Laver’s International Tennis Resort, north of Miami. It would become the first major tennis tournament of the calendar year. Buchholz did everything to make this a first-class event. He brought the best-of- the-best to referee and the top designers. He received the rights to run the tournament for 15 years, after offering the ATP and the Women’s International Tennis Association a money prize, worldwide TV rights, and a percentage of ticket sales. This was his baby. Buchholz succeeded at creating a supreme tournament and in 1985, a new tradition in tennis began. Tim Mayotte and Martina Navratilova were the first winners of the $1.8 million prize. ABC telecasted the finals live, and networks from around the globe joined. The world was watching closely. Tennis had gained a reputation and following that it had had been waiting since the 60s. Finding a permanent location for this worldwide event was no easy task. Before making the Tennis Center at Crandon Park a permanent home, the tennis tournament was held in several different locations. Various renovations to the Tennis Center were made, including the addition of a clubhouse and $20 million dollar permanent stadium, dedicated by Miami-Dade County on its 10th event in 1994. The stadium was also used as a home for the USTA Player Development Program for the citizens of the Miami-Dade County. Many tennis professionals, such as Andre Agassi, and Pete Sampras, have raved about the stadium, and proclaimed it to be one of the best in the world. Now, the SSony Open Tennis Tournament has become an extravagant two-week event that brings the best tennis players to one place. The 5th largest tennis tournament there is, it offers a $9 million dollar prize, which is equally split between the men and women.

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