Andre Agassi, 1990 Lipton Open

From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:

As always, the Lipton was full of strange matches on the men’s side. None was stranger than Ivan Lendl’s three-set loss to Emilio Sanchez in the fourth round. Sanchez was a good player, solid on hard courts although more comfortable on clay, but he never seemed to beat the big names. This time he did – even after blowing four match points in the third set and letting Lendl break. Down 4-5, Lendl went up 30-0, serving to even the match. Then he collapsed, losing the last four points.
The wind swirled around the stadium throughout the match and Lendl clearly was unhappy with that. Lendl doesn’t like anything that takes away from his precision. Gerry Armstrong, umpiring the match, knew Lendl was in trouble when he tossed the coin before the match began and the wind took it.

“Ivan had this look on his face,” Armstrong said, “that said, ‘I want out of here’.”

Lendl certainly didn’t tank. He is beyond the stage in his career where he does that. But when the match was over he made no bones about the fact he was delighted to get out of town.

“I’ve never liked playing in south Florida,” he said. “The only reason I’ve always played here is because it was in my adidas contract. I committed to play this year when I still thought I was going to be with adidas. I’m not with them anymore, so I probably won’t play here again in the future.”

Now he was gone from the Lipton and not at all sorry about it.

Boris Becker was gone too. He lost a round earlier than Lendl, in the third, to Jean-Philippe Fleurian 7-6 6-1. Becker’s mind just wasn’t on tennis. He was in the process of breaking up with his girlfriend of the previous two years, Karen Schultz, and still not all sure about what he wanted to do with his life. Play tennis? Party? Save the world? All of the above? None of the above?
Becker didn’t leave Miami after his loss. He stuck around to play the doubles, reaching the finals with partner Casio Motta, and to hang out with friends. After starting the year on the verge of wresting the No. 1 ranking from Lendl, Becker had now dropped behind Edberg into the No. 3 spot. If truth be told, he didn’t much care.

With Lendl and Becker gone, the Lipton became your basic Andre Agassi-fest. There was no doubt that Agassi was playing good tennis. He won three straight three-setters over Andres Gomez, Jim Courier, and Jay Berger (who reached the semis when Sampras had to default), and then beat Edberg in the final.
Edberg was there only because a line judge had botched a call on match point in his quarterfinal against Jakob Hlasek. Hlasek had hit a half volley winner just inside the line while ahead 6-5 in the final set tiebreak. The line judge called it wide. Hlasek lost the next two points, and Edberg made the final even though he wasn’t playing very good tennis.

Agassi rolled him in four sets, then acted as if he had won Wimbledon.

“I guess people can’t say I don’t win the big ones anymore, can they?” he crowed afterward.

Clearly, the kid had lost touch with reality. Even Butch Buchholz wouldn’t claim the Lipton was a big one. Bigger than a bread box, perhaps, bigger than Memphis or Sydney or Bologna. But not quite up there with the Slams.
After all, the Slams all knew where they were going to be held the following year. As the workers began tearing down the temporary stadium on Key Biscayne, Butch Buchholz had no idea where his tournament would be held in 1991.

Tim Mayotte, Lipton Open 1985

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Miami Open. Over the past three decades, the tournament has grown into one of the biggest tournaments of the season, but the beginnings were quite chaotic. Let’s have a look at the early days of the Miami Open (then called the Lipton Open):

From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:

The second meeting of the tennis world takes place each year on the site of a former garbage dump. The formal title of the tournament held where Floridians once dumped their trash is the Lipton International Players championship. To everyone in tennis it is just the Lipton.

The Lipton is the creation of Butch Buchholz, a former pro who, after his playing days, became executive director of the ATP. Buchholz had always dreamed of starting a tournament – modeled after the Grand Slams – that would be the players’ favorite tournament of the year.

“I felt, having been a player myself, that I could put together an event that the players would enjoy, want to take part in, and look forward to,”

said Buchholz, a friendly, outgoing man of fifty, whose younger brother Cliff also played professionally.

“Back in 1961, a year after I had turned pro, open tennis missed being passed in the ITF by five votes That meant, as it turned out, that we had to wait seven more years before we could play in the Grand Slams again. We used to sit on the buses, back in the sixties, and talk about the day we would run ou own tournament. I never forgot that.”

While he was with the ATP, Buchholz got the Men’s Tennis Council to agree to clear two weeks on the calendar if he could put together the sponsorship of the tournament. In all, it took him three years to put the pieces together. In order to hold the tournament in 1985, Buchholz had to have his site and sponsorship in place by March 1, 1984. He signed the final two contracts on February 29, 1984. “Thank God for leap year,” he said, laughing.

From the beginning, the tournament had excellent fields. It was sort of a mini-Grand Slam, with 128 player draws in singles, the men playing best-of-five sets But in spite of Philippe Chatrier‘s fears that Buchholz might attempt to usurp Australia’s role as the traditional fourth Grand Slam, Buchholz never saw it that way.

“I’d like us to be right below the Grand Slams,” he said. “We aren’t going to be a Grand Slam, and that’s not what we’re trying to do. The problem we have, the problem we’ve always had, is establishing a place to play this tournament, one that we’ll be in for the next fifty years. You can’t build tradition without that.”

In three years, the Lipton was played in three different Florida cities. Buchholz agreed to move it to Key Biscayne in 1987, because he decided that going to a place whee there was nothing that trying to be part of a resort. At the resorts where the tournament had been played – Delray Beach, Boca West – the residents had complained that the influx of players, fans, and tourists for two weeks a year was a hassle and a nuisance. Why not go, Buchholz reasoned, someplace where there were no residents to be hassled?

“I can remember driving across the bridge from Miami to Key Biscayne and looking at the dump that was there,” he said. “I thought, This is the place.”

Only it wasn’t that simple. While Buchholz was putting up a temporary stadium in 1987, environmentalists were objecting to his plans to build a permanent one. Where Buchholz saw a garbage dump, they saw park land. Where Buchholz saw the opportunity to build his tournament, they saw more unneeded development. And so, the battle was on.
Three years later, it was still on. On the first morning of the 1990 tournament, Buchholz sat at breakfast with an exasperated look on his face.

“It just won’t go away,” he said. “Right now, if I were a betting man I would say we won’t be here in two years, perhaps not even next year. We’re talking to other people very aggressively now about moving.”

Specifically, Buchholz was talking to Scottsdale, Arizona, about taking the tournament there. He really didn’t want to move, but felt he might have to.

“Until we get established somewhere and build a permanent stadium, we’re nothing more than just another tour stop with a lot of prize money. That isn’t what I want.”

The tournament had already undergone several changes amid all the site problems. The men had been complaining about playing best-of-five matches in the Florida heat. As a result, the draw for both men and women had been cut to ninety-six, meaning the top thirty-two players drew first-round byes. The only match in the tournament that would be best of five would be the final. All of that meant a lot less work for the men. Of course, as the work went down, the prize money had gone up.

The tournament had lost $726,000 in 1989, not bad considering all the site problems and growing pains any new event must experience. But with the economic recession becoming more and more of a factor in tennis, Buchholz was looking at more and more headaches. Fortunately, his title sponsor, Lipton, was locked into a thirty-year deal through the year 2018. […]

The Lipton has always had strong fields – even though it does not pay guarantees.

“I told the Lipton people right from the start that guarantees are a cancer,” Buchholz said. “We’re all getting to be like the baseball owners. We push salaries higher and higher and the players have less and less reason to perform. If we failed, we failed, but we weren’t going to pay guarantees.”

The players came anyway because of the unique nature of the tournament, because the prize money was high, and because of corporate tie-ins. The women got their big names through to the final: Chris Evert, for years a Lipton spokeswoman, played in the first five finals: Steffi Graf, an adidas client just as the Lipton was, won the tournament twice.

But strange things always seemed to happen to the men. Tim Mayotte was the first winner of the tournament, in 1985, his first tournament victory ever. His victim in the final? McEnroe? Connors? Lendl? Wilander? Edberg? Ty Scott Davis.

In 1986, Connors and Lendl met in one semifinal, but the match ended when Connors walked off the court after a raging argument with chair umpire Jeremy Shales. He was suspended from the tour for ten weeks. Lendl then lost the final to Miloslav Mecir in straight sets.

In 1989, Thomas Muster, a rising star, reached the final with a dramatic five-set victory over Yannick Noah. En route back to the hotel on the Key Biscayne causeway, Muster’s car was struck by a drunk driver. His knee was shattered. He needed major surgery and didn’t play tennis for almost six months. Needless to say, there was no men’s final.

Maybe the garbage dump was haunted. There were stories that it once was an Indian burial ground.

Novak Djokovic
Indian Wells

Flavia Pennetta def Agnieszka Radwanska 6-2 6-1
Novak Djokovic def Roger Federer 3-6 6-3 7-6
Su-Wei Hsieh/Shuai Peng def Cara Black/Sania Mirza 7-6 6-2
Bob and Mike Bryan def Alexander Peya/Bruno Soares 6-4 6-3

Flavia Pennetta

The 32 yr old Italian defeated the top two seeds, Li Na and Agniezska Radwanska to capture the biggest title of her career. With a semifinal at the US Open, a quarterfinal at the Australian Open, her game has been really solid these last few months. Read her interview here.

Agnieszka Radwanska

She appeared ready to win a title that counts for a big step once again, but as often Agnieszka Radwanska wasn’t able to come through in a big-stage match. Injured (? – but that injury didn’t prevent her from playing in Miami and reaching the quarterfinals at the Sony Open), the 25 yr old Pole was devastated by her loss.

Simona Halep

The Romanian, who won the first six titles of her career last year, reached her first Premier Mandatory semifinal at Indian Wells and is now the new world number 5.

Maria Sharapova

The defending champion was ousted by world number 79 Camila Giorgi in the third round. With this loss she has dropped to number 7, her lowest ranking since the summer of 2011.

Novak Djokovic

First title of the season for the world number 2, a much needed title after his disppointing quarterfinal loss at the Australian Open.

Roger Federer

A resurgent Federer reached the final without dropping a set, but a couple of unforced errors in the third set tiebreaker cost him the final and the title.

Alexandr Dolgopolov

He had never won a set against Nadal before, but Dolgopolov beat him in the third round and then defeated Fabio Fognini and Milos Raonic to make his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal.

Miami Sony Open

Serena Williams def Li Na 7-5 6-1
Novak Djokovic def Rafael Nadal 6-3 6-3
Martina Hingis/Sabine Lisicki def Ekaterina Makarova/Elena Vesnina 4-6 6-4 10-5
Bob and Mike Bryan def Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah 7-6 6-4

Serena Williams

She started the tournament slowly with a three sets win over Caroline Garcia and then rolled to the title with straight sets victory over Coco Vandeweghe, Angelique Kerber, Maria Sharapova and Li Na. After a victory in Brisbane and losses in Melbourne and Dubai, she won her second title of the year, her 7th in Miami.

Li Na

First Premier Mandatory final for Li Na who had set point in the first but she lost 11 of the last 12 games.

Dominika Cibulkova

She followed her final in Melbourne with a win in Acapulco, a quarterfinal at Indian Wells, and after her run through the Miami semifinals, the Slovakian makes her entry to the top 10.

Maria Sharapova

She has now lost her last 15 matches against Serena Williams, in fact Serena hasn’t lost to Sharapova since 2004 in Los Angeles! The Russian hasn’t progressed in any area of her game and she could drop out of the top 10 soon.

Martina Hingis

The former world number one teamed up with Sabine Lisicki to win her 38th doubles title, her first in seven years.

Novak Djokovic

Nadal and Djokovic played each other for the 40th times. Djokovic dominated from the start and won comfortably 6-3 6-3. It is his fourth Miami title, his 18th Masters 1000 title overall. Only Andre Agassi has won the Key Biscayne tournament more (6).

Is the Nadal-Djokovic rivalry the best in the Open Era? Vote and share your thoughts.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal is now 0-4 in finals at Key Biscayne, one of just three ATP Masters 1000 events he has yet to win.

Kei Nishikori

Nishikori saved 4 match points to beat David Ferrer in three sets and three hours of play, but he had plenty left in the tank to upset Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately he hurt himself and had to withdraw from the semifinals.

Andy Murray

The Scot announced his split with Ivan Lendl after two years of collaboration, 2 Grand Slam titles and an Olympic Gold medal. The announcement took nearly everyone in the game by surprise but the split was amicable. Check out my video of Lendl being interviewed at the World Tennis Day in London a month ago in which he talks about that Scottish boy.

Lleyton Hewitt

With his win over Robin Haase in the first round, Lleyton Hewitt has become the 21st male player to record 600 match wins. Only Roger Federer (942) and Rafael Nadal (675) have won more matches among active players.

Maria Sharapova

Another match, another loss to Serena Williams for Sharapova. Thanks to Bev for sharing these pictures of Sharapova practising with coach Sven Groeneveld.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova RUS

Maria Sharapova RUS

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova RUS

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Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova RUS

Photo credit: Bev

Follow our Miami Sony Open 2014 coverage

Serena Williams will play Li Na today for a 7th Sony Open title, she will be the huge favorite as she leads their head-to-heads 10-1. Enjoy a few pictures of Serena practising in Miami this week:

Serena Williams

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Photo credit: Bev
Follow our Miami Sony Open 2014 coverage