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Hard Rock Stadium has become the showpiece venue within the Miami Gardens precinct, with a plethora of sports congregating around or within the multi purpose stadium in Florida’s most famous city.

It plays host to the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise and since its sensational renovation that commenced in 2015 it has become a centralised hub for American global sports within Downtown Miami, even hosting the 2020 Super Bowl.

In 2022, the Formula 1 juggernaut raced around the precinct with the entire paddock set to be inside the stadium in 2023.

Tennis made its first foray to Hard Rock in 2019, when the Miami Open transferred from the famous Crandon Park site in Key Biscayne, 25 minutes down the road.

Roger Federer won the inaugural men’s event on the ocean blue tinged courts, defeating defending champion John Isner in the decider, while Australia’s very own Ash Barty kickstarted her run to the top of the rankings by saluting over Karolina Pliskova.

However, at that event, and ever since for that matter, the Miami Open has lacked in character, looking more like a concrete jungle rather than a tennis event.

The world these days has become obsessed with flashing lights and modernism that can often be at the detriment to sport’s historical sites and Crandon Park is certainly one of those.

Its final year in 2018 saw John Isner collect his maiden Masters 1000 and Sloane Stephens continue her rapid rise to superstardom having just conquered the US Open in the previous year.

In 2017 it was the site of Federer’s renaissance back to the top as he outlasted Tomas Berdych and Nick Kyrgios in the quarterfinals and semis respectively, before he dismantled Rafael Nadal to clinch his third career Sunshine Double.

2018 also saw that famous and hilarious Daniil Medvedev blow up towards Stefanos Tsitsipas and the now iconic statement, “Man you better shut your f*** up okay.”

However, Medvedev might be happy with the shift in venue after lifting aloft the 2023 title.

Nevertheless, the purple courts surrounded by the green painted outskirts were unique and viewers knew the location of the match just by looking at their screens, it was magical.

What sets it apart from the new venue is its location, close to the water and in amongst the local wildlife, who can forget the reptile that showed up to Tommy Haas’ practice session towards the end of the site’s tenure as host of the Miami Open.

It was absolutely massive!

While the facilities of Miami Gardens are sensational and state of the art, converting Hard Rock Stadium into a tennis grandstand is no picnic with portable seats rolled in to make it more compact and less vast, surely at a big cost to organisers.

The centre court holds 14,000 spectators, but that is only 200 more than Key Biscane’s stadium court.

However, the new facilities boast 10 match courts and a whopping 17 practice courts, which holds an ability to accomodate the world’s best more easily.

Crandon Park boasts 21 courts of the same surface, with six others that were not utilised by the respective tours.

Miami Gardens is abundantly closer to the atmosphere and vibrant culture that the city has to offer, with Key Biscayne an island with one road in and one road out.

But despite this, and the new generation of players that have enjoyed hoisting the majestic Miami Open trophy in recent years, Hard Rock feels just like that, a rock.

A concrete jungle set up to become a tennis hub for just over a week each year and without characteristics that made Crandon Park a must-visit tennis destination for fans and pundits alike for decades.

It is with great hope that tennis does return to Key Biscayne in the future, and that there might be an opportunity to alternate the venue in South Florida to accomodate both the new and the old.


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