March 28, 2004. The evening air is thick with humidity and tension. The crowd at the third round of the then-called NASDAQ-100 Open has been getting rowdier with each ensuing game, shouting at the players on court below even in the middle of each point. World no. 1 Roger Federer warily looks across the net at his opponent, 17-year-old spanish boy wonder Rafael Nadal, ranked no. 36 in the world. It’s their first meeting. And to everyone’s surprise, Nadal clinches the match in just 70 minutes, 6-3, 6-3. It was the first of 36 meetings, kicked off the most enthralling rivalry in modern-day tennis, and it all began at the Miami Open. As the tournament nears its swan song in Key Biscayne before its planned move to Hard Rock Stadium in 2019, we look at some of its most historic moments, by the numbers.
8: Total Miami titles captured by Serena Williams, with 2015 marking her 700th career win
Not only has Williams won the Miami Open more than any other event in her career, but Key Biscayne was also the site of her first final against Venus Williams, the first all-sister final since 1884.
3: Number of times the men’s final was cancelled
Perhaps the most unfortunate instance was 1989, when Thomas Muster, just hours after his semifinal victory, was struck by a drunk driver and suffered an injury that forced him to retire the match.
5: Number of unseeded players who advanced to the finals
Including Guillermo Cañas, who was ranked a career-high No. 8 when he was suspended after testing positive for a masking agent. Two years and an impressive comeback later, he lost to Novak Djokovic in 2007 as the first qualifier to reach the tournament final.
7: Number of players who catapulted to No. 1 after winning the Miami Open
Including Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis. Brad Gilbert, former player and longtime coach of Andre Agassi, fondly recalls, “I was playing in the event when I first got together with Andre and started coaching him. One year from the day he went from 28 in the world to 1.” Anything to do with Miami’s electric atmosphere? “Maybe,” Gilbert admits. “Key Biscayne is a beautiful island that really comes alive during the tournament.”
41: Percentage increase in attendance from 125,817 at the tournament’s launch in 1985 to 304,673 in 2017.
At the time, it was the first tournament in 56 years outside the Grand Slams to run for two consecutive weeks. Today, thanks to its proximity to South America, former ATP player Nicolas Pereira calls it “the Grand Slam of Latin America. It’s the tournament in the U.S. with the greatest foreign attendance.”
57: Minutes into the 2006 women’s singles match on Stadium court when electronic line calling, or the “Hawkeye” system, was used for the first time.
Though in its debut there were just 53 overrules out of 161 challenges, the Hawkeye system went on to be used at the U.S. Open that year.
March 19-April 1; 7300 Crandon Blvd., Key Biscayne; miamiopen.com