The main court at The Sony Ericsson Open.
Pro tennis players, tennis fans and celebrities are making their annual pilgrimage to tennis mecca Key Biscayne for the Sony Ericsson Open this month. The tournament, which attracted over 310,000 people last year with a broadcast viewership of over 150 million worldwide, starts March 19 and ends April 1.
Two weeks of tennis excitement at the Crandon Park Tennis Center feature riveting matches at the fifth largest tennis tournament in the world, now in its 28th edition. Players to do battle on the courts include Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki and Kim Clijsters.
And it’s not just about tennis. Celebrity musical performances, sponsored happy hours, fine food at the members-only Collector’s Club and high-end fashion complete the experience.
THE TENNIS LIFESTYLE
It’s no wonder the tropical island of Key Biscayne is home to the Sony Ericsson Open. Established in 1985 by Buch Buchholz in Delray Beach, the tournament found a permanent home on Miami’s Key Biscayne in 1987. But the pop and thud of tennis balls hitting rackets and clay had already been heard on the island since 1978. That year, a group of local tennis enthusiasts led a grassroots effort to establish the Key Biscayne Tennis Association.
ONE | Sotheby’s spoke to Pablo Arraya, a former professional player turned coach, about the evolution of the sport on the island. A native of Peru, Arraya came to Key Biscayne to in 1977 to train with world-renown coach Patricio Apey.
“I turned pro in 1980,” he said. “And around that time, Apey was mentoring many students from South America and all over the world in Key Biscayne, including Gabriela Sabatini. We had many aspiring professionals living here.”
“But it was the Ladies Leagues in the 1980s that really pushed tennis as something that everyone could enjoy,” he explained. “They’d bring kids to practice in the afternoons.”
GREAT TENNIS COMES IN SMALL PACKAGES
After the thrilling rush of the Sony Ericsson Open, it’s back to practice for everyone on quiet, lush Key Biscayne. The Village of Key Biscayne itself – a community of 12,000 residents only 1.5 miles wide and 1 mile long – boasts no less than 40 private tennis courts total spread across condominiums and the famous Cliff Drysdale Tennis Center at the Ritz-Carlton. Many tennis professionals are full-time or seasonal Key Biscayne residents.
The island itself is only 5 miles long and offers 40 public tennis courts on the outskirts of the village, including Calusa Park, Crandon Park Tennis Center and the Key Biscayne Tennis Association at the Crandon Park Golf Course, where Arraya directs a tennis academy.
That’s 80 courts total — not counting those in single-family homes — for an area cradled by beautiful Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic ocean.
After 19 years as a local tennis leader, Arraya is proud of his work as a coach in the community. “We have great after school programs. Many Key Biscayne children have been given scholarships to premier and Ivy League universities because of their tennis skills,” he said. “We also have active ladies teams.”
“Key Biscayne is definitely the place to live if you want a tennis lifestyle for your family,” he said.
– Maria de los Angeles is a freelance wordsmith based in South Florida.
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