Postcard from Miami: Thomas Johansson

Published by Matt Trollope

A general view over the new Hard Rock Stadium venue during day one of the Miami Open in Miami Gardens, Florida (Getty Images)
Thomas Johansson, a Grand Slam champion now coaching Belgian David Goffin, has been attending the Miami Open since 1999. He gives Tennismash his thoughts on the tournament’s brand new home.

This year, the Miami Open moved into its new home at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens after a 32-year stint at Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park Tennis Center.

There has been plenty of interest about how the tournament will fit into its new home, a site originally designed for football but configured to incorporate a temporary stadium court as well as more permanent tournament and practice courts in the surrounding grounds.

Thomas Johansson, a former world No.7 and Australian Open champion in 2002, played at the Miami Open nine times, with his best result a quarterfinal run in 2005. He continues to attend the event as a coach, and is currently working with Belgian 18th seed David Goffin, who advanced to the last 16 on Monday.

Johansson spoke to Tennismash about his observations of the event and its new home, roughly 30 kilometres north of the previous site.

TENNISMASH: What were your first impressions of the new tournament site?

THOMAS JOHANSSON: “Both me and David (Goffin), we were a little bit worried about the time it would take from the hotel to the site, but so far it’s been very, very good – it’s been probably I would say 30 minutes. You just have to be a little bit careful with the traffic in the afternoon. Because let’s say you have an evening match, you have to stay there, you can’t go back and forth, that would be a little bit risky.

“The site – I think it’s very good. It’s new, so of course you have a few ‘diseases’ you have to cure for next year. But overall, it’s big, you have a lot of practice courts, you have a big restaurant, the locker rooms are big. So I think from a player point of view it’s very positive.”

Is it better than Key Biscayne?

“If you ask me, I would say yes. I think they are better (facilities). More room for the players to move around. The gym is big; you have a little bit of a grass pitch as well, so you can play a bit of football, or you can do warm-ups, or you can do fitness training if you want. It’s just that the stadium is massive – so it takes a little bit of time for you to know where to go (laughter). It takes a while to navigate. But I am positive (about it).

“The practice courts are very open, and in Miami it can be quite windy. The practice courts at the old venue had a lot of trees and a little bit of cover. (They might need to) find a solution to cover the courts a little bit better here. At the previous venue sometimes you had to go off site (to practice); here you don’t have to, because they have so many courts to practice on. I think they have 30 courts, or something.”

Were you, and the other players and coaches, sad to see the Miami Open leave Key Biscayne?

“I think yes and no. I think that the previous venue had its own atmosphere and feeling to everything. And I liked it. But I felt that it was a little bit too small. It was a little bit unlucky that they didn’t get that chance to expand. And also the drive from your hotel out to Key Biscayne – it felt a little bit like Miami Vice when you went. Maybe it had a little bit more feeling to it than the new venue.

“But I think if you give the organisers a little bit of time, I think you will have a nice feeling (at the new venue) too. Now it’s so big, and it’s their first year; give them another year, and then you can (make a call whether) if the new site is better than the old one.”

Does the new venue feel accessible, central, and easy to get to?

“It feels that it’s a little bit in the middle of nowhere, to be honest. You come on the highway, and then you see this massive stadium close by. Just walking around behind the stadium, It’s so big. It’s a little bit the same feeling that I have when I played Shanghai, or when I was coaching one of my players playing Shanghai. You stay in the city – in Miami, we stay in downtown – and then you have probably between 30 minutes to an hour in the car (to get to) the stadium. And it’s the same there; it’s a very big arena, but there are not so many people watching. Because it’s a little bit of a hassle to get there (in Shanghai).”

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