Oh, awesome answer, thanks a ton! This really helps.
I'm a college student in New Orleans from New York, and my friend has a house in Miami, so my housing is locked up.
Looking at it on like Google Maps, it seems far away from Miami. How long is the drive?
Basically, it seems very similar to the US Open experience, down to the expensive food and hot days/cold nights.
Are backpacks allowed? If they aren't, how serious are they about size limitations? Any public outlets for phone charging anywhere? How is service (Verizon) out on the Keys? Is there a certain day that is particularly action packed on the grounds? Does it empty out considerably after the first weekend before the Semis/Finals?
Hi. You will have a great time. Since you are in Miami, it's not far. Don't be fooled when you hear the name "Key" Biscayne. It's not in the Keys like Key West is. Key Biscayne is only a few minutes from downtown Miami. Depending on where you are staying, it shouldn't be too bad of a drive. Here is a map showing how to get to the stadium from Coconut Grove, the place where I mentioned before. If you zoom out a little, you can see all of Miami. http://mapq.st/13RC5Sm
The public parking where the buses pick you up is actually on Virginia Key where it says "Arthur Lamb Jr. Road". You pay $12 at the entrance and then drive way back a few miles to a big parking lot in the back next to a sewage treatment plant and buses start loading everybody up and bringing them in to the main gate at 9AM.
Backpacks are allowed. I've seen so many of them there through the years. This is what it says you can't bring: "The following items are prohibited and MAY NOT be brought onto the grounds: Sealed packages of any kind; briefcases; hard coolers or like containers; glass bottles or cans; aerosol cans or noisemaking devices; alcoholic beverages; commercial video cameras or recording devices; computers or laptops; food (except in limited quantities, or for medical dietary or infant purposes); weapons (regardless of permit); pets (unless a service animal); flags, banners or signs, laser pointing devices; tennis racquets; bicycles; scooters of any type; in-line skates; roller skates; skateboards; and any other items deemed unlawful or dangerous by the management of Sony Open Tennis, in its sole discretion. Prohibited items brought onto the premises will be confiscated by security officials and will not be returned. Please leave any unnecessary items at home or in your vehicle."
About the phone--that one I am afraid I don't have an answer for. I am not really a big phone person so I haven't had a need to know. It says on the Sony Open website if you have any questions about tournament policies you could call this number (305.442.3367) or send an email to email@example.com
, though. You might try that.
I think the service at Crandon Park is fine, though--everyone I see is on their phone texting away or chatting or looking up stuff on the internet, so I can't imaging that there is any problem with service there.
As far as the action goes, everyone has their preferences for when to go and stuff. I always go the first week. I will say this--Monday and Tuesday are qualifying days for men and women and are fairly lightly attended--for MIAMI--but still, in comparison to a regular WTA event, there are plenty of people, and IMHO it's the best time to see the big name players on the practice courts. If you don't want to get run over trying to see Fed or Rafa, this is the time to do it. Also, Tuesday the women play some 1st round matches (no seeds though). On Wednesday, the 1st rounds start, and Wednesday-Thursday are probably the most fun days, as the crowds are still not that bad, good players are playing and everyone is practicing. Plus, doubles is starting. So every court is being used, ALL day. They even often use practice courts courts 9 and 10 to play matches when the schedule backs up late in the day--I've watched many faves on those courts standing by the fence just feet away from them as they played 1st round matches before. On these nights, actually from Wednesday through Sunday, there is usually tennis going on at night on several courts, not just the stadium, so day ticket holders can stay into the night to watch tennis on outer courts plus night ticket holders can watch anything. Plus, before it gets busy for the weekend, for the night matches, on nights when the women play the last match in the stadium, they will often invite us goobers with 400 level tickets in the nosebleed seats to come down and sit in the box seats down on the court level. The past two years I did that to watch Sania Mirza and Chirstina McHale play stadium court matches during the middle of that first week. So for me, those are the ideal days. A LOT of tennis for the $.
The weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) are great days because the quality of the tennis goes up (Friday-Saturday is the womens' second round, Sunday is womens' round 3, doubles all weekend, seeds start playing) but it gets brutally crowded. You can immediately tell--traffic picks up, it takes longer to get to the stadium parking, to get on the bus, to get to the gate, and you run into people scalping tickets and trying to buy tickets outside the gate. Finding tables to sit down to eat and trying to find an empty restroom can be a pain as well. On the other hand, the crowds are huge and fun you can usually spot Mary Joe Fernandez or one of the Jensens or Jim Courier or Bud Collins' pants. And everywhere you look you see players. You have to be fast though! While walking around I have literally crashed into and rubbed shoulders with Nicole Vaidisova, Alize Cornet, Domi Cibulkova, Vania King, Virginie Razzano, Nadia Petrova, Lucie Saferova, Flavia Pennetta and several others. And you never know who will be sitting next to you at a match. Last year at one of Sania's singles qualifiers a girl in glasses and a baseball cap sat next to me in the top row of the bleachers and started clapping for Sania. When I turned to look at her, my eyes bugged out when I saw that it was Elena Vesnina.
So I know that is a long answer, but the answer to your question is not easy--the "best tennis" is probably that first weekend, but the ideal viewing and most fun might be a day or two earlier when it's a little less hectic. Optimally, if you can, stay for Wednesday-Saturday or Sunday and decide for yourself!
I haven't been during the second week, so I don't know how crowded it is or isn't then. But I think it does lighten a little since there are fewer matches and the gates open a little later in the day.