The Sony Ericsson Open, the second of the two giant North American Masters, is a conclusive full stop between tennis’s first hard court season and the arrival of two unbroken months of clay.
And while the opening week of April may see a handful of players make their transition to the red stuff in Casablanca or Houston—the only ATP event in the U.S. on clay—the spotlight turns unwaveringly on Europe for the duration.
As if to celebrate this last hard-court jamboree until the U.S. Open Series gets underway in mid-July, the 300,000-plus Florida visitors throw themselves into what is surely the brightest and breeziest tournament of the year.
The players, too, love this event and soak up diversions from diving with dolphins to strutting their stuff on the fashion runway.
The temperature might swelter from a night-time in the 60s to a daytime approaching the 90s, and with a humidity that can drench the forehead like a wet sponge, yet Miami has been voted the players’ favorite Masters tournament six times.
And to prove its popularity, all the best men are here.
Every one of the top 10, 18 of the top 20—Gael Monfils and David Nalbandian are both injured—and 46 of the top 50 players fill the 96-man draw, including the last five champions.
Andy Roddick, defending champion, won the title in 2004 as well. Roger Federer is also a double winner, in 2005 and 2006. Andy Murray won in 2009 and his friend, Novak Djokovic, is aiming to win his second Miami title—the first was in 2007.
Djokovic is also bidding to become the only active player apart from Federer to win Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back.
Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal has just as big an incentive. He has twice been runner-up in Miami, in 2005 and 2008. Can he make it third time lucky?