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This shouldn’t be hard — It’s curtains for the Miami Open

Matt Zemek



Look at that picture. Look at Serena Williams looking straight into the sun at the Miami Open on Friday. This wasn’t a “natural” sun which shines from an elevated place. This was an aperture in Hard Rock Stadium which flooded the playing area at a much more horizontal level than is seen anywhere else on tour.

Let me tell you a story: I was born in Phoenix, Arizona. I had never been to Seattle, Washington, when I chose to attend college at Seattle University. My mother drove me from Phoenix to Seattle, so when we got to Seattle, we knew nothing about the city’s layout or where various landmarks existed.

On our first day in Seattle — driving the streets and learning about the particularities of driving in the city — my mother and I noticed that there are plenty of hills in the city. At 6:30 p.m. — in the middle of a late-September evening — we got to the top of a hill with the western sun right in our eyes. The sun was a low sun flooding our sight lines horizontally. This was not a high mid-afternoon June or July sun, when the sun is pounding down on your body. This was a horizontal, not vertical, beam of sun. We were blinded by the light, and being new to Seattle, we weren’t prepared for it, so we were caught off guard.

That is the kind of light which flooded the court inside Hard Rock Stadium. That expresses the kind of difficulty Serena Williams had with the in-flooding light at the Miami Open.

Very simply: Tournament organizers, when they planned the layout for the tennis court inside the football stadium, had a chance to consider how the outside conditions would or wouldn’t affect the playing environment. This relocation from Crandon Park was planned in advance. Organizers had the chance to test all sorts of conditions.

To be clear: The actual layout of the tennis court — putting it in a specific place inside the larger structure — might not have been something organizers could have had too much wiggle room in deciding on. The seats on three of the four sides of the court are temporary, mobile bleachers. Those are not normal, stationary seats for a normal Hard Rock Stadium layout. This is part of the reality of putting smaller-scale playing surfaces inside a big football stadium. Mobile or temporary bleachers are part of the mix. It would not make sense to plunk a tennis court in the middle of the football stadium with all the spectators sitting no closer than 30 or 40 yards away.

Consider what it looks like when a sport with a smaller-area playing surface is positioned in the middle of a huge football stadium:

Then look at a configuration in which the playing area is not centralized but is tucked in a corner of the stadium:

This configuration above put a lot more stadium seats in positions which had good and accessible sight lines. This principle informed the Miami stadium court’s use of a location near one of the “permanent” sides of the stadium seating layout, with temporary bleachers on the other sides, similar to the Houston Astrodome above for the Battle of the Sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973.

This is a longer way of explaining that the placement of the court within Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium might not have been something organizers could change. I am making an attempt to be fair to them.

Let’s accept that the court had to be placed where it was. I can buy that.

However, once you put a court in a certain position, surely you need to look at conditions and see if there are problems.

The horizontal, in-flooding light was a huge problem. Why was nothing done about it?

When non-football sports are staged inside American football stadiums, there is a simple practice for making sure background light doesn’t flood the playing area in an unexpected or unwelcome way.

A curtain (or curtains, in this case below) are used:

It’s that simple. Hang a curtain, Miami. This was all you had to do.

Again, there was no good reason for this not to have been done earlier.

We’re done here.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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