Amazing Agassi, Rios' Rise & Big Three Classics: 10 Memorable Miami Moments

  • Posted: Mar 25, 2020

Amazing Agassi, Rios’ Rise & Big Three Classics: 10 Memorable Miami Moments

Celebrating 30 years of ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, looks back on 10 memorable moments from Miami since 1990

Normally at this is the time of season, the Tour heads to the sun and sand of Miami, Florida. But due to the global COVID-19 pandemic this year, reflects on some of the magic at one of the ATP Tour’s lynch-pin events, the Miami Open presented by Itau, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of ATP Masters 1000 tournaments.

Butch Buchholz, a former executive director of the ATP, and his brother, Cliff, originally wanted to make the Miami Open presented by Itau the first major tournament of the year, dubbed ‘Winter Wimbledon’ (at a time when the Australian Open was played in December). The first event held in February 1985 at Laver’s International Tennis Resort in Delray Beach was won by Tim Mayotte, before the tournament moved for a year to Boca Raton and then to it’s long-term location of the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne off Miami from 1987 to 2018. Expanding to a 96-player field in 1999, the multi-week tournament relocated to the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, last year. looks back on 10 memorable moments from Miami since 1990.

1991: Courier Completes First ‘Sunshine Double’
Jim Courier, the possessor of a fine forehand allied to superior physical conditioning, became the first of seven players (to date) to complete the BNP Paribas Open and Miami Open presented by Itau title double in the same season, on his inextricable rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings 10 months later. Having started March 1991 at No. 23 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Courier’s physical and high-intensity power play helped him to beat Guy Forget 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in Indian Wells for just his second tour-level title, and then a win over then World No. 1 Stefan Edberg in Miami en route to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over David Wheaton in the final. It helped him return to the Top 10. Michael Chang (1992), Pete Sampras (1994), Marcelo Rios (1998), Andre Agassi (2001), Roger Federer (2005-06, 2017) and Novak Djokovic (2011, 2014, 2015, 2016) have since completed the ‘Sunshine Double’.

1994: Sampras Makes Lazarus-like Recovery, Wins Delayed Final
In his first final under the guidance of coach Brad Gilbert, Agassi walked into the locker room prior to the 1994 final at the Crandon Park Tennis Center to find Sampras on the floor. Agassi, who at No. 31 in the FedEx ATP Rankings was at his lowest position since November 1987, had beaten the likes of Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg during the tournament, and agreed to delay the final by one hour in order to give Sampras more time to recover. Defending champion Sampras, who had been given an IV by a doctor, jumped out to a 5-1 lead, and while Agassi recovered, there was no let up. Sampras won 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in two hours and 15 minutes and went on to lift a personal-best 10 tour-level trophies that season.

1997: Muster’s Redemption
Less than two hours after beating Yannick Noah for a place in the 1989 Miami final, Muster was getting a bag out of his courtesy car outside Bayside Marketplace, when a drunk driver — on the wrong side of the road — struck head-on, pushing the parked car into Muster’s left leg. Muster, unable to play the final the next day against Ivan Lendl, flew back to Vienna and underwent surgery on two ligaments that were severed. With the aid of a specially designed chair, which allowed him to hit balls while recovering from the surgery, Muster returned to tennis six months later. He would eventually capture the Miami title in 1997, beating Sergi Bruguera 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-1. “This is great justice for me,” says Muster, after lifting the biggest hard-court trophy of his career. He’d beaten Grant Stafford, a young Tommy Haas, Alex Corretja, Jonas Bjorkman and Jim Courier en route to the final.

1998: Rios Rise To No. 1
In the space of 20 extraordinary days, the pony-tailed Rios harnessed not only his natural talent, but also a so-far untapped mental resolve to play some of the best tennis of his career and capture the Indian Wells-Miami title double. A feat achieved, at that point, by only a trio of Americans: Courier (1991), Chang (1992) and Sampras (1994). Rios, who had started March 939 points behind World No. 1 Sampras, beat Greg Rusedski 6-3, 6-7(15), 7-6(4), 6-4 in the BNP Paribas Open final. In a sun-kissed 29 March final, the third seed competed nerve-free against three-time former champion Agassi, who had risen from No. 141 to No. 22 in just eight events and led the Tour with a 24-3 start on the season. Rios’ path to glory, including his 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Agassi that knocked off Sampras at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings after 102 consecutive weeks, triggered rapturous celebrations on the streets of Chile, a nation that had witnessed every match live on television. 


2003: Agassi Wins Third Straight Miami Crown, Sixth Overall
Agassi always enjoyed appearing in Miami ever since his first match — a first-round loss to Muster — as a 17-year-old in 1987. The American would go on to compile a 61-13 record at the tournament, highlighted by appearing in his first ATP Masters 1000 final in 1990; recording the 700th victory of his illustrious career over a young Federer in the 2002 final and, the following year, bettering the five Key Biscayne titles of his wife, Steffi Graff, with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Carlos Moya. One-month shy of his 33rd birthday, having missed Indian Wells due to a right shoulder injury, he’d beaten Younes El Aynaoui (quarter-finals), Albert Costa (semi-finals) and Moya in as many days. Agassi also won a tournament record 19 straight matches in Miami from a first-round win over Taylor Dent in 2001 until he lost to Agustin Calleri in the 2004 fourth round. Agassi’s six Miami titles (also 1990, 1995-96, 2001 and 2002) have since been equalled by Djokovic, the 2007, 2011-12, 2014-16 champion.

2005: Federer & Nadal Meet For First Time In A Final
As a 17-year-old, Rafael Nadal had beaten Federer in the 2004 third round, and he had everything in control in his first Masters 1000 final at 6-2, 7-6(4), 4-1 one year later. Federer, who was two points from losing in the 10th game of the third set and also at 3/5 in the tie-break, recovered for his 18th consecutive victory in tour-level finals — and his 22nd victory in a row. “It was a very equal match,” said Nadal, after their second career meeting. “In the end it didn’t happen for me.” The 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-1 win, over three hours and 42 minutes, was only the second time that Federer had recovered from 0-2 sets down. “I really didn’t expect to turn it around really,” said Federer. “I haven’t dug out many matches in my career and to dig it out against Nadal, I’m extremely happy – and exhausted.” It was their second of a legendary 40-match series (Nadal currently leads 24-16).

2007: Djokovic Wins First Masters 1000 Title
Fresh-faced and with spiky hair, 19-year-old Djokovic blitzed through the Miami field without dropping a set, beating qualifier Guillermo Canas 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 for his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy. “Every time you win something, or you are the youngest player, or you make any record, I mean, it certainly feels great,” said Djokovic, the youngest champion in the 23-year history of the tournament. “It means that your name is in the history of the sport. I am very proud of that. I know that I worked hard throughout all my career to reach this point, and I hope that this is just the beginning of a long career.” Djokovic, who moved from No. 10 to No. 7 in the FedEx ATP Rankings as a result of winning the fourth title of his career, also beat Nadal for the first time, 6-3, 6-4, in the Miami quarter-finals.

2011: Djokovic Remains Perfect After Classic Final
Djokovic came into the 2011 final having not lost his serve all tournament, but that didn’t last long against then-World No. 1 Nadal, who mastered the windy conditions in the early stages and looked to avenge his Indian Wells loss two weeks earlier. In one of the most electrifying finals in Miami tournament history, Djokovic tightened up his defence and counter-punching game to upend Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) over three hours and 21 minutes. “It was very close, and it really could have gone either way,” said Djokovic, who completed the first of his four Indian Wells-Miami title doubles. “It was one of the best finals I ever played in in my life.” It improved Djokovic’s perfect winning streak to 24 matches on the season. “What Novak is doing at the start of this season is something difficult to repeat, so well done to him and his team,” said Nadal. “Today I had some good chances, but Novak was too good for me this afternoon.” Djokovic compiled a 41-match winning streak that year.


2017: The Match Of The Year In Miami
Federer and Nick Kyrgios may have opposite temperaments and playing styles, but they came together in the 2017 semi-finals to put on one of the finest matches of the year. Federer saved set points and Kyrgios saved match points in front of a standing-room only crowd, but it was the fourth seed who ultimately came out on top over Kyrgios in their semi-final clash 7-6(9), 6-7(9), 7-6(5). “It did feel very good, because you don’t very often play three breakers in a match. It’s nice to win those and winning breakers is always such a thrill,” said Federer, after the encounter that lasted three hours and 10 minutes. “It’s great winning this way, especially because I remember the loss against him a couple of years ago. It was rough [in Madrid on 6 May 2015]. It was the birthday of my boys [Leo and Lenny]. I wasn’t with them and had that match, so it was nice to get this one tonight.” Their previous meeting at the 2015 Mutua Madrid Open had produced a similar scoreline, with Kyrgios saving two match points in a 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(12) victory.

2019: Welcome To The Hard Rock Stadium…
After 32 editions, it was farewell to Crandon Park in March 2018. The following year, James Blake, the former World No. 4 turned-Miami Tournament Director, welcomed the tennis world to the home of the Miami Dolphins, where 11 of the 29 permanent tennis courts had been built on the Hard Rock Stadium’s southern parking lots. A new face, qualifier and World No. 53 Felix Auger-Aliassime became the tournament’s youngest-ever semi-finalist on his Miami debut and he was also the first teenager to reach the semi-finals since Djokovic beat Andy Murray (both 19) in 2007. But the title match pitted a familiar face in three-time former winner Federer against 33-year-old defending champion John Isner, who was riding an 11-match winning streak in Miami. Federer won 6-1, 6-4 in his 50th ATP Masters 1000 final, becoming the event’s oldest champion at 37 years and 235 days, to start a new chapter for the prestigious tournament.

Other Memorable Moments
* 1999: 17-year-old Federer earns a wild card after winning 1998 Orange Bowl title at Crandon Park with bleach-blonde hair.

* 2001: 18-year-old wild card Andy Roddick defeats defending champion and World No. 4 Sampras.

* 2002: Federer ends World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt’s 15-match win streak to reach his first ATP Masters 1000 final.

* 2004: In first of their 40 meetings, 17-year-old Nadal stuns top-ranked Federer 6-3, 6-3 in the third round.

* 2004: Playing with kidney stones, Guillermo Coria wins first set of final against Roddick and plays two more sets before retiring.

* 2006: Federer wins three straight tie-breaks against his future coach Ivan Ljubicic to repeat as Miami champion.

* 2007: En route to final, Argentine qualifier Canas defeats defending champion Federer for the second time in 17 days.

* 2008: Using one racquet throughout the tournament, Nikolay Davydenko becomes the first Russian to win the Miami title.

* 2009: Juan Martin del Potro edges Nadal for the first of his 10 wins over World No. 1s (most among players never ranked No. 1).

* 2012: Fernando Gonzalez loses a third-set tie-break to Nicolas Mahut in the final match of his career.

* 2012: In last of their 24 meetings, Roddick defeats Federer for the second time in Miami and the third time overall.

* 2013: Murray saves championship point against David Ferrer, who nearly ends the Spanish curse in Miami. To date, Spaniards are 0-8 in Miami finals.

* 2016: Djokovic caps 30-1 run in Miami from 2011-16, with fifth title in six years and a record-tying sixth title overall.

* 2018: In Miami final year at Crandon Park, 32-year-old Isner becomes the oldest first-time ATP Masters 1000 champion.

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