The Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida is becoming a yearly tradition for me. While it’s not a Grand Slam-level tournament, it’s becoming recognized as one of the major tennis events of the year.
Living about 2 hours away from the tournament site is a big reason why I’m very comfortable spending money here. For easily less than $200 in total, I can get a whole day filled with tennis stars and exciting action.
Last weekend was my second outing to a full day of tennis, and over the last two years, I have learned how to get the most out of a day out at the grounds.
While I imagine that Grand Slams and small tournaments are at a different order of magnitude from my experience in Miami, I hope that the small handful of tips I have for you will be helpful and relevant if you’re planning to watch tennis or any other type of sporting event.
Enjoying a Tennis Day
- Put on sunscreen and bring an extra bottle with you. Buy the small pocket-sized variety if you need to. You are likely to spend hours in intense, direct sunlight with intermittent periods of shade.
- When you get to the grounds, buy a comfortably-sized water bottle–1 liter worked perfectly for me. (Some events will also let you bring this in). Refill at the water fountains whenever you get a chance.
- Metal bleachers are hard, and if you plan on watching any matches on smaller courts, that’s inevitably what you’ll sit on. Invest in a cushion pad, or upgrade to a seat pad with a back. They’re available in the camping section of any Target or Walmart and run about $20-$30.
- Think very carefully about bringing kids. In my opinion, anyone under 3 should stay home (yes, including my son), since noise and movement are big no-nos during a match. If you’re bringing your child, consider how long you’ll be at the grounds.
- If you have a compatible smart phone, get the app that the tournament provides, unless you’re only there to see one match. Live scores will keep you posted about what’s going on around the grounds.
- Take a walk around the stadiums, courts, and practice areas (without breaking the law, of course). You might see someone completely unexpected! (Last year, we got within 30 feet of Federer stretching behind the locker room with absolutely no one else around).
- If you want to see the most matches possible, attend opening weekend action. This puts you in second and third-round matches. Most tournaments sell a package that lets you hang out the whole weekend.
- If you want to see competitive, star-filled matches, attend just after the first weekend. These are mostly fourth-round matches and some quarterfinals.
- If you want variety, opt for the day session. There are usually multiple matches on multiple courts.
- If you want entertainment and an “experience,” opt for the night session. You’ll typically see two “headliners” play.
- For day sessions, pick seats on the west side of the court to avoid looking into the afternoon sun. There is no “shade” unless you’re watching very late afternoon or night matches.
- If you intend to buy food, snacks, or souvenirs, bring cash. It makes purchases faster and easier.
- Check the policy on carrying items in. Many times, small amounts of food or drink can be brought in, and it will save you big bucks once inside.
- If at all possible, get dropped off or use public transportation. Fighting traffic while trying to catch the first points of a match makes for a lousy day and extends the time you spend at the event.
- Plan to arrive early. Day matches typically start at 11:00 AM, and night matches at 7:00 PM. Consider that before your see the first point, you need to arrive at the site, fight traffic, find parking, get to the grounds, buy or present your ticket, get through the gate, orient yourself, select a match to watch, find and walk to the court, and find a seat. If you come early, you are also likely to see players practicing and get up close.
- Review the tournament’s FAQ page to find out how to avoid common mistakes and get an idea of basic requirements.
- The order of play, or schedule, for the following day is always released the night before. Review the order of play before getting to the grounds and get an idea of which matches you definitely want to see.
- Wear breathable, light-colored clothing. My personal preference are Dry-Fit shirts that stay dry and comfortable all day. Bring a hat and a change of clothes if you need to.
- Make sure you check the weather on the previous day. It might sound obvious but depending on the surface of play, even a brief light sprinkle can interrupt play for hours. Bring a small umbrella if you anticipate rain, and expect to stay late or be disappointed.
- Check the dining options before you go, and have a rough idea of what you’ll want so you save time at the grounds. While typical fare like burgers will be insanely expensive, there are usually very cheap snack options available, like fresh fruit. Look around before you settle on something.