The dream of an international tennis tournament in Miami began three decades ago, when top tennis players such as Jack Kramer, Frank Sedgman, Pancho Gonzalez, Pancho Segura and Butch Buchholz toured the country in a station wagon, playing tennis in darkened arenas and fairgrounds.
It was before the days of Open tennis, and they traveled with a portable canvas court and plenty of hopes. Buchholz – an original member of the “Handsome Eight” (the first recognized pros of Lamar Hunt’s World Championship Tennis Circuit introduced in 1968) – competed until he was forced to retire from tennis in 1970 with chronic tennis elbow.
In 1980, when Buchholz was executive director of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) – the player’s union – he met a vice president of the Thomas J. Lipton Company who liked his idea of creating a two-week players tournament. A sponsorship agreement would eventually be reached for $1.5 million a year for five years and Lipton would own the title.
The “Winter Wimbledon,” as it was first dubbed, would be the first major tournament of the year (the Australian Open was then held in December). It was decided that the first tournament would be held at Laver’s International Tennis Resort in Delray Beach, 50 miles north of Miami. The following year, the tournament relocated to Boca Raton followed by a move to its permanent home in Miami in 1987. Buchholz approached the ATP and Women’s Tennis Association and offered prize money, a percentage of the ticket sales and worldwide television rights. In return he wanted the rights to run the tournament for 15 years. The associations agreed.
In 1985, following 20 years of nurturing a dream to create a world-class tennis tournament, the first ball was struck at the International Players Championships and a new tradition in tennis began.
The first tournament turned out 84 of the top 100 men and 97 of the top 100 women. ESPN telecast the first weekend and the men’s semifinals, and ABC telecast the finals live. Networks from Australia, England, France, Italy, Japan, Sweden and West Germany also were present.
Buchholz brought in Alan Mills, tournament referee at Wimbledon, as head referee, and Ted Tinling, a well-known tennis fashion designer since the 1920s, as director of protocol. The first match played was between fourth-seeded Manuela Maleeva and Angeliki Kanellopoulou, a 19-year old from Greece ranked 112th. The first champions were Tim Mayotte and Martina Navratilova; the women’s final between Navratilova and Chris Evert was a sellout. The prize money of $1.8 million was surpassed only by Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
In the tournament’s second year, signs of stability began rolling in as 43 of the top 50 men and 46 of the top 50 women entered. Shortly after, then Miami-Dade County Manager and WTA Executive Director, Merrett Stierheim, helped pave the way for a move to Miami, where a $1 million, 10,000 square-foot clubhouse was built at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Miami in 1989 and plans for a permanent stadium were to be developed. In the process, the County faced a series of lawsuits attempting to prevent construction. The legal entanglement finally was resolved in November of 1992 and in 1994 the $20 million stadium opened, which also serves as home to the USTA Player Development Program. That year also marked the tournament’s 10th anniversary.
Now a 12-day event heading into its 18th year of showcasing world-class tennis, the NASDAQ-100 Open has reached the next echelon in presenting an international sports extravaganza. With $6.395 million in prize money set for 2002 and all of the top players and media from all corners of the world covering the action every day, the NASDAQ-100 Open has earned its place in the world as the fifth largest tennis tournament in terms of players, prize money and attendance, surpassed only by the Grand Slams.
In 2001, the tournament was televised in the United States by CBS, ESPN, and ESPN2, and internationally by ESPN International and many other terrestrial broadcast partners. Each year, television coverage reaches more than 150 countries, radio coverage is broadcast in more than 44 languages, and print media reports are followed by millions and millions of tennis enthusiasts worldwide.
Historic Dates And Denotations
Butch Buchholz announces at The French Open in May 1983 that plans are underway for a major two-week event for men and women players – the first ever event to feature both men and women in its inaugural year.
The original name of the tournament was Lipton International Players Championships. It was changed in the fall of 1999 to Ericsson Open and again in 2002 to the NASDAQ-100 Open.
Thomas J. Lipton Company was title sponsor of the event for 15 years. Ericsson Mobile Phones took over as new title sponsor in the tournament year 2000 and NASDAQ stepped in in 2002.
Miami has been permanent home to NASDAQ-100 Open since 1987, after one-year stops in Delray Beach at Laver’s International Tennis Resort in 1985 and Boca Raton at the Boca West Resort and Club in 1986.
The first match was played on Feb. 4, 1985. Manuel Maleeva defeated Angeliki Kanellopula in Delray Beach. Maleeva won the first point en route to a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
In 1985, prize money was $1.8 million. In 2002 it is $6,395 million.
Alan Mills has been tournament referee since 1985. He also is Wimbledon referee.
The Tennis Center at Crandon Park was dedicated February 13, 1994 to the citizens of Miami-Dade County.
NASDAQ-100 Open site encompasses more than 35 acres, includes 27 courts – 17 hard, eight clay and two grass courts. It is a public park on a year-round basis.
Greater Miami was honored as the 1994 Tennis City of the Year by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, located in Newport, RI.
Al Michaels, one of the voices for ABC’s Monday Night Football, was in the broadcast booth for ABC Sports at the first NASDAQ-100 Open.
Cliff Drysdale has broadcast all 18 tournaments for ESPN.
The earliest start date for NASDAQ-100 Open was January 27 in 1986 in Boca Raton; the latest final was held on April 2 in 2000.
In 1997, Tennis Magazine selected the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, home of NASDAQ-100 Open, as the best stadium in Tennis.
Eight players who have won NASDAQ-100 Open have gone on to secure the No. 1 world ranking for the first time in their career in the same year: Steffi Graf (1987), Mats Wilander (1988), Monica Seles (1990), Jim Courier (1991), Pete Sampras (1993), Andre Agassi (1995), Martina Hingis (1997), and Marcelo Rios (1998).
In 1998, Marcelo Rios defeated Andre Agassi in the men’s final. This victory propelled him to become the first Latin American to reach the world No. 1 ATP Tour ranking in the history of professional tennis’ ranking system.
In 1998, Butch Buchholz announced that Ericsson Mobile Phones acquired the title sponsorship of the tournament beginning in 2000. The Sweden-based mobile phone giant would bow out after only two years because of a downturn in its business.
In 1999, Venus and Serena Williams met in the final; the first all-sister final since 1884 when Maude and met at the Wimbledon final. Venus won her second straight title by defeating her sister 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.
In June 1999, Butch Buchholz announces his family will sell the tournament to IMG to ensure its place in history. Included in the announcement is a statement from Buchholz and IMG that there would be no discernable difference in the way the tournament is run.
On August 30, 2000, the tournament announces it will add a day and be played over 12 days in order to give players more time to recuperate between matches.
On April 2, 2000, Pete Sampras ties Andre Agassi with most singles titles (3) by defeating Brazil’s Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten in a four set epic in front of a boisterous, partisan crowd. Following his win, Sampras said “I can definitely walk out of this tournament feeling real confident and real good about the way things went. Everybody was playing here so it had a Grand Slam atmosphere. The crowd was huge today. I got chills up my spine a number of times.”
On March 31, 2001, Venus Williams defeats Jennifer Capriati in a thrilling three-set final, 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (4) to win her third title in four years. Tennis Magazine would name that match Best Women’s Match of 2001.
On April 1, 2001, Andre Agassi defeated Jan-Michael Gambill 7-6(7), 6-1, 6-0 in the 2001 NASDAQ-100 Open final, becoming the winningest male champion in NASDAQ-100 Open history with four titles: 1990, 1995, 1996 and 2001. With that win, Agassi secured the distinction of being both the oldest champion (30 years, 337 days) and youngest champion (19 years, 330 days old when he won in 1990) in NASDAQ-100 Open history.
On February 5, 2002 the tournament enters a new era in it’s 18th year, teaming with the NASDAQ-100, an index of 100 of the largest non-financial U.S. and non-U.S. companies listed on the National Market tier of The Nasdaq Stock Market.