Serious tennis fans know two things: You never know which way the ball will bounce, and it’s incredibly hard to get tickets to the Majors. While your clients may dream of front row seats at the French Open or a box at Wimbledon, it will most likely set their wallet’s back to see the finest athletes in the sport perform. Instead, here are three options in some great US cities for more affordable tennis tournaments that require a lot less travel without sacrificing an ounce of fun.
March 5-18, 2018 Indian Wells, CA
Also known as the Indian Wells Masters, the BNP Paribas Open dates back to 1974 when former tennis pros Charlie Pasarell and Raymond Moore founded what was at the time a men’s only tournament (the women’s tournament was added in 1989). Indian Wells is a small enclave in the Palm Springs area of the Coachella Valley, some 125 miles from the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles. It’s a quick drive through the desert, and many sports fans are happy to make the trek in order to witness history from one of the 24,100 seats in Stadiums 1 and 2 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Others make a full Southern California vacation out of the March event, when the tourists are scarce, the desert is in bloom, and the tennis legendary.
Since the event’s inception, many of the most talented and famous stars in tennis have graced the tournament brackets. The inaugural year saw John Newcombe edge out Arthur Ashe, while more recent finalists have featured Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova. The tournament is a Masters 1000 event on the men’s tour and a premier mandatory event on the women’s tour ensuring a thrilling draw of players.
The town of Indian Wells is set up to welcome tournament participants and guests with open arms and luxurious accommodations. Resort-style lodging and spas abound, there is also plenty of shopping and dining options for those looking for a pick-me-up between matches. Outdoor pursuits like hiking, biking and golf are also popular here; guests who come for the tennis often stay to experience the area’s mid-century modern architecture, museums such as the Living Desert Zoo & Gardens and natural draws like the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.
March 19-26, 2018 Key Biscayne, FL
Every March, tennis fans descend on sunny Key Biscayne, Florida, for the Miami Open. Also called the Miami Masters, this tournament attracts massive crowds, including a record-breaking 316,267 people in 2011. Celebrities in attendance last year ran the gamut from fashion icons like Anna Wintour to retired MLB-superstar Alex Rodriguez to country star Shania Twain.
Matches are known for their intensity; the combination of a slow hard court and hot and humid temperatures help build tension and interest, two things that make for great memories. Tennis legends Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert & Steffi Graf have all claimed victory at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event.
The 2004 Miami Open spawned the best continuous rivalry in sports when No. 32 seeded Rafael Nadal upset No. 1 Roger Federer 6-3, 6-3 in the round of 32 marking the first time these legends did battle.
Those interested in attending the Miami Open will enjoy the tournament’s proximity to The Magic City and all it has to offer. Hotels range from small and charming to huge, swanky buildings with every amenity under the sun. While the venue is home to a number of vendors hawking everything from burgers to Bacardi, nearby eateries are a veritable explosion of spiced-up cuisine, and that bounty is difficult to pass up. Then there’s the shopping, nightlife and beaches, all part of the quintessential Miami lifestyle that makes this tennis competition a winning alternative to pricier, more inaccessible options.
This will be the last Miami Open played at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne before relocating to the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, in 2019.
September 21-23, 2018 Chicago, IL
Patriotism and sports collide at the Laver Cup, a new international tennis tournament that launched in 2017 with plans to take place every year (save those in which a Summer Olympics is scheduled). Though the location rotates, the format is always the same: Team Europe and Team World come together to vie for bragging rights and $250,000 in prize money for each player on the winning team. In a way, the Laver Cup is professional tennis’ answers to golf’s Ryder Cup.
Twelve exhilarating matches take place over three days, providing tons of entertainment for those lucky enough to witness the top players compete with a winning combination of skill, style, and athleticism. The inaugural 2017 Laver Cup took place in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Bjorn Borg captained Team Europe to victory over John McEnroe’s Team World as fans were treated to Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal playing together as doubles partners.
The Laver Cup is scheduled to take place two weeks after the U.S. Open, making it a prime choice for anyone who can’t score a ticket to the festivities at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City. Chicago’s United Center plays host in 2018. In September, the windy city offers a ton of opportunities for visitors ranging from watching professional sports teams like the Bears, Cubs & White Sox to world class museums like the Chicago Art Institute, to shopping along Miracle Mile as well as some of the best dining in the world.
Laver Cup would make a fantastic annual vacation for tennis devotees who want to witness top athletes in a championship fight without traveling to the same city every year. The atmosphere is convivial, the energy electric, and this fledgling event should only grow more popular from here.
Written by contributing author: Alana Luna