The Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla., is the biggest, most prestigious tennis tournament in the United States next to the US Open. Its history dates back to 1985 and is documented in pages in my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com). The following are events that happened in the history of the tournament – also previously called the Lipton Championships, the NASDAQ-100 Open and the Ericsson Open – as excerpted from the book from March 28.
1999 – In the first singles final at an important, big tournament in 115 years played between sisters, Venus Williams defeats younger sister Serena Williams 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the women’s singles final at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. The match is highlighted by the charismatic father of both finalists – Richard Williams – who holds various signs during the match with such phrases as “Welcome the Williams Show” and “It Couldn’t Have Happened To A Better Family.” The last time the final of a big, important tournament is played between two sisters comes at Wimbledon 1884 when Maud Watson defeats older sister Lillian Watson in the women’s final.
1997 – No. 30 seeded Sergi Bruguera shocks world No. 1 Pete Sampras 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the semifinals of the Lipton Championships. “It’s one of the best feelings you can have in tennis, to beat the No. 1 in an important match,” says Bruguera. World No. 2 Thomas Muster also advances into the Lipton final, defeating No. 22 Jim Courier 6-3, 6-4.
1998 – Seventeen-year-old Venus Williams defeats 16-year-old Anna Kournikova 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 to win the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. Says Kournikova of her loss, “It’s good that she didn’t really beat me, because I made all the mistakes, right? That gives me some confidence that I could play better. She didn’t beat me. I lost.”
2002 – Serena Williams needs only 50 minutes to defeat older sister Venus Williams 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals of the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. Jennifer Capriati needs 2 hours, 8 minutes and saves two match points in defeating Monica Seles 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) to also advance into the championship match.
1989 – Chris Evert plays a perfect final-set tie-break and escapes the upset-bid of Canada’s Helen Kelesi, defeating the world No. 11 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (0) in the quarterfinals of the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. “I played a perfect tie-breaker and I didn’t play a perfect match,” says Evert. In the early morning hours, world No. 172 Jim Grabb concludes a fourth-round victory over Alberto Mancini, finishing off the Argentine 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (5), 6-7(4), 6-4 at 1:50 am.
1996 – Goran Ivanisevic fires 12 aces in his 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over Michael Chang at the Lipton Championships, then, in his post-match press conference, vows to set a record for number of aces that will “stand for another 200 years until the robots break it.”
2004 – Seventeen-year-old Rafael Nadal of Spain registers the biggest win of his young career, upsetting world No. 1 Roger Federer 6-3, 6-3 in the third round of the NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. Says Nadal, the youngest player in the 2004 NASDAQ-100 field, says “I played almost perfect tennis.” Federer’s loss is only his second in 25 matches in the 2004 season. Says Federer of Nadal, his future top rival, “He hit some really incredible shots, and that’s what youngsters do. I’ve heard a lot about him and saw some of his matches, so this is not a big surprise.”
2008 – Entering the Sony Ericsson Open as the hottest player in men’s tennis with victories at the Australian Open and the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Calif., No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic is cooled off in losing his opening round match to qualifier and No. 122-ranked Kevin Anderson of South Africa 7-6, 3-6, 6-4. Anderson, three weeks removed from reaching his first ATP singles final in Las Vegas, wins 13 points in the a row during a stretch in the third set after Djokovic leads 2-0. Says Anderson, “I kept telling myself, ‘I can do this. I’ve just got to believe in myself.’ Even still, just knowing what he’s done and what a great player he is, to have beaten him is a tremendous experience for me.”