I think I grew up at a great time for watching professional tennis in Florida. I attended my very first tournament at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando on September 30, 1989.
I remember the date vividly because the tickets were given to me by my parents on my birthday the day before.
At that first tournament I watched Andre Agassi and Brad Gilbert both win semifinal matches. Andre would go on to beat his future coach in the finals on Sunday, 6-2, 6-1.
In 1990 and 1991 the event moved a few minutes down the road to Heathrow Country Club, and I was able to attend both years and see more of my heroes play the sport I loved.
It meant a lot for a kid growing up to have access to that kind of event with such great players.
These days, its still a great time for watching professional tennis in Florida, with two remaining professional tennis viewing options…the Miami Open and the Delray Beach Open, both of which are great events in their own ways.
Interestingly, the very first Miami Open (then called the Lipton International) was actually played in Delray Beach at Laver’s International Tennis Resort.
This week I had the privilege of attending the Delray Beach Open for my second time, and it did not disappoint!
The great thing about the Delray Beach Open is that it takes place in the heart of the city. As we’ve written about here before, there’s a lot to love about Delray Beach.
The tennis center is less than two miles from I-95 and less than two miles from the ocean. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants near the event so if you’re making it an overnight stay and you’d rather not drive all over town, you don’t have to!
Stroll to the matches, stroll to get a bite to eat, and stroll back to your hotel … sounds like a perfect plan to me.
We arrived right at 11 AM when the day’s first matches were getting started, and the line at the main entrance was just as long as some that I’ve seen at the US Open. Just goes to show how popular even a smaller tournament such as this can be among local tennis fans.
Luckily we already had our tickets (thanks Jeff!) so we were able to use the south entrance off Atlantic Ave. and basically walk right in.
After a quick stop at the clubhouse lounge for some Bloody Mary’s we took our seats.
Despite being a smaller tournament as far as prize money and tour points go, the Delray Beach Open still draws some notable players.
This years field included great players like Sam Querry, Grigor Dimitrov, Donald Young, Juan Del Potro, Kevin Anderson, Bernard Tomic and more.
The first match we saw was a doubles match in which Max Mirnyi and his partner won in straight sets.
Up next was a great three set singles match between Steve Johnson and Benjamin Becker.
Unfortunately we had to scoot after those two matches but we wished we could have stayed all night, in particular to catch the Bryan Brothers who have played in Delray 4 out of the last 5 years.
One very unique thing about the Delray Beach Open is that it is the world’s only combined ATP Champions Tour and ATP World Tour event. Meaning, not only do you get to see some great players still competing today, but you also get to see several big name past players.
This year’s Champions Tour event features players like Mardy Fish and James Blake, while prior years have seen players like Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Michael Chang take the court.
The thing we enjoyed almost as much as the matches themselves was the level of hospitality amenities available at the Delray Beach Open.
Our tickets gave us access to the Sky Lounge on Center Court, where we were able to order lunch and grab drinks without having to take our eyes off of the action going on below us. It was a terrific set up.
Had we not had the lounge passes though, we still would have been well fed, either at the on-site Mark's Too restaurant, the food court, or one of the many food carts.
All in all, whether you love tennis like I do or are just a casual fan, you owe it to yourself to check out the Delray Beach Open next time it rolls around.
Your best bet would be to make it an extended trip so you can enjoy one of Delray’s great hotels, it’s many restaurants, and take in the tournament all in the same trip.