People often say, “Home is where the heart is.” As a professional tennis player, I’ve crisscrossed the world more than 20 times over, and along the way found a few places I’ve come to consider home. London, Melbourne, Paris, New York, Madrid and Rome are all cities I hold dear.
But one place that’s been a true home for me over the past 20 years is Miami, the host of one of the world’s most special sporting events: the Miami Open.
I grew up in Compton, Calif., and moved to West Palm Beach, Fla., at 9 years old. Every March, my dad would take Venus and me to Crandon Park on Key Biscayne for what was then called the Lipton International Players Championships. Miami is where I had the chance to watch some of the greats compete.
Little did I know back then, sitting on the sideline with braids in my hair, but I was about to embark on an incredible life journey that would see me play at the Miami Open across three decades.
When I think about the Miami Open having to leave a city I love because it isn’t able to make improvements that would benefit the players and fans, it saddens me.
I made my first appearance there in 1998, reaching the quarterfinals. The next year, Venus and I faced off in the final, in what would be the first of our 11 finals meetings. I was coming off back-to-back tournament wins and riding high with confidence. But Venus has always been my most challenging opponent, the best player I’ve ever played.
It was an incredible day for our family, and I remember my nervous excitement before the match. My dad held a sign that read, “Welcome to the Williams Show.” After I lost the first set, he switched it to another sign, “Go, Serena. Go!” A capacity crowd of 14,000 shouted from the stands, “Go, Williams!”
I think my dad was more nervous than Venus and me combined, but he was so proud of how far we’d come and what each of us had achieved. Venus beat me that day and went on to win the Miami Open in 1998, 1999 and 2001. I made sure we kept it in the family, following up with the first of my eight Miami Open wins in 2002.
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