World No. 1 Justine Henin isn’t crazy about the humidity, wind and traffic in South Florida. But she apparently does like rice milk. The Sony Ericsson Open, which starts today, is paying people to make sure it shows up in her hotel refrigerator.
Men’s No. 1 Roger Federer wants golf reservations for his parents. Done.
Defending champion Serena Williams needs a room with a kitchen. Check.
Andy Roddick likes NBA tickets but sometimes switches hotel reservations two or three times before the tournament starts. Covered.
Henin, a finalist last year in Key Biscayne for the first time, did not mention rice milk when asked what she liked and didn’t like about this competition. She did say she is finding Key Biscayne a little more to her taste over time. Three times since 2001 she has lost her first or second match.
“I like Miami, but I am not a big fan of the tournament - although I like it better since last year,” Henin said. “It is a big tournament, and they do a lot to make it a big event and it is like the fifth grand slam.”
The tournament spends an estimated $500,000 to $800,000 annually on what might be called player amenities, little touches to nudge player opinion upward. This year, for example, it will buy about 150 Miami Heat tickets and provide them free to players. In some cases, it works out deals with sponsors. All players get a free rental car for the duration, and the top 10 tool around in a Mercedes.
Evidently, it pays off. The 12-day event has been voted the tournament of the year five straight times by the men’s tour. The women’s tour named it the top event in 2004. Palm Beach Post
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