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Miami Open says new site has more space, better amenities

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MIAMI (AP) While the Miami Open is giving up its picturesque island setting for suburban sprawl, the tennis tournament’s new home will include a 13,800-seat showcase court in the Miami Dolphins’ stadium and 29 permanent outer courts, with the largest seating 5,042 spectators.

IMG, which owns the event, said Wednesday the new site will include more space for players, fans and parking, along with better infrastructure and amenities. The tournament won permission Tuesday from the Miami-Dade County commission to move 18 miles north in 2019 from its longtime home of Key Biscayne.

Construction of the new tennis complex will begin soon and cost more than $50 million, with much of the work done on grounds that had been used for football parking. Total seating capacity will increase to 32,474 from 25,062, including 5,660 at practice courts. Lighting will allow for more night matches than in the past.

The stadium court will use both permanent and temporary seats, with the net located over the 50-yard line. Screens will hide unused football seats.

There will be double the number of parking spaces and suites at the new site. The grounds will feature a “tennis oasis” for fans with the largest video screen of any tournament.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who also owns the stadium, said last spring he was willing to invest in a tennis complex on stadium grounds because he wanted to keep the tournament in South Florida. The Dolphins then reached an agreement with IMG and the county.

“We are extremely excited that the Miami Open, a global entertainment event, will remain in our community,” Ross said in a statement.

“The Miami Open belongs in Miami,” IMG co-president Mark Shapiro said.

A 2015 appeals court decision preventing upgrades to the Key Biscayne complex had left the event’s future in question. There had been speculation the tournament might leave South Florida, with potential sites ranging from South America to China.

“The Miami Open has been a part of Miami’s culture for as long as I can remember,” eight-time Key Biscayne champion Serena Williams said in a statement. “I am thrilled the Miami Open is staying in Miami where it belongs.”

The tournament will be held on Key Biscayne for the 32nd and final time beginning March 19.

Fed Cup: Stephens to open for US against France in semis

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AP) U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens will open play for the U.S. against Pauline Parmentier of France in the Fed Cup semifinals.

France No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic and CoCo Vandeweghe will follow on Saturday in the second singles at the new 6,700-capacity Arena Pays d’Aix. France has opted for an indoor clay court.

Mladenovic and Amandine Hesse are set to face Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the doubles on Sunday following the reverse singles.

France and the United States meet for a 14th time, with the Americans holding an 11-2 winning record. The French won their most recent meeting, in 2014.

Both teams are missing their highest-ranked player: No. 8 Venus Williams for the U.S., and No. 7 Caroline Garcia for France.

Germany is facing the Czech Republic in the other semifinal in Stuttgart.

Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping tournaments like Federer

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MONACO (AP) For now, Rafael Nadal doesn’t see himself skipping any major tournaments the way Roger Federer has been sitting out the French Open.

The veterans are back at the top of world tennis, with Nadal needing to win the Monte Carlo Masters this week to avoid losing his top ranking once again to Federer in their seemingly eternal battle for tennis supremacy.

For the second consecutive season, the 36-year-old Federer is skipping the entire clay-court season in order to be at his best on grass.

After coming back from injury to win the Australian Open last year, Federer skipped the clay-court season, won Wimbledon, and retained his Melbourne crown to extend his record tally to 20 majors.

The Swiss star is keeping his aging body fresher by playing a bit less – avoiding Nadal on clay at Roland Garros or elsewhere – and it is working for him.

But Nadal still thinks he can play a full schedule.

“There (are) tournaments that I can’t imagine missing on purpose, because (they are) tournaments that I love to play,” Nadal said on Wednesday. “I don’t see myself missing Monte Carlo on purpose. I don’t see myself missing Wimbledon on purpose, or the U.S. Open, or Australian, or Rome. These kind of events, I don’t see missing (them).”

The 31-year-old Spaniard recently returned from a right hip injury which forced him to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal against Marin Cilic.

With his 32nd birthday coming up on June 3 – during the French Open – the 16-time Grand Slam champion accepts he may think differently when he gets closer to Federer’s age.

“Of course, when you get older, you need to adjust a little bit more the efforts and the calendar. But for me (it) is difficult to say I don’t play, for example, grass, or I don’t play hard (courts),” Nadal said. “(It) is not in my plan, but I can’t say `never’ because I cannot predict what’s going to be in the future.”

Nadal is chasing an 11th title at both Monte Carlo and Roland Garros, which begins on May 27.

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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire