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Miami Open becomes new name for annual Key Biscayne tennis tournament

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MIAMI - It's not uncommon for the top stars in tennis to refer to South Florida's premier tournament simply as Miami, even though that has never been in the event's official title.

That is, until now.

The annual event on Key Biscayne will be known for the next five years as The Miami Open, with the Latin American bank Itau is taking over as the event's presenting sponsor. The tournament had most recently been called the Sony Open and Sony had been in the event's name since 2007.

"Leveraging the Miami brand is a great effort to strengthen Miami's reputation as an epicenter for sport and entertainment," said Andrea Pinotti Cordeiro, Itau Unibanco's Institutional Marketing Director.

The name switch is one of many changes that might be coming to the event, which draws the top men's and women's players in the world to South Florida each spring. Organizers are hoping to upgrade the tennis facility, with plans — which have been met with some resistance and led to ongoing court battles — calling for expansion of the main stadium and other improvements around the grounds.

Without those fixes, organizers fear the event could lose some of its lustre. The sponsorship with Itau is not contingent on any of the expansion and infrastructure plans being completed.

"We plan on building the future together regardless of what happens there," tournament director Adam Barrett said. "We're committed to the event, we're committed to building the event, we're committed to making improvements every year for both the players, our sponsors and our guests."

Traditionally one of the top tournaments outside of the Grand Slams, the event started in Delray Beach, Florida in 1985, moved to Boca Raton the following year and then came to Key Biscayne. More than 300,000 tickets are sold annually and matches are broadcast to 193 countries.

"It's an incredible tournament with so much history," women's star Maria Sharapova said in a video promoting the announcement.

Next year's tournament is March 23-April 5. Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams won the titles on Key Biscayne this year.

"We're in a city that is world class," Barrett said. "You name top five, top 10 cites of the world and you'd be remiss if Miami doesn't get mentioned there."

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