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Sony Ericsson Open goes above and beyond to please tennis players

Sony Ericsson OpenOne of the ways the Sony Ericsson Open built its name was by catering to players. 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.

The players lounge isn't in the basement but overlooks the court, so players can watch matches. That's space that could have gone to lucrative suites for high-rolling patrons. There are ten computers for players to check e-mails, plus, wireless service is available all over the stadium for those with laptops.

This year, the tournament has doubled the size of its gym and physiotherapy facilities. Equipment includes hydraulic massage tables from London that cost thousands of dollars each.

World No.23 Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine said she was impressed: "It's better for players. Lots more room."

There are now separate locker rooms set aside just for men's and women's coaches.

"We're trying to turn it into the best environment for players to do their job," said tournament director Adam Barrett.

However, world No.1 Justine Henin is hard to please. Even though the tournament is making sure her favorite rice milk always shows up in her hotel refrigerator, Henin still isn’t in love with the Sony Ericsson Open: "I like Miami, but I am not a big fan of the tournament – although I like it better since last year." Well, the Sony Ericsson Open is not the only tournament Henin doesn't prefer, the US Open is also not on her list of favorites.

Justine Henin, of course, is not the only one with particular demands. One year, Martina Navratilova wanted an exotic variety of red bananas from Brazil, as well as room-temperature Evian water, and the tournament provided that for her.

"We had to go to a farmer's market to find the bananas, but we got them," said Kim Hall Uliasz, the tournament's director of player services. (source: Palm Beach Post, photo via The ATP Blog)

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