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Champion Djokovic says Miami Open will stay in Key Biscayne

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Novak Djokovic says the Miami Open will remain in Key Biscayne for a long time, and South Florida tennis fans hope he’s right.

Tournament officials were mum about the future of the event, which has been in question since an appeals court decision last year that prevents the Miami Open from upgrading its complex. Following that ruling, a lawyer for the tournament said relocation was all but certain.

Djokovic won a record-tying sixth Key Biscayne title Sunday, and addressed the issue during the trophy ceremony.

“I don’t know how much you follow the stories about the tournament moving,” he said. “I assure you it’s going to stay here for a long time. So see you next year.”

He reinforced the message during his postmatch news conference.

“From some reliable sources I know the tournament will stay here for many years to come,” he said. “I don’t think we need to have a conversation about moving this tournament anywhere else.”

Tournament director Adam Barrett didn’t respond to repeated requests for an interview during the event. Eugene Stearns, an attorney for the Miami Open, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

Next year’s site was never in much doubt, with the starting date of March 20 in Key Biscayne announced months ago. But there’s been speculation about eventual alternative locations, ranging from Orlando to South America to China. Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer visited the tournament last week.

The Key Biscayne site is owned by Miami-Dade County. Tournament officials have long said upgrades are essential if the event is to remain among the most prestigious in tennis, and some top players say the facilities have slipped behind Indian Wells and other events.

“It’s obvious that something needs to happen,” Rafael Nadal said. “All the tournaments are making improvements on facilities, and it’s true this tournament didn’t make that happen for a while.”

The cost of upgrades isn’t the issue. The Miami Open planned to pay for $50 million in improvements.

If tennis left, it could be part of a double-whammy for South Florida. The future of the PGA event at Doral is in doubt because General Motors’ sponsorship agreement ended last month.

International Players Championship Inc. owns the tennis tournament and has an eight-year commitment with Miami-Dade. But Stearns has said the agreement is invalid because the county - blocked by legal rulings - has failed to make upgrades.

“It’s clearly a difficult situation,” two-time champion Roger Federer said early in the tournament. “The tournament has a nice vibe, you know. Here in Miami, it’s a beautiful place to play tennis. I’ve been coming here to Miami since I was 14 years old.”