Well folks, my favorite week of the year has arrived. The world’s best tennis players have gathered in Cincinnati for the Western and Southern Open. It is the last major stop before the year’s fourth and final major, U.S. Open begins in two weeks. I spent the weekend at the tennis center watching the qualifying rounds. Here are some reasons why every Cincinnati native should make an effort to attend or at least follow the event.
History- Believe it or not Cincinnati is proud owner of the longest running tennis tournament in the world still held in its original city. Cincinnati has played host to world-class tennis since 1899.
You do not have to break the bank to enjoy yourself- Tickets for individual sessions are fairly well priced. While most sessions still have tickets available for both day and night matches, they are going fast. The alternative to this is a wonderful little thing called a grounds pass. A certain number of grounds pass are set aside for each day. A grounds gives you access to everywhere on tournament grounds except center court for $10.
Something for everyone- Not a tennis fanatic? No problem. The tournament features live music every day, and eclectic mix of options in the food court, and a full-service bar. The food court is incredible this year. It has everything from Skyline Chili to fish tacos to chicken and waffles.
The best of the best are here- Serena, Venus, Sharapova, Murray, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Azarenka are all in town this week. In fact 48 of the top 50 men and women have come to reach for glory this year. If this player field does not get you excited, nothing will.
Catch Serena as she chases history- Serena Williams’ last stop before attempting to become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to win all four majors in the same year is right here in Cincinnati. Seeing this phenomenal athlete before she goes to New York City to chase tennis immortality is a very unique opportunity that all sports enthusiasts should not pass up. This week also marks the second to last pro tournament in the career of a man who spent much of his career as the top-ranked American in the world, Mardy Fish. Fish has dealt with a litany of physical issues over the last four years, limiting him to just a handful of matches Thus, the former world number seven has decided to call it quits after the U.S. Open. Fish is very well respected on tour and a two-time runner-up here. If you want to catch his Cincinnati swan song, I suggest you hurry. If he wins his first round match, Andy Murray awaits.
What to expect on the court this year- Roger Federer and Serena Williams are the defending singles champions. They both are certainly in the conversation to repeat. For Federer it would be Cincy title number 7. Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray will all have something to say about that. Murray won in Canada over Djokovic last week and Federer and Nadal could meet in the quarters. If you are looking for an outsider to make a run, keep an eye on big serving Canadian 9 seed Milos Raonic. I lean ever so slightly towards Murray this week. However, Djokovic surprisingly has never won here and will be hungry. Also, Federer will be fresh having skipped Canada last week.
For the women, Serena is the favorite. However, she is coming off just her second loss on the year to Swiss upstart Belinda Bencic in the Toronto semis. She seemed to be bothered by an arm injury, but she and her camp are not saying much. Maria Sharapova always plays well in Cincy. I would like to think that has something to do with the fact that I am usually in the stands. The Russian ice queen also has and health questions. She is making her first appearance since Wimbledon after straining her leg in practice. Like Serena, she and her camp are being stingy. After watching her practice Saturday, she seems ready to go to me, but no one really knows. Given the health questions surrounding the two biggest stars in the sport, we could see a surprise name holding the trophy. I will look at 6th seed Ana Ivanovic, unseeded former top ranked Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, or maybe even talented young American Slone Stephens.
I hope the city will back this amazing event like it does every year. Like I said, tickets are going fast, but do not forget about grounds passes. The men’s matches begin each day starting at 11 A.M. on Tennis Channel. Unfortunately, the ladies matches are not televised until Thursday. ESPN3.com will have extensive coverage of all courts from the start of main draw play (today) to the end of the tournament. The ESPN family of networks will share coverage with the Tennis Channel beginning Thursday. ESPN/ESPN2 will have exclusive live coverage of semifinal and finals on Saturday and Sunday. Night session matches typically begin at 7 PM. I will be spending a lot of time at the tennis center is this week, but will blog as much as I can.