(MASON, Oh.) – If world class tennis is your thing, then I suggest you high tail it up to Cincinnati this week to get your much-needed fix. I’m not talking about a couple of insignificant exhibition matches between up and coming players you never heard of or aging former greats too decrepit to run the baseline. I’m talking a real professional tennis tournament featuring the greatest current players swinging rackets on tour. It’s the Western and Southern Open—nine full days of overhead smashes, searing passing shots, and mesmerizing ground strokes that’ll show you once and for all how bad your own tennis game really is.
It’s all happening at the Lindner Family Tennis Center—one of the only world tennis venues apart from the four Grand Slams—located just about 20 miles north of Cincinnati in Mason, Ohio. The annual event held here is a part of the US Open Series, a prestigious ATP Masters 1000 tournament stop, and a WTA Premier 5 event all rolled into one—making it the largest annual summer sporting event in the US Midwest. Last year, the tournament attracted more than 194,000 spectators. From August 10-18 of this year, fans from all 50 states and 35 countries will be filing on to the tennis grounds to enjoy one of the last stops prior to the US Open Grand Slam tournament in New York.
As always, there’ll be no shortage of big-name tennis talent. The reigning singles champions ATP No. 1 Novak Djokovic and WTA No. 5 Kiki Bertens will be there to defend their titles. Not surprisingly, Rafael Nadal (No. 2), Roger Federer (No. 3), and Dominic Thiem (No. 4) are also scheduled to compete. The women’s draw appears just as loaded with Ashleigh Barty (No. 1), Naomi Osaka (No. 2), and Serena Williams (No. 10) among others looking to battle it out.
All in all, the initial entry list included the top 40-ranked men and women on tour. Nine past Western and Southern Open champions, 12 number ones, and 17 Major championship winners highlight the distinguished field. If that weren’t impressive enough, Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, and Andy Murray have also been awarded wild cards this year. The 77 entrants represent 34 different countries making this truly not only a national but an international gathering. See, I wasn’t kidding when I said this was the cream of the crop of the tennis world. And it’s all happening right in our own Queen City neighborhood.
Not a tennis geek? No worries. In addition to the on-court matches, practice sessions, and opportunities for autographs, the Western and Southern Open features more than 50 musical acts, 20 gourmet food vendors, six signature bar areas, and a large retail plaza showcasing the latest in tennis gear and fashion. Special activities and programming for the tots will be held throughout the week adding to the already family friendly atmosphere.
As the tournament plays out, you’ll find me roaming the spacious grounds looking for the usual unique stories and entertaining tidbits that you have come to know and expect from yours truly. I’ll have recorder in hand as I work hard to seek out those poignant quotes and quirky soundbites. I’ve always loved tennis, even played recreationally a lot during the Borg/McEnroe era, and still tune in whenever the Slams come a calling. But there always remains a fondness in my heart for the Western and Southern Open—a gathering of uber-talented athletes at the top of their chosen profession all co-mingling in one place close to my hometown. To be part of the backstage media action is like living the dream. It’s almost too good to be true. I hope I don’t mess it up. Stay tuned!
Dr. John Huang is lead columnist for Sports View America. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.