By Sandra Harwitt
This week at the 2013 Western & Southern Open seems to have flown by so quickly it feels as if we’ve all just arrived in town.
But now it’s all in the record books, along with all the other records from this 114-year-old event. That’s right, the Southern & Western Open, which started its existence as The Cincinnati Open back in 1899 in this southwestern corner of Ohio, has been around for more than a century.
And for 2013 the Western & Southern Open record book welcomes two big names from the game -- Rafael Nadal and Victoria Azarenka -- to its rank of tournament champions. Both can now check off the coveted Cincinnati trophy as an achievement realized off their tennis bucket list.
Nadal captured his second-straight hard court title and second-straight ATP Masters 1000 title, having arrived in Cincinnati off of a win in Montreal, beating out Milos Raonic for that trophy. In the final here, Nadal played American John Isner and just eked out a 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3) win. Neither player was able to break serve in the 1 hour, 54 minute final and the packed stadium of fans were thrilled with every point watched.
The second-ranked Azarenka captured a 2 hour, 29 minute battle over No. 1 Serena Williams 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6). It would give Azarenka her third career victory over Williams -- second this year -- in the 15 matches they’ve played. And it would also give her a seventh tournament victory for the year.
There were a great deal of interesting stories that came out during the week at this year’s Western & Southern Open that will keep this event a topic of conversation in the game. Here are two choice happenings from the week.
Firstly, no one anticipated that reigning Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli would decide to end her career here in Cincinnati. But after losing her opening match in three sets to Simona Halep, a teary-eyed Bartoli shocked the international media in attendance at the Western & Southern Open by announcing she had just played her last match. Her body was too tired and she gave everything she had to fulfill her childhood dream of winning Wimbledon, in her second Wimbledon final, and she didn’t need anything else to feel satisfied with her career.
Secondly, Mardy Fish finally spoke to the fear he’s been facing ever since he was found to have a seriously racing heart at the Miami tournament in March 2012. He’s had a difficult year-and-a-half, undergoing surgery to reset his heartbeat and has experienced some mental angst in feeling safe playing because of the physical exertion doing so requires.
It certainly comes as no surprise that this week at the Lindner Family Tennis Center has been filled by great players, great tennis and great atmosphere.
One question that seems to pop up these days is how to describe the Western & Southern Open. That’s actually an easy one to answer: It’s about as close to a Grand Slam tournament as an event can get. Two weeks before the U.S. Open, the final Grand Slam of the year, all the top players from the ATP and WTA flock to this Midwestern city to hone their games for New York.
For the knowledgeable Western & Southern fans, who come to Cincinnati from Ohio and surrounding states, it’s a fabulous opportunity to see the best of the best from both tours in action.
This year, as is usual, the stands on all courts always seemed to overflowing with spectators. The total attendance for the week saw 186,501 fans come through the gates. In a new record, 13 of the 16 sessions were sell-outs - the previous best was 10 sessions sold out. The week ended with 11 straight sell-out sessions. Thursday, August 15th, set an al-time record attendance with 25,155 watching matches on-site. And the Wednesday, August 14th day session set an all-time session record for the tournament with 13,704 fans in attendance.
As the Western & Southern Open ends its journey for the 2013 season there is no reason to bemoan that its over because everyone will be back in 12 months time to welcome the 2014 Western & Southern Open stars and crowds. Until then, thanks for coming and thanks for watching.