Sixteen-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, three-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova and two-time Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva praised the Western & Southern Open’s expansion to a men’s and women’s combined event this year.
Last year’s champion Federer said that while it may be more difficult for players to get practice court times with the combined format, "if it works for the fans and the media, we’re happy to go through that." He continued, "I’m happy for this tournament. [It] has a long history, and I think they’ve done really well over the years to deserve this position."
Sharapova, who advanced to the finals last year before falling to four-time Grand Slam titlist Kim Clijsters, said that having the additional courts and the ability to watch both men’s and women’s tennis is "the best experience you can get as a fan, no doubt."
According to World No. 3 Zvonareva, the 2011 winner at Doha and Baku, the larger grounds of the Lindner Family Tennis Center and the tournament’s combined status make this feel like a Grand Slam tournament.
Praising the depth of the field, the Russian said that the tennis is at a "pretty high level." Zvonareva continued that it’s particularly nice to train in the gym and look up at the television screens this year. Instead of watching just "girls playing tennis all day long," she’s glad to see both men and women splitting court-time.
Brad Gilbert, the 1989 Cincinnati champion and a television commentator for ESPN, expressed his opinions about the tournament’s new format via Twitter. "Very cool - 1st time; Cincy combines men/women-much more courts added, no question," he wrote, "one of the best fan friendly events - great volunteers!"
No. 3 seed Federer will face ’09 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the second round. Federer appears in recent Toronto champion Novak Djokovic’s section of the draw. The Serb has lost just one match this year to Federer in the French Open semifinals.
The No. 4 seed and fresh off finishing runner-up at this year’s Wimbledon, Sharapova received a bye to the second round. She’ll first face Australia’s Anastasia Rodionova, who took out Polona Hercog in the first round. Sharapova appears in the same section of the draw as Na Li, the 2011 French Open champion.
No. 2 seed Zvonareva faces compatriot and 2010 Eastbourne champion Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. Stanford finalist Marion Bartoli, the No. 8 seed, also appears in her quarter of the draw.
By Benjamin Snyder