By: Nick McCarvel
Wednesday marked the kind of tennis day at the Western & Southern Open that fans can rarely find, not even at a Grand Slam.
Andy Murray. Serena Williams. Roger Federer. Genie Bouchard. Milos Raonic. Agnieszka Radwanka. John Isner. Petra Kvitova. Sloane Stephens. Grigor Dimitrov. Ana Ivanovic.
And that is just part of the line-up list for the three showcourts at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati.
“I think if I was coming to watch as a fan, coming to the Wednesday of a Masters Series – especially a combined one – is pretty much the best ticket you can get really,” said Murray, who won the first match of the day on Center Court. “If you want to see all of the players, you can watch them practice, you can see obviously the men and the women here.”
Pretty good, to say the least. The Wednesday day session was sold out a day after 13,416 made the trip to watch the US Open Series event, the second-biggest single-session crowd ever. Wednesday topped that, with 14,336 fans coming through the gates in the day session and 25,686 overall, both all-time tournament records.
“It’s one of the best days of tennis you’ll see all day long,” Brett Haber said on Tennis Channel.
While local fans flock to the ever-growing event, fans traveled in groups (like one pack of 16 friends from Wisconsin), families (a husband and wife duo from Chicago) and as individuals to the event.
“The heart of the first week is one of the most exciting times each year here at the W&S Open,” said Will Sikes, director of marketing and communications for the tournament. “It's the culmination of all the factors that make the event unique: we've got more than 40 matches on the courts, including superstars like Serena and Roger. There are four bands playing throughout the day. And the grounds are packed with entertainment no matter which way you turn because the action and practice is happening on 16 different courts.”
A stroll through the grounds Wednesday afternoon proved just that. Fans packed Court 4 to get a glimpse of former Grand Slam finalists Sara Errani and Sabine Lisicki do battle (Lisicki won in a third-set tiebreak) while others lined the practice courts to watch Novak Djokovic hit. A few courts away, Sloane Stephens was warming up for her match (she later would win) and the Bryan brothers played a quick-twitch volley game in drills.
“They’re so fast,” one woman said to her friend as they sipped on sodas.
Which matches would players themselves want to watch if they came on Wednesday as fans? The responses varied.
“I would want to see Serena and [Sam] Stosur,” said Stephens after her victory over Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. “I heard that was a battle. But I obviously missed the match.”
And Serena herself?
“I would have watched Taylor Townsend,” the world No. 1 said after her Stosur victory. “She [or Pennetta] is my next opponent. I just love watching Taylor. I think she's a great player and she's fun. Her versus Pennetta I think is a really interesting match. I would go check that one out, and probably would obviously want to watch Roger. He's a classic, great player.”
Grand Slams are tennis’ showcase events, but because of the way the draws are played on opposite days (and towards the end of the tournament, the men’s and women’s events split), fans oftentimes get to see one of their favorites, but miss out on another.
“This is the majority of the tour,” Federer said on Tennis Channel after his own win. “These Masters 1000 are the prestigious ones and I love coming to Cincinnati to play.”
“Here it's a little bit more personal, I guess,” said the American Isner, who had won on Grandstand against Marinko Matosevic early in the day. “All the best players in the world are here. So this tournament, as far as being a tennis fan goes, in my opinion, it's second to none. You can do whatever you want to do here.”
Whatever you want – as much as your ticket allows, that is. Would two-time champion Murray purchase one?
“I don't know how much they are,” he responded, laughing. “I'd think about it, though.”