Tennis Road Show Back to Cincinnati
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It’s hard to believe it’s already late summer and the tennis road show moved to Ohio for a big build-up to the US Open. With so many engaging story lines on both sides of the sport, the Western & Southern Open will likely set the table for the end-of-year narrative.
While most of the tennis world was witnessing the breakout weekend in Toronto for Sascha Zverev, there were packed stands for qualifying matches in Ohio, including a girl who cried because she didn’t get an autograph from Magdalena Rybarikova. I thought, “It’ll get better.” It can always get better than getting snubbed by Rybarikova for an autograph.
This is the greatest tennis place in America. Not the greatest tennis space like Indian Wells, but the greatest tennis place. A place where Americans root for Americans and where they never say John Eisner. Media Director Pete Holtermann says it best when he tells me that there are 9 states within a 250 mile radius of the event. It’s the Midwestern Open.
38 matches on a single day like last Saturday is Slam-like, if not Slam-lite. It is nearly impossible to cover all of the courts and all of the matches at a big tourney footprint like the Western & Southern Open. You pick what looks good and you plan to stay in that area of the facility. It’s progressively bigger in my usual route of Newport, D.C., Cincinnati and the US Open.
In fact, it’s the perfect warm-up to the US Open. Who knew? Oh, wait.
Sunday’s 19 matches felt relaxing by comparison. Qualifying concluded with the 19 winners, 7 men and 12 women who jump into main draw play today. They were beaten to the first round by Ryan Harrison, Gilles Muller, John Isner and Vik Troicki, who kicked off their first round matches yesterday.
Harrison fought hard in a three set loss to Muller and he heard that American fanbase he says is so sorely needed. They cheered for him through the ups and the downs, but the American wilted in the thrid set tiebreak to advance Muller to the second round with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3) win.
The fans were then served a less dramatic match but got to cheer on another fellow countryman when John Isner eased past Troicki, 7-6(3), 6-4.
Maximilian Marterer of Germany advanced in straight sets yesterday to his first career main draw of a 1000 level event. He was so excited he could barely contain his glee as he rode off on the golf cart he had to share with his opponent, Ramkumar Ramanathan. Ramanathan looked dazed as a man who had lost two consecutive tie breaks despite the fans overwhelming support on Court 4. Marterer rides into the first round against American Frances Tiafoe later today.
J.P. Smith is almost an American to these fans and it showed at the end of his match yesterday. Despite cheering for Christian Harrison throughout the match, their applause turned to the former University of Tennessee alum as he prepared to serve out the 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 win. Fans flocked to him for photos as he soaked up a memorable weekend on the outer courts.
Taylor Townsend gave many plenty to smile about with her comeback win. After losing the first set in a tiebreak to Carina Witthoeft on Center Court, she stormed back to win out 7-5, 6-1. More adulation by the crowd was in store for Townsend as she was mobbed by well-wishers. Monica Puig is next in store for Townsend later this afternoon on Court 10.