2013 Western & Southern Open Reflections from Traveling Fan Girl @CincyTennis
If you’re looking for in depth match analysis and a load of tennis jargon, you may want to stop reading. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my work, let me introduce myself. My name is Courtney Massey. I am the owner of The Traveling Fan Girl Facebook page and tennis blog. I’m happy to report that it will soon be an official website. Glad I got that shameless self promotion out of the way!
My style of writing focuses on the emotions and atmosphere that surrounds the players and tournaments. I started writing for Tennis East Coast last year and you may have seen my photographs throughout many of the posts. For the first time, I took over the Tennis East Coast twitter account during my stay in Cincinnati. I frequently posted Iphone pictures of players around the grounds. If you missed any of that, feel free to go back and enjoy all the image goodness. After you finish reading this, of course. Now, let’s get to the good stuff!
I’ve been attending the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio for the last five years. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Western & Southern Open is my favorite tournament! Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. This year it seemed like everyone wanted to get in on the action. From day one, the grounds were occupied more heavily than I’ve seen in all my years in attendance. Hardly surprising given the decent prices and how much the event has expanded recently. Not only do you get to see all the top players in both the men’s and women’s fields, but it is the friendliest tournament of all. No matter where you go, you can strike up a conversation with anyone around you. I’ve had countless meetings with people at practices, matches, and just hanging out around the grounds. The tournament for me has become more about the social aspect than the actual tennis. At least us tennis fans know how to multi-task any way, right?
This year was a big first for me. Due to my diabolical collaboration with Tennis East Coast, I was granted my very first press pass for the event! To say I was excited would be an extreme understatement. However, it wasn’t as perfect as I originally thought it would be. Because of the large amount of media requests this year, the tournament had to cut me down to two days of qualifier access. So basically I was allowed to roam the media center and charge my phone for two days. I was incredibly bummed that I wasn’t able to take full advantage of a week’s media pass for all my favorite players, but I was still pleased I got to have that experience.
So what’s it like in an official tournament media center? Let me tell you. At first, I wasn’t sure where the elevator was, so I walked four flights of outdoor stairs to the media entrance. Yeah, that was fun! I never thought I was afraid of heights, but it was actually kind of freaky walking up that high and looking out at the tennis courts below. Once I made it to the entrance, I walked in to the big air conditioned room. Inside are rows and rows of tiny cubicles. Inside each one is a TV monitor and power outlets for everyone to keep up with the matches and plug in their equipment.
A majority of the journalists have their own assigned cubicle with their name on them. I, on the other hand, had to find an empty cubicle that just had a number. On the side of the rows of cubicles is a huge desk with nice and helpful people behind them. A very pleasant lady gave me a little information on how things work and I was able to snag a free notebook. Never turn down free stuff! On the other side of the room is a giant window that looks out onto Stadium Court. I must say, the view is gorgeous! I never cared for the idea of being high above the court, since my main focus is to get quality photos, but it’s pretty amazing. Of course, you also have a snack table at the back. The table was filled with fruit, snacks, bagels, and water, which I made sure to munch on while my phone was charging.
The tournament grounds feel both spacious and intimate. I spend most of my time at the practice courts, which are the best way to get photos of all your favorite players. It’s also a prime location to get photographs with them, if that’s what you’re looking for!
Sometimes, however, you get too close. While watching Jerzy Janowicz practice I mistakenly looked down at my phone. Suddenly, I felt it! A ball had come flying and the side of my body was there to stop its momentum. With a hard thud, the ball bounced off me. I want to thank all the guys who were standing around me and didn’t think to stop it! Nice to know that chivalry isn’t dead. I’ve always joked about getting hit by a ball, but that was the first time it actually happened. It didn’t hurt too bad, but it didn’t feel good either. Before you ask, I didn’t see if Jerzy had apologized, but I also know he would never hit someone on purpose. I should have demanded a kiss on the cheek, but instead I just tweeted about it.
Luckily, that was the only contact I made with a tennis ball during my stay, but not without another close call. While watching Llodra and Mahut practice, once again, I looked down at my phone and BAM! A ball came flying and smacked against the deck I was leaning on. That ball landed near my head that time. I’m very thankful for the lack of impact but I started to question whether there was a bounty out for my head.
Jelena Jankovic vs Roberta Vinci: A Disturbance in the Force
This match was a pretty easy win for Jankovic, but it’s getting my attention due to the not-so-welcome crowd participation. During a rally, one of Vinci’s balls looked wide but didn’t receive a call. A guy in the crowd decided he’d become the lines person for the day and started yelling, “It’s out! It’s out!”. Jankovic, clearly distracted by this, stopped to complain to the umpire. While she complained, the crowd around us spewed hatred and disgust for the character in the stands. One woman behind me was livid. “Shut up! You can’t do that!”, she protested. The guy seemed stunned by the reaction. “What? It was out”, he spoke nonchalantly. “That’s not your decision to make! Just leave! Just leave!”, was the response. For those Drinking Made Easy Fans, the guy looked exactly like Steve McKenna, which just made the situation even more hilarious!
Women’s Doubles Final- Grönefeld/Peschke vs Hsieh Su-wei/Peng Shuai : Someone’s Not a Happy Camper
The Women’s Doubles Final looked like it would be a very quick match. At the start, Grönefeld and Peschke were dominating their opponents, but as tennis fans know, momentum can shift at any moment. Hsieh Su-wei and her partner, Peng Shuai, battled back and won the match in the Super Tiebreak. After the match, Peschke was understandably frustrated. She sulked in her seat and started kicking her legs up and down like a petulant child. Although it looked amusing from the sidelines, I had to feel for her. To lose a match like that isn’t easy. During the awards ceremony, things lightened up. After Grönefeld answered questions, the attention went to Peschke. “Do you have any comments?”, the announcer asked her. “I wish I had comments. Do you have some for me?”, Peschke joked. She and everyone else in the Stadium lightened and it was a cute moment. Hsieh Su-wei and Peng Shuai were all smiles and laughter as they thanked each other and accepted their award with lots of excitement.
Men’s Doubles Final: Bryan Brothers vs Marcel Granollers & Marc Lopez: Oh No You Didn’t!
The doubles final was a pretty good match that culminated in a superbreaker to decide the Championship. Nearing the end of the match, Marcel Granollers attempted to challenge a call. Unfortunately, the umpire said he had played the point and couldn’t challenge. Both Lopez and Granollers challenged this call, but of course, the call stuck and so were they. It wasn’t long after when the Bryan Brothers claimed the victory. However, it’s what happened after the match that caught my full attention. While they were setting up the awards table, Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers were still arguing the call in a very animated fashion! They weren’t going to let it go easily. Once the trophy presentation got under way, the guys calmed down and accepted their award with smiles.
Men’s Singles Final: Rafael Nadal vs John Isner : USA! USA! USA!
I’m not going to talk much about this match since I’m sure you all watched it yourself, but I did want to comment on the atmosphere. Having an American in the Final certainly made Stadium Court feel electrified. Although there were many Nadal supporters in the house, the American pride the majority showed for John was powerful! After the match, I went over to the area where the players walk out of the stadium. The crowd there made sure to clap and cheer loudly as Big John signed an enormous amount of autographs and exited the grounds. By the level of cheers and congratulations he received, you’d think he did in fact win that title.
Tip on Traveling In/Around Mason:
If you are driving to the tournament, you will see lots of signs catering to tennis fans, some of which include deals! A few of the local restaurants and bars have discounted drinks for USTA members or fans who come in wearing tennis gear. Be sure to keep a look out at the signs to make sure you don’t miss these specials!
The Western & Southern Open will be my last tournament of 2013. Hopefully you will all join me on my journey next year. Live tennis is always an adventure!
—Courtney Massey (@CM_TravelingFG) for Tennis East Coast