GTT is happy to have Andrea Nay reporting and snapping in Cincy this week. While many of our favorite players were hardly happy-go-lucky during their matches – heck, even the usually even-keeled Roger Federer got a bit worked up in last night’s three setter versus Monfils – Andrea captured plenty of smiles on the practice courts. Enjoy Andrea’s work, and the weekend of tennis to come!
Feels Like Home: Players Thrive On Cincinnati’s Intimacy
Smiles were plentiful this week at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, and we set out to learn why. Three points were echoed by many players.
Although the Cincinnati area event is one of the world’s elite tournaments, it manages to maintain a small town feel. Players rarely entertain, attend star-studded parties, or take business meetings here as they often do at Grand Slams. As a result, they have more down time to work in extra practices, tackle The Beast at Kings Island amusement park across the street, or catch a Cincinnati Reds game. Ana Ivanovic said she loves catching movies in the theater, and when he’s healthy, Rafael Nadal squeezes in a round of golf at the adjacent country club.
When asked about the tournament’s flavor a few years ago, Roger Federer waxed poetic about his time in Ohio.
“I like the idea of coming from bigger cities to smaller cities, back to bigger cities,” Federer said. “Doesn’t always need to be Paris, London, New York and all that stuff. I mean, I love being there. I wish we were there more often.”
“It kind of relaxes you,” Federer continued. “It’s less stressful. I drive my own car here, go to coffee shops, go hang out, read some books, spend time with friends, go to the movies. You know, it’s just a bit of a different, how do you say, feeling here.”
It’s Designed For Players
On the tournament grounds, nearly 50,000 square feet of amenities have been added specifically for the benefit of players. New locker rooms. New dining areas. There’s even a rooftop patio for killing time outdoors, yet privately.
For both practice and competition, the site offers fourteen courts in a variety of sizes and formats. Sometimes, the spots away from Center Court are preferable.
“To be honest, I think most athletes would tell you that you’d rather play in a 4,000 seat stadium that’s completely full than a 10,000 seat stadium that’s half full,” Andy Murray explained. “It’s just a better atmosphere. It feels nicer to play like that. And, yeah, it was nice out there. ”
“I love the feeling of intimate stadiums,” agreed Maria Sharapova. “I have always actually preferred that in my career.”
John Isner also enjoyed his time on the mid-size Grandstand Court.
“Very cool,” Isner said. “Sort of like standing room only. You could see people on Center Court at the top looking over and watching (us). It was great. The fans were unbelievable.”
Although the Western & Southern attracts an international fan base and players from 29 nations, it’s especially comfortable for American players.
“I’m super comfortable,” Isner told the New York Times this week. “I think most Americans are. . . . I prefer Cincinnati, personally, over a tournament like Madrid or something. For me, it’s better. There’s a lot to do here.”
“I love coming here,” said Serena Williams. “It’s fun. . . . It’s so good to play some tournaments in the United States. Being an American, it just feels like you’re at home.”
Andrea Nay is a freelance photojournalist based in Western Ohio. When she isn’t chasing aces on the court in Cincy, she’s capturing college football, concerts, and travel. Find more of her work at AndreaNay.com.