Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Playing Fetch (Part 1)

This past weekend was really great - showcasing some rare free time that my wife Elizabeth and I used to stroll around carefree basking in the glow of our city's treasures. Thus, the following two-part article is just a short recap of our Saturday trek through the outer limits of Cincinnati, and more reminders of how great we actually have it in this town.

• • • • • • • • • •

The first part of our day was spent at the Lindner Family Tennis Center (in entertainment-centric Mason, OH) watching quarterfinal action of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters (ATP) tournament. Below is a short photo journal of our few hours at the event (click on any image for a larger view)...

The Tickets.
The ATP has always been a great social event for the businesses, with many boxes
bought by companies, for employees and their clients. Additionally, I can't tell you
how many times I frequented private tents (surrounding center stadium)
throughout the years - free food, air conditioning, and TVs galore.
This year was no different for me - got these via one of my
dad's business clients, and great seats they were!

Although I've kind of slacked off on attending the event in recent years, it was good to get back. And we were lucky enough to have an exceptional showing this season, especially for Elizabeth who hadn't been there since she was a teenager (that doesn't really put it into perspective for you since you don't know her current age... but I'll end it there).

The day we went was really great because we got to see the world-ranked #1, 2, and 3 play. See for yourself: The first match we saw was...

Andy Murray (GBR) v. Julien Benneteau (FRA).
Andy was #2 in the world at this point, slightly ahead of the injury-plauged Rafa.
Shot taken from our assigned seats.

Andy won, which was expected...

Post-Match Interview.
Andy Murray reflecting on the match and prognosticating on the next one.

Post-Match Interview.
Andy Murray speaking to the crowd and on the big screen.
We moved to the opposite side of the court, and were sitting
in the bleachers at this point (just for a change of pace).

Following the match, there was a short amount of time to mill around while the players of the next match warmed up, so we met up with my dad who was there with his business partner, and surprisingly, my (step) brother-in-law who snagged some tickets at the last minute. For as big as the event has become (considered the biggest in the US outside of the Grand Slam tourney in New York), it's still small enough that you'll pass just about everyone at least once.

Between the Center and Grandstand Court (west side).The private corporate tents are behind me, and the vendors/restaurants
are on the opposite side of the grounds.

The cool thing about this tournament is the amount of freedom that comes with the purchase of your tickets. Whether you buy a "Day Session" or "Evening Session" pass, you're ensured a seat commensurate with your ticket price for the main stadium matches, but also open seating for the many other matches taking place on any of the other courts that day - for free! That means you can choose to watch the main event, or take in a "smaller" match on one of the surrounding courts, or casually frequent the many booths, tents, vendors (one of which I worked for as a high-schooler), restaurants, and occasionally live music, spread throughout the grounds.

Outside the Grandstand Court (northwest corner).
A beautifully built stadium for us Midwesterners.

A couple of other things that the tournament quietly provides is a lax standard on
seating and length of stay. For instance, generally the Day Session lasts from 10am to 5pm, and the Night Session from 5pm until all matches are complete. Though, if you buy tickets for the Day, you can stay through the evening with no problem - you just can't leave and re-enter, nor are you guaranteed a seat on Center Court. Additionally, no matter where you're supposed to be sitting - in a box or the bleachers - you can normally slip into any open seat without much problem... though, they are definitely tightening up on this.

Anyway, next came
the monster-match of the day (between two of my all-time favorites)...

Roger Federer (SUI) v. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS).Silence and limited visual distractions during gameplay is important,
which is why we had to wait behind chains until they were done with
the game before we were allowed to take our seats.
These types of proper rules have always appealed to me
for some odd reason... maybe the civility of it all.

Center Court.A pan of the stadium from our seats.

Federer & Hewitt.
The match in action.

Watching a living legend (Federer - the greatest player of all time) in person is always a treat. Like hundreds of times before, he won the match seemingly without breaking much of a sweat...

Post-Match Interview.
Roger giving his thoughts on the match, the upcoming US Open,
and as always, giving kudos to his opponent. Lleyton exits, ducking his head in defeat...

Post-Match Departure.
Hewitt (with white/green/black cap) leaves Center Court.

Then Federer takes part in a series of events usual to most high-profile winners on Center Court...

Post-Match Regularities.
Federer throws his wristbands and towels to the eager crowd...

Post-Match Regularities. a closed mic interview to old pro and current coach
and commentator, Brad Gilbert, for the national audience...

Post-Match Regularities.
...then gives an open mic interview to the stadium crowd
(as seen in the earlier picture)...

Post-Match Regularities.
...followed by the signing of several tennis balls...

Post-Match Regularities.
...and finally proceeds to hit one into the crowds
waiting in each quadrant of the stadium seats.

Of course, Federer would end up winning the whole tournament, making it another banner year.

After all of that rigmarole, we headed out and around to the side of Center Court to see if we could catch any of the players leaving the building...

Players' Entrance/Exit.
Crowds gather behind the roped-off exit path hoping
to catch some pictures and signatures.

Players' Entrance/Exit.
Tourney security gathers for player protection/crowd control,
and one of the players gives some autographs.

It was nearing 5pm and our session was ending, but we decided to run by the practice courts upon leaving, and look who we caught warming up...

Rafael Nadal (ESP).His match would take place during the evening session,
but seeing him practice up close was good enough for me.

Definitely an all-around great day at the courts...

I've lived my whole life with this game - grew up playing it, almost went to college for it,
and have sporadically taught it - which explains the extended coverage. If you're not a player, try picking it up - it's a great social sport, there are many groups to join that have a range of skill levels, and can be played your entire lifetime.

Additionally, even if you're not currently a pro-level follower, this event is a godsend for our area - not only because of Cincinnatians' obvious love of the sport, or even the financial incentives, but just as another feather in the city's cap. With all of the services and entertainment options available around here, we are an incredibly lucky city, and should be proud of it.

Part 2 of this article coming soon!

• Note: As mentioned earlier, it seemed (as it always does) that Federer won without breaking a sweat. Well,
supposedly that's exactly the perception that he wants to portray. Per his words - he's worn that same outfit since earlier in the year, but wasn't fond of the green-colored shirt because it allowed the sweat to show through more. He feels that you should never let your opponent see how hard you really work.
Gotta love Roger.

• Lastly, our tourney has exploded in popularity since adding the women's side several years back, and there will be more great changes next year: The USTA bought a majority stake of the tournament, resulting in a combined men's and women's event, and a major upgrade to the facilities (more images at Soapbox and the architect's website - click on New Projects, and select West Grandstand Renovation under the In The Works sidebar to see 3 sketches of the new facilities). That's damn exciting news! More info on our tournament at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article & photos.