Shannon Russell reports:
The 114th edition of the Western & Southern Open was arguably its best yet.
The world-class tennis tournament wrapped up Sunday with men’s and women’s singles and doubles championships, capping nine history-making days at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
The W&S Open welcomed its strongest lineup in tournament annals, featured the 31st career meeting between all-time greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and was the site of World No. 7 Marion Bartoli’s retirement.
It also drew a record crowd of 186,501 throughout the week. The tournament sold out 13 of its 16 sessions – two more than last year – and 11 in a row to end the event. It attracted a record 25,155 fans in its Thursday sessions.
Third-year tournament director Vince Cicero said the strides were all part of what former chairman Paul Flory envisioned. Flory, 90, passed away in January after propelling the W&S Open for 47-plus years as a volunteer.
“I think the last two years we’ve had a tremendous event with the combined tournament, the men and the women, and there’s been great buzz. This year it has elevated to a whole new level,” Cicero said.
“All of the feedback I got this week from players, the ATP, the WTA, the fans that are here within the marketplace, the out-of-town fans that have come from the 50 states and 20 countries – they’re talking about what a great experience this is, and they’re looking ahead to next year. Everything occurring now was laid out long ago by Paul. Now it’s coming to fruition.”
It was a remarkably great week for weather, too, without a single rain delay. Cooler-than-usual August conditions were discussed in many players’ press conferences.
Elaine Bruening, chief executive officer of Cincinnati Tennis LLC, believed Flory had a hand in that, too.
“The one thing he always worried about most was whether it was going to rain,” Bruening said. “I think that Paul is smiling down brightly upon us, I really do. I think he’s grinning from ear to ear.”
Cicero said ticket sales were higher than last year entering the tournament and really exploded after the draws. Officials had to put out electronic signage starting Wednesday to inform fans that sessions were sold out.