Extract from Hard Courts by John Feinstein

Cincinnati had been favored stop on the tour since 1979, when it had become The ATP tournament. For years it was the only tour stop that contributed funds to the players’ pension funds. It was also a prime example of how a tournament could grow by promoting itself as an event rather than by just showcasing name players.

Paul Flory, the tournament direct, was a minster’s son who had grown up in Dayton and worked most of his life for Procter&Gamble. He had been tournament director since 1975, when the Cincinnati tournament was still the Western Open and was played on clay in a small club down by the Ohio River.
The tournament had moved to Kings Island in 1979, when the ATP offered itself to Flory if he could find a site with hard courts. Flory moved the tournament and had built the stadium slowly, adding stages each year as the tournament became a summer staple in the Cincinnati area.

The tournament benefited the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and a number of players visited during the week. Some took this responsibility quite seriously. Jim Courier went back three times. Miguel Nido, a qualifier, went around the players’ lounge one day trying to round up players. Benji Robins, the tour’s marketing-services coordinator, worked all week trying to encourage players to go to the hospital. It wasn’t easy. A couple of players asked tournament officials if they could get paid to visit the hospital. On Friday, eight players were scheduled to go. One – Nido – showed up.

That afternoon, the tournament got a bit of unexpected bonus, when Edberg beat Chang in a superb three-set quarterfinal and officially moved past Lendl to become No.1 was no small thing. Edberg was only the eighth man to be No.1 since the start of computer rankings, in 1973. The women’s No.1 club was even more exclusive – it had only six members.

Edberg actually appeared excited about becoming No.1. Remembering his twenty-four hours as No.1 in 1988, after the ATP staff’s error, he smiled and said,

“I hope this time they got it right. It’s nice that I can say I was number one in the world, even if I don’t keep it for long. Not many guys get there. For years, people told me I could be number one. I’m glad I made it.”

Tennis is a game that takes players to all corners of the earth. It was therefore fitting that on the night he became No.1 player on the planet, Edberg, a Swede who lived in London, sept in room 536 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Blue Ash, Ohio.

Regardless of where he was, Edberg was playing brilliant tennis. The Wimbledon victory had clearly given him renewed confidence. He won in Los Angeles in his first tournament since Wimbledon, and he won rather easily in Cincinnati. The Chang match was his most difficult. He beat Gomez and Gilbert in the semifinals and final respectively, without losing serve once. The score in the final was 6-1 6-1. It was over in fifty-nine minutes. When someone asked Gilbert if anyone could have beaten Edberg, he shrugged. “All I know is there’s no way I could have beaten him, that’s for sure.”

Edberg was feeling good about things, he even made a joke in his postmatch press conference. When someone jokingly asked if President Bush had called to congratulate him on becoming No.1, Edberg shook his head.

“No, he didn’t”, he said, deadpan. “But he did call and ask me about that Iraq thing.”

The most fun part of the Edberg-Gilbert final was the awards ceremony: it took exactly seven minutes.

Tsonga, Toronto 2014

What a week for Tsonga! He beat four top 10 opponents in four days: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer en route to his 11th ATP title.

Federer

Tsonga

Tsonga

Roger Federer
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Toronto Rogers Cup

Thanks a lot to Simon for sharing his brother’s pictures from Toronto!

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeats Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-2

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

David Ferrer defeats Ivan Dodig 1-6 6-3 6-2

David Ferrer and Ivan Dodig

Ivan Dodig
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Novak Djokovic at practice, Cincinnati Open

Over the weekend, I’ve been learning just how close the courts are to each other. Many practice sessions take place at the same time as live matches, and it’s not uncommon to overhear the line calls for another match (or more) while anywhere (even on Grandstand or in the stadium). The concerts in the food court area take place at the same time as the matches, and that sometimes adds to the confusion: on Saturday, at the start of Townsend v. Riske, which was on Center Court, I at first assumed that a DJ was sleeping on the job when the chair umpire called out, “Thank you, music, thank you” — and, like the umpire, belatedly realized a minute or so later that we were hearing the performers from outside the arena, rather than a recording being piped through its system. (As Andy Murray noted during his Sunday afternoon press conference, however, players can adjust to noise if it’s a consistent presence — it’s sudden changes [such as people yelling out of turn] that they find disruptive.)

Center Court can at times seem quite close not only to the other courts, but to the rest of Mason. If one has binoculars on hand (or, in my case, the zoom lens on my camera), and is sitting in an upper row, it’s possible to sneak glimpses at the activity on other courts. During the Melzer vs. Hewitt match, I could discern part of the Court 3 scoreboard (Lepchenko v. Tatishvili), some of the players practicing on Courts 7 and 8, and a roller-coaster looping around its loops over at Kings Island:

kings island roller coaster

When I arrived at Lindner Family Tennis Center Sunday morning, around 10:45 a.m., I walked into a lesson on star power. There was scant interest in the players practicing on Court 16 …

sparse crowd for BoJo

… but the stands for Court 15 were already packed.

cincytennis day 3 batch 1 126

By the time Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka entered the court (around 11:07 a.m.), fans were crowded along every available inch of the Grandstand’s top rail, standing on its back bleacher, and lined up along the rail of the vodka patio as well:

cincytennis day 3 batch 1 125

(I felt rather sorry for Ebden and Tomic, the players actually competing on Grandstand, as there were arguably more people watching the practice than their match. The crowd eventually thinned out, as Novak and Stan practiced for two hours [with at least one shirt change for Stan], but the situation was problematic for the ushers — it was impossible for them to stop so many people from walking down and around during points and other non-changeover instances, though they gamely tried.)

By the time Tomic and Ebden shook hands, Court 16 had amassed a sizable audience as well. The fans at the top of Grandstand could alternate between watching Jelena Jankovic (also in at least two outfits) and Nole and Stan:

cincytennis day 3 batch 1 251

cincytennis day 3 batch 1 417

cincytennis day 3 batch 1 426

cincytennis day 3 batch 1 232

At Cincy, a player such as Benoit Paire can slip into a match with little fuss (in this case, to watch Adrian Mannarino abuse his racquet in the course of beating Marcos Giron):

Benoit Paire and his partner

Later that day, he was practicing with Somdev Devvarman

1139

1127

… adjacent to a court with onlookers all along its far fence:

1153

The fences see a fair amount of crowding. Saturday morning, I was delighted to see Kimiko Date-Krumm among the many players assigned to Court 11 ((that’s Heather Watson looking on, and I think it’s Barbora Zahlavova Strycova on her left):

Kimiko Date-Krumm

It can all easily get overwhelming, though. The Date-Krumm practice, for instance, was just a few feet away from the Ormaechea vs. Hercog match on Court 10. For a while, I couldn’t resist walking back and forth between the two:

Polona Hercog

Sometimes, though, it’s just smart to take a break:

543

More reports from Cincinnati:
On the way to the Western & Southern Open
The Western & Southern Open main draw party
Friday evening at Lindner Family Tennis Center
Seeking relief from the heat

Cincinnati Open

Thanks a lot to Peg for sharing her experience from Cincinnati!

More reports from Cincinnati:
On the way to the Western & Southern Open
The Western & Southern Open main draw party
Friday evening at Lindner Family Tennis Center

It’s been in at least the high 80s (Fahrenheit) all weekend here in Mason. That’s cooler than where I’m from (Nashville), but it’s still plenty hot. Players such as Lleyton Hewitt were reaching for ice towels even around 6 p.m.:

seeking relief from the heat

Jurgen Melzer iced down his legs as well as head and neck (he was looking stiff toward the end of the match), and applied a bare bag directly to his head at one point:

seeking relief from the heat 

seeking relief from the heat

Earlier in the day, the umbrellas were out in evidence on Grandstand, especially around noon, during Tomic vs. Ebden. They were opened for the players during changeovers:

seeking relief from the heat

In the audience, I counted at least fifteen. Some were beat-up and basic, some were flowery, some were fashionable …

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

The crowd tended to cluster under overhangs and other shaded areas:

seeking relief from the heat

It was also a fine day for hat-admiring, both of serviceable and stylish chapeaux:

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

seeking relief from the heat

Sometimes, though, a mere cap needed help:

seeking relief from the heat

It was bright enough that today’s human statue wore shades:

seeking relief from the heat

The Grandstand umpires sit under a canopy. (Richard Haigh chaired the Ebden-Tomic match.)

seeking relief from the heat

I also overheard folks complaining about sunburn and reapplying sunblock. To help with the latter, the Andy Caress Melanoma Foundation has representatives handing out packets of SPF 30 sunscreen. These wonderful people were on duty near Court 16 (where loads of fans were waiting for the Djokovic-Wawrinka 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. practice to get underway):

seeking relief from the heat

Roger Federer’s road to the final

Roger Federer

Round Opponent Score
R1 BYE BYE
R2 Peter Polansky 6-2 6-0
R3 Marin Cilic 7-6 6-7 6-4
QF David Ferrer 6-3 4-6 6-3
SF Feliciano Lopez 6-3 6-4
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s road to the final

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Round Opponent Score
R1 Edouard Roger-Vasselin 7-6 6-1
R2 Jérémy Chardy 7-6 6-4
R3 Novak Djokovic 6-2 6-2
QF Andy Murray 7-6 4-6 6-4
SF Grigor Dimitrov 6-4 6-3
Roger Federer – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga head to head: 11-4
Year Tournament Surface Winner Score
2008 Madrid R16 Hard Federer 6-4 6-1
2009 Montreal QF Hard Tsonga 7-6 1-6 7-6
2010 Australian Open SF Hard Federer 6-2 6-3 6-2
2011 Doha SF Hard Federer 6-3 7-6
2011 Rome R32 Clay Federer 6-4 6-2
2011 Wimbledon QF Grass Tsonga 3-6 6-7 6-4 6-4 6-4
2011 Montreal R16 Hard Tsonga 7-6 4-6 6-1
2011 US Open QF Hard Federer 6-4 6-3 6-3
2011 Bercy F Hard Federer 6-1 7-6
2011 London Tour Finals RR Hard Federer 6-2 2-6 6-4
2011 London Tour Finals F Hard Federer 6-3 6-7 6-3
2012 Doha SF Hard Tsonga W/O
2013 Australian Open QF Hard Federer 7-6 4-6 7-6 3-6 6-3
2013 Roland Garros QF Clay Tsonga 7-5 6-3 6-3
2014 Australian Open R16 Hard Federer 6-3 7-5 6-4
2014 Monte Carlo QF Clay Federer 2-6 7-6 6-1


Who will win between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga? Please share your thoughts.