Cincinnati Open

Peg is covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Buzz. Enjoy her Friday evening recap (more to come!):

At the end of the stage presentation, the guests were directed to head outside toward the food court, where they could purchase drinks and listen to the SunBurners:

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At the champagne stand, customers who purchase a serving of Moet Imperial in a souvenir glass ($18) also receive a shiny tennis ball with a charm inside:

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There were other attractions beside the concert and the booze, though. Right outside the Grandstand tent, there was one of those human statues…

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….who later made his way closer to the beer:

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Other fans visited Grandstand — meandering around, sitting where they liked, and watching the children on the court:

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There were souvenirs for sale at the MidwestSports.com tent:

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I eventually headed toward Court 7…

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having seen this announcement:

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But wait. I know that player. That isn’t Mr. Falla, that’s Mr. Gulbis!

Ernests Gulbis

Ernests Gulbis

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On the other side of the court, Mr. Thiem:

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There were fans watching alone …

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… and with friends:

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(I owe these women thanks — not only did they help me identify Dominic Thiem, they were just great fun to chat with. You know you’re among kindred spirits when you’re reminiscing about tan lines from wicked hot tournaments [e.g., a couple of them attended Melbourne in January; I watched Isner-Anderson in Atlanta a few summers ago ]

And my evening in Mason ended with a last look at some of the 10,000 flowers planted by LaMond Design within the last week:

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The campus beautiful

Jack Sock

Peg is covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Buzz. Enjoy her draw party’s recap (more to come!):

At the W&S Open, most of the drawing takes place behind the scenes. The women’s qualifying draw was already available in handout form by the time I reached the media center (around 4:30 pm); according to one source, the men’s qualifying draw was to take place at 9 p.m., but not as a event open to the public. The placement of unseeded players in the main draw is office-work as well; Denis Istomin reportedly helped with this year’s ATP lottery.

In short, the drawing during the big fête concerns only the top 16 players on each tour. And no, they don’t pull the word “bye” out of the cup for the top 8; it’s names that get drawn out of the cup, and the subsequent announcement by Pete Holtermann (the media center manager) is something like “Maria Sharapova will play either Alize Cornet or Madison Keys.” There are subgroups within the seeds as well — I failed to note the specific breakdown, but the upshot is that not all 16 names are in the cup all at once. (For example, if I’m remembering right, Azarenka, Cibulkova, Ivanovic, and Wozniacki — nos. 9 through 12 — were one of the subgroups; it was pointed out that there were three former #1s in that quartet.)

Before the microphones are switched on, though, there are the buffets and the bars. The party is a ticketed event that takes place in a huge white tent with a trellis (covered in wisteria, I think) at its entrance:

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Inside, there was a table advertising the Princess Diana exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center (one of the tournament sponsors), three buffet lines (with offerings such as potatoes spiked with truffle oil and goat cheese), and a wall lined with Coke fridges and cash bars. Over a thousand guests were expected — at 5:15 p.m., the room wasn’t yet full…

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… but it certainly would be by the time Andrew Krasny, the emcee, took the stage.

During his opening remarks, Krasny rejoiced in it being his fifth year at the tournament, adding a crack about how some members of the audience had wanted him fired: “You know who you are.” Unhappily, over the course of the evening, I too developed a ferocious dislike for his schtick, which contained far too much fake-flirting and innuendo for my taste. I get that he was trying to be friendly and funny, but there are so many ways to achieve that (especially when everyone present has an obvious, common interest in tennis) without incessantly drawing attention to the girls’ and women’s ages and attractiveness. (An example: him saying to one woman, “You are adorable. Are you religious? Because you are the answer to my prayers.” Another example: him explaining at length that he refrains from asking women how old they are if they look to him like they might be over twenty, so a woman he mistook for an adolescent should take it as a compliment.)

Some people were laughing, and many people probably thought nothing of it (for that matter, many people were simply not listening — there was a steady stream of chatter throughout the whole presentation, with the mics loud enough to be heard over the socializing), but odds are I wasn’t the only person who found the quips at best lame and at worst borderline creepy. I gather that Krasny is a nice guy and a genuine tennis fan, so I’d like to think he can do better.

Also, in all fairness, I do have some idea of how hard it is to wing through on-stage banter with unknown quantities — as in game-shows, some audience members naturally exude enthusiasm and personality, and others don’t give the host any energy to feed off of. (To behold an example of the perfect stranger-from-the-audience, please see the photo sequence at the end of this entry.)

When it was finally time to draw names out of the cup, audience members wanting to appear onstage (with the promise of having their pictures taken with the guest player) were asked to raise their hands. Two tournament volunteers — Mason and Hannah, if I heard the names right — walked through the crowd, with sheets of paper to be handed to the would-be participants who looked the most interesting to them. Variety appeared to be one of the criteria — there was a good cross-section of ages among those selected, and at least three ethnicities in the mix.

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(If you’d like to see snapshots of some of the other participants, I’ve posted them in an album of additional photos from the party.)

The sheets of paper served as cue cards for Krasny — the participant wrote their name on it and where they were from.

This man, for instance, is a native of Iran and a resident of Cincinnati. I wonder what he said to Simona Halep, who was the WTA guest star:

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(These photos are fuzzier than the others because I brain cramped and pointed my camera at the projection screen rather than the people on stage at that point.)

There was plenty of people-watching to be enjoyed, including Simona’s stint as draw party guest of honor:

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

And the happiness displayed by a fan named Marietta was so infectious that Jack Sock greeted her with arms open wide:

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Jack Sock

Jack Sock

Cincinatti

Peg is covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Buzz. Enjoy her first Cincy report (more to come!):

The tournament often referred to as the Cincinnati Open (and which was founded in 1899 with that title) actually takes place twenty miles north of the city that shares its moniker, in a town called Mason. Because Ohio is generally considered part of the US midwest, I tend to think of its distance from Tennessee (where I live) as a long haul. It’s been pointed out to me, however, that Cincy is not significantly further away than Memphis or Atlanta or Lexington (KY), and is in fact closer than Winston-Salem or Charleston and other tennis tournaments I consider relatively “local” to me because they happen to be hosted in other southeastern states.

Objectively speaking, the drive from Nashville to Cincy generally takes about four or five hours depending on traffic (there is always congestion around Cincy, in my experience), rest stops, and the like. Having been asked to write about the city as well as the tournament, I decided to visit the Over-the-Rhine district for lunch. I knew of at least two connections it had to the W&S tournament: the renowned Rookwood Pottery studio creates the champions’ trophies, and the announcement of this year’s player field was held at Ensemble Theatre.

I admit that I picked Bouchard’s Anything’s Pastable partly because of the name (“Any connection to the tennis player?” “No. We get asked that a lot”)…

Over the Rhine

… but mostly because of its location (inside Findlay Market) and the rave reviews it had received on Yelp. $8 covered a big Cuban panini (made fresh), which came with a salad (and an extra napkin, which I appreciated) and a 23 oz. can of Arnold’s lemonade-tea:

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Bouchard’s (which also answers to “Brocato’s Italian Market”) has a reputation among locals as a place to pick up dinner fixings…

some of the pasta at Bouchard's

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Over the Rhine

… and it’s right across the aisle from Gibbs’ Cheese, which had a jaw-dropping display of fudge:

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I wish I’d had time to linger among the vendors. I could smell handmade soap and I walked past watermelon waiting to be tasted:

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Findlay market is a mix of run-down and well-kept — as is the surrounding area. It is unquestionably urban, and I could feel my guard (developed during years in Chicago and Detroit) kick into a higher gear as soon as I spotted some of the sketchier-looking individuals in the crowd. But I also saw a matriarch in a Duck Dynasty t-shirt leading her brood into one of the buildings, an activist hawking a progressive newspaper, and assorted other types shopping, shooting the breeze, and so forth. Some of the furnishings and buildings are worn from use, but there’s also a crew of workers who, among other things, tend to the towering floral arrangements on the perimeter:

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The parking rate in the market lot: free for the first hour, and fifty cents for each hour after that.

1209 Jackson Street is about four minutes away by car; the meters on that block are free for the first ten minutes, and some of them expressly allow bikes to be locked to them:

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It’s the location of the Rookwood Pottery Company Store. There are some beautiful items (e.g., coasters, bud vases, cards) that can be acquired for less than $20 — a pleasant surprise to me! — and there are also items priced into the thousands.

Over the Rhine

I hope to explore more of Over-the-Rhine some other day — my peek at it has only whetted my appetite. The afternoon was getting on, though — I had a draw party to get to — and there just wasn’t time to do more than look up at and around a few of the nearby buildings:

Over the Rhine