Tennis Weekend in Cincinnati

Two weeks ago I headed to Cincinnati for a weekend with my friend Erik.  We’re both big tennis fans, and so many months ago we decided to meet in Cincy (he’s from Cleveland) to attend the Western Southern Open.  The tournament is the largest in the Midwest and features both a men’s and women’s tournament featuring the top players from each tour.  I know, how could I have not gone to this event sooner?

We decided to get tickets for the Friday and Saturday day sessions, since that gave us the most time to see matches on multiple courts, and we thought both a day and night session might be a little tennis (and sitting on your butt) overload.  We were pretty confident we could find plenty of other things to do in Cincinnati to occupy are time, and we were hoping to spend some time planning our new Purdue blog, GoBoilers.net.  However, we had so much fun that we didn’t talk about our blog plans nearly enough.

We arrive at the tennis center, about 35 minutes northeast of Cincinnati well before matches started, as a heavy rain had just passed over the city.  While the staff were drying off the courts, we got to see the warm ups for players like Na Li (the eventual winner), Caroline Wozniacki, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  At this quarterfinal stage of the tournament, matches were being played on their main court, grandstand court, and one side court with some bleachers.  Everyone had tickets for a seat on the main court, and ours were quite far away, so we decided to camp out on the grandstand court to get close seats (most are general admission there), and watch those matches.  The main court was featuring the men’s quarterfinals, featuring Novak Djokovic and Juan Marin del Potro playing lesser competition, so both were expected to win, and we had tickets to watch the men’s semifinal matches the following day.

On the grandstand court we found front row seats right behind the baseline.  I was quite excited.  My first tennis tournament and I was going to be sitting within arms reach of the players, with an amazing view.  The slate featured some great matches:

  • Caroline Wozniacki vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, finishing up their previous round match that was rained out the night before.  Wozniacki’s boyfriend, golf star Rory McIlroy, was in attendance, and think Erik was more excited to see him than the tennis starlet.  Wozniacki, the former #1-ranked player, lost the match (and didn’t too well at the US Open last week).  She has the skill set to be a top tier player again, but not the consistency.
  • Next was Venus Williams vs. Sam Stosur.  Williams made the tournament as an unseeded wildcard, after missing much of the year with health problems.  This was a fantastic three-set match that really showed both women on the top of their games.  Stosur won the 2011 US Open and has developed into quite the power player.  It was so much fun rooting for both women, and in the end Williams prevailed.
  • The next match on the grandstand court was not as compelling to us, so we planned to venture into the main arena to see Serena Williams play Angelique Kerber, the 6th-ranked German. Our seats were quite far away from the action, but we made friends with a local couple we get season tickets every year.  They were planning to stay in the front row of the grandstand court, so they let us use their seats on center court.  We really appreciated their generosity, because the view was fantastic.  Unfortunately the level of play wasn’t.  Serena had a horrible match, losing in straight sets and throwing multiple tamper tantrums on the court.  She yelled at her racket, the court, the sky, smashed a racket into the court, and nearly cried multiple times.  I’m not sure the issue, but Kerber played great and with lots of class.  I’m definitely a fan now and rooting for her at the US Open.
  • Since that match didn’t last as long, we were able to hurry back to the grandstand court to watch the final set of Canadian Milos Raonic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka.  Erik and I had seen Wawrinka play at our trip to Alabama for the US vs. Switzerland Davis cup match a few years earlier, and he’s continued to improve. Both men were unseeded in Cincinnati but have played well enough to earn seeds at the US Open.  Wawrinka won in three sets, which meant he’d play countryman Roger Federer in the semifinals on Saturday.  On the grandstand court, I was able to sit in the area reserved for special guests, including the family and coaches of the players.  That was pretty cool, but awkward as I clearly wasn’t supposed to be there.
  • Almost all of the day matches had concluded, but we ran over to the third court to catch the thrilling end to the Bryan brothers three-set doubles victory. I’m a huge fan of the Bryans (twins Mike and Bob who have been one of the best doubles teams in the world for the last 10 years), and after the won, they showed off their recent trophy – a gold medal from the London Olympics.

This is how great our seats were!


This is how bad our center court seats were (actually, they were worse)


A view of the third court with bleachers


I was actually really impressed with the food offerings at the tournament.  They featured local restaurants with a high variety of food.  I had a delicious lunch of fried chicken and waffles from Taste of Belgium, with a maple syrup and chipotle sauce.


Erik checking out the ESPN set


Wozniacki and Pavlyuchenkova warming up.  Unusual to do so on the same court so long before their match, let alone on the same side (blame the rain).


Na Li (the eventual champion) practicing before her match


Wozniacki during her match


Golfer Rory McIlroy (left) watching his girlfriend lose.  Their box wasn’t too happy.


Wozniacki serving


Pavlyuchenkova hit with some great power


She needed to get more first serves in


Sam Stosur, who had a lot of fans in the crowd, despite playing against an American. Check out the guns.


Stosur with a big serve, Venus returning



Venus with the backhand


And stretching out for a forehand


Venus with an even bigger serve


Serena, during one of the few moments she wasn’t complaining


Kerber with the lefty serve


Serena hit some huge shots but was just really inconsistent



Bob Ryan’s gold medal!


Raonic serving


Wawrinka serving to Raonic


Raonic had a huge serve, as most of the top men’s players do.  I’d be lucky to get a racket on any of them.


After a hot day in the sun, and tons of great tennis action, we hurried back to our hotel to clean up, enjoy our complimentary beers at the hotel bar, and head into Cincinnati for some dinner and drinks. Erik did some great research and learned that the up-and-coming Over the Rhine area was a good spot. We enjoyed dinner at Senate (seriously the best poutine and gourmet hot dogs of my life), and drinks at a slew of unique bars with interesting back stories:

  • Japp’s – this great old bar from the 1800’s that hadn’t changed a bit
  • Neons – a huge bar and outdoor area, with lots of young college-aged people.  We made some friends from Chicago (did I mention the Cubs were in town?!) and played some bocce (we won, of course).
  • MOTR Pub – live music, kind of a dark dive, but really fun
  • Lackman = a mellow spot to end the night (the bars close kind of early in Cincinnati, so we stayed as long as we could)

The next morning we had breakfast at this great little German place, Oleg’s Tavern, before heading to the tournament.  Seriously, the food was fantastic and I’d definitely hunt the place down again if I was within 20 minutes.  We had some tasty goetta and spaetzle with our breakfast, where you are waited on by chef Oleg (a Ukrainian dude).  He’s a bit terse, but very happy when you like his food (even if your presence interrupts the soccer match he is watching).

At the tournament we had to sit in our upperdeck seats, but at least we got to watch two riveting men’s semifinal matches.  The first featured Novak Djokovic (the #2 ranked man in the world) against Juan Martin del Potro (#8 in the world and the 2009 US Open winner).  Djokovic won in straight sets and played incredibly well.  The second semifinal match pitted world #1 (and greatest tennis player of all time) Roger Federer against Wawrinka.  Federer also won convincingly in straight sets (although the first set did go to a tiebreaker) against his former doubles partner (they won gold at the 2008 Olympics), setting up what looked like an epic final match on Sunday.  We didn’t stick around to watch on Sunday (or pay the huge ticket price), but Federer destroyed Djokovic to win the tournament.

After Federer won, I sprinted (literally) over to the grandstand court to get a front row seat for the men’s doubles semifinal pitting the Bryan brothers against Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau, the Wimbledon runner-ups the last three years.  The crowd was really into this match, making it far more fun than the top-billed matches on center court.  After coming from behind to win a second-set tiebreaker, the Bryans eventually lost in three sets, but the match featured some huge points.  The crowd was disappointed by the result, but not the level of play.  The victors serving was so tremendous it was nearly impossible to get a point against their aces.

Djokovic vs. del Potro


Federer’s smooth one-handed backhand



Bob Bryan serving


Doubles action!


We were tired from another sunny day of non-stop tennis, but we didn’t let that slow us down and headed straight downtown to see the Cubs play the Reds.  We were able to get tickets on the street for $5 since the game was already in the second inning, and then we enjoyed some barbeque and free peanuts while watching the game from tabletops down the right field line.  We didn’t catch a home run, but we did cheer the Cubs to a high-scoring victory despite the enemy territory.  There were a lot of Cubs fans who made the trip, despite the fact that the team is horrible and playing many youngsters from the minor leagues.

We celebrated by walking across the river into Newport, Kentucky.  I’d never heard of this town, but it had the first Hofbrauhaus in the U.S., so I was in.  I thoroughly enjoyed the one in Munich (although I didn’t really care for the one in New York). On our way to the beer garden, we stopped into the Thompson House, and old mansion on a hill converted into a bar and concert venue.  There weren’t any shows on their three stages that night, but we did enjoy the ambiance of the place (although it had a dark, dingy, dirty frat house feel).

At the Hofbrauhaus we enjoyed some dunkel and Bavarian-style pretzels, as well as a laugh riot as we made many new interesting friends.  Unfortunately it would take another ten paragraphs to explain that in more detail.  Overall the trip was a great time with Erik, and I think we maximized the fun to be had in Cincinnati that weekend.  I can’t wait to do it next year, as long as our wives let us.

1 comment:

Erik said...

Mmmmm...Free Peanuts!

Great recap - almost feels like I was there!