As many of you know, I attended the Western & Southern Open this year. It was my fourth consecutive year going to the tournament, however, it was my first time attending qualies weekend and first time attending each day of the nine day tournament. During the tournament a lot of interesting things happened that I’ll share below, including selfies, autographs, matches, and much more.
The main reason I’ve purchased tickets for the finals the last two years was in hopes I’d see Novak Djokovic win the tournament to complete the Golden Masters. It’s a dream of mine to be able to see in person. Unfortunately this wasn’t his year, but it was really nice to see him advance to and play in the final. I got to see two thrilling comebacks from the brink of defeat and to see him play top ten players for the first time, which was a thrill because he plays a better brand of tennis against the top players. Last year he lost in the third round, but this year I got to see him play three more matches! I was completely fine with him losing in the final because I felt he had a bit of an injury and was tired from the previous week. Also, he had continued his streak of defending points at each tournament this year and made a tenth straight final, so I felt as though he did well and was satisfied. Meanwhile, Federer didn’t play the previous week, was fresh, and playing great tennis. He played a better and more aggressive match. He was the deserved winner. We’ll just have to try again for that Golden Masters next year 😉
When I went to the tournament last year and was there for so long, I kind of wished I could meet some other tennis lovers, but I’m introverted and not one to outwardly talk to just anybody. This year was different though because I made some connections on Twitter and was able to meet a few people in Cincy and watch matches with them. It was nice to be able to watch tennis with someone else who likes it as much as I do. Also, I ran into a bit of luck with respect to a few tennis fans. My seat on Center Court was right next to an older couple who were Nole fans! That was a dream. Last year my seats were all over Center. I didn’t have one consistent seat. Because of that, I had bad experiences next to fans of other players. It was quite a joy to be next to people who liked my fave too. They had Nole shirts and a Serbian flag, that you may have seen on TV a time or two ;). They were originally from the Croatia/Bosnia area, so they could speak Serbian. It was cool to hear them speak to each other in the language and ask what some signs said that were written in Serbian. We enjoyed watching Nole’s matches together and hopefully we’ll be able to in the years to come too!
One of the funnier moments during my trip in Cincy was when I got a selfie with Lucie Safarova. Lucie was a player towards the top of my list that I wanted to get a picture with. I knew she’d be a good one to ask because I’ve heard stories of how nice she is. I saw it for myself during her practice. During the practice with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova I saw how nice and laid back she was when they were determining how they’d play. Lucie didn’t take a stand and was fine with whatever Anastasia wanted to do. After the practice, someone said Lucie’s name in hopes she’d sign. The practice was on Court 14, which is bad for that sort of thing. I already saw a cart was waiting, so I figured she wouldn’t come out, but she pointed towards the gate to meet her there. At the gate she signed a few autographs then I got an autograph and asked for a picture. She said sure. Here’s where it gets interesting. I pulled up my phone with the camera all ready to go. The only problem was the screen was completely white when I pulled the phone up. It had focused on something bright. I. Was. Mortified. I always worry that I may take too long to take the picture with a player and want to get it done as quick as possible, so seeing that screen was terrifying. I just said like “woah” and pressed the screen to refocus it. It worked, thankfully, but I had a couple seconds of panic. Knowing how nice she is made me stay calm and cool in the moment, but had I not known, I’d probably have an even funnier story of a failed selfie lol.
In Cincy they give out tickets for autograph sessions, but you need to be in the right place at the right time, basically. I was fortunate on this occasion. I walked by and saw the line was full, but didn’t know who was signing. I hung around to see what player would come, but then I saw some people hand back their tickets and I immediately went right up to get one. The girl asked if I’d like an autograph of Andy Murray and I said “yeah,” so I got a ticket. I usually miss all the good players, so it was awesome to finally get a top player. When I walked up to Andy to get the autograph, he said hello and asked how I was. I thought that was so cool because I’ve been to these autograph signings before and most players don’t say anything. For a player of the caliber of Andy Murray to be the one who actually talks to fans was something I never would’ve imagined. It was a pleasure to meet him.
At Murray’s autograph signing, I noticed a few people were getting quick pictures. In the past they’ve frowned upon it. The next day Simona Halep did a signing and I got a ticket! I had to get a picture. The problem was that Serena just won her match and Nole was about to play. Luckily, mother nature stepped in and it began to rain, so I was able to do both! I walked up and asked Simona if I could get a picture and she said yes! It made up for earlier in the day when I had a sure thing to get a picture with her after practice. Only a few people were waiting for her, but she told us not until after her match. I understood, but it kind of sucked since it was such a great chance.
Now to talk about Sabine’s match. The previous day I got a selfie with her and I was nervous about her recognizing me from the previous day and because I was wearing a shirt of her. I didn’t know what she’d think if she saw it. I was also nervous about the match and watching her from so close. It’s crazy being so close for a match of a fave when you’re used to watching on TV. All her practices I had to watch through a fence, so this was my first chance to actually really see her. I wanted to just stare at her the whole time…But…*cough cough*…let’s get to the match. The match was a nervy one. Sabine got an early break in the first set and things were going great. She held all the way through and wrapped up the first set fairly easily. In the second set it looked like it might be an easy straight set victory. There was a long game late in the set where Sabine had many break point chances. She was unable to convert one. One of the points was a second serve that Sabine attacked, but it hit the very top of the net. That one resonated with me as the best chance. Sabine got broken soon thereafter and we were going three. Sabine got broken in the third set and that’s all it took. One break per set in a WTA match. Unheard of. Sabine played great though and I was happy with her performance. After the match I was really confused. Nobody was leaving. I had no idea what was going on. I went to the gate to exit, but they weren’t opening it. I mean the match is over, why aren’t they letting me leave? A woman asked to leave and they allowed her to, so I asked too. Later I found out that Pospisil and Sock were playing Wawrinka and Paes after Sabine’s match. And here I had a front row seat lol. Oh well. I just wanted to get out of there. I wouldn’t have wanted to watch that and be surrounded by so many people after Sabine lost anyway. I needed a few minutes.
One of the biggest surprises for me in Cincy was just how much of a liking I took to Elina Svitolina. I’ve been a fan for over a year, but never watched her that closely in person. I got kind of lucky that I got to watch every match she played. She was scheduled at perfect times each day. Opposite times of my other faves and at times of other matches I had no interest in. Eli’s first match was against Riske and it started really late because of rain delays. I quickly realized that Eli’s team chose a seat close to me and that was awesome because I heard what Iain was saying to her and she’d look at her box often. It made for great pictures. One of my favorite moments was Iain said “let’s see how tough you are” right after she saved a set point in the second set. She ended up losing the set a few points later. When she walked out for the beginning of the third set, she was pissed and said something under her breath like “shut up” and gave an angry wave of her hand towards him.
Another match, some more luck. Again there was a rain delay and Eli was supposed to play on Court 3, but there were still matches to be played. I went to grandstand to watch Murray play Fish. I was in for a surprise when I got there though. There was still an uncompleted match to be played. Sloane Stephens and Mona Barthel were late in the second set. Sloane came back to win the set and force a third set. I left. I looked at the scores and saw Eli was playing on Court 4. I quickly rushed over just in time for the start. I got a seat right by her team again! One funny moment was there was a really bad call against Eli. Genie hit a ball that was clearly long and I heard Iain behind me say something about the call. I thought it was long too, so I looked back at him to see what he was doing and he immediately turned his head around to look at me. I was surprised he did, but it was alright. Another funny thing about the match was Eli played Genie Bouchard. I saw all these guys my age taking tons of pictures of Genie. Then there’s me only taking pictures of Eli and not even looking Genie’s way ever. Kind of sums me up to be honest. I’m not one for popularity.
I was at her match vs Garcia and hoped to sit by Iain again, but it was on a bigger court (grandstand) and he sat in an area of reserved seating, so I was unable to. I did get to sit by Garcia’s team though lol. Eli won pretty comfortably and I was hooked. I wanted to see her practice, so before her match vs Lucie I went to her practice. She had cones set up for areas to hit groundstrokes into and to practice patterns for the match. Also, Iain had this unique way of feeding the ball to Eli at the end of practice by hitting the ball on the ground first before it went over the net. Eli waited for it to bounce and then hit it. I thought that was a good way to practice because the shot is kind of difficult to handle.
I’ve been high on Eli’s potential for a while and have said she’ll be a Top 10 player. From what I saw in Cincy I know that will be the case one day. She works hard in practice. She has a great coach in Iain Hughes. She seems determined to reach her potential and has the pieces around her to achieve great things. There were a few things I noticed in her game that I love. Her movement is unbelievable. She doesn’t stop moving her feet. I love the jump she does to prepare for each shot her opponent hits. It allows her to stay balanced and get to ball. Another thing you don’t see on TV is just how emotionally she gets into matches. The whole match you’ll see her fist pumping and saying “come on” or something similar under her breath. I loved seeing how passionate she got. Eli took on a new level with me in Cincy. I would now consider her my fourth favorite player behind Nole, Sabine, and Simona. Last year Simona got added to that group with Nole and Sabine when I saw her in Cincy. This year it was Eli’s turn. I look forward to watching more of her matches on TV and seeing her climb the rankings.
This was my favorite year I’ve gone to Cincy. I got to watch three of my four favorites play 5 times and two of them play in finals! I got numerous autographs. I was able to get pictures with some of my favorite players too. I had a lot fun. I look forward to Cincy and think about it every day of the year. Being able to live in that passion for 9 days was a dream. It was sad when it was all over though. I wasn’t sad Nole and Simona lost in the finals, but perhaps had they not, maybe I’d have been too happy and excited to feel the sadness of the tournament ending. When I look back on it though, I’ll remember the things listed at the beginning of this paragraph and throughout the post. I can’t wait to make more memories next year!