2016 Cincy Tidbits

First off, I wanted to note that I originally finished writing this after Cincy. The timing never felt right to post it though with what I was going through in my personal life at the end of 2016, which you’ll know about if you follow me on Twitter. Even though it’s late, I’d still like to share the experiences I had while I was there. Hope you enjoy!

I attended the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio for the fifth consecutive year in 2016! It included attending the very beginning of the tournament for the first time! I entered the grounds on Saturday before qualifying matches started. Last year I attended this day, but didn’t get there until around 5 PM, so I missed most of the day. Being there for the very beginning means I’ve now attended every part of this tournament over the years I’ve gone! First ball to last!

The reason I’m writing this is to talk about some of the unique experiences I had this year.

Autographs

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One thing I’d like to talk about is autographs. I got 58 autographs this year from 50 different players. I received many messages on Twitter of people being surprised at how many I got. I thought I’d get into why I’m trying to get them and some tips for you to get more.

It’s been a process. At first, I didn’t know it was going to be so easy to get autographs, but as the years went on, I got more and more of them. I learned the tendencies of players. I learned where the exits were. Knowing the exits is everything. I also got a lot braver over the years as well.

I brought tennis balls one year, but I didn’t really like that. They’re hard to sign and display. I wanted something of the player to sign to know exactly who the autograph was of. I decided to get 4X6 pictures printed of my faves a few years ago. Then last year I decided I’d get a lot of players pictures printed. This year I looked at the entrance list and printed a picture of just about everyone. The reasoning for that is I had this idea to get as many autographs of the players as I could. You watch these players for years, you’re familiar with them. It’d be nice to have something to remember them by after they retire. Even if they’re not your favorite, you still have lots of memories of them. They’re part of the tennis community I love so much.

I used to be big into baseball. There was a minor league team close by. We had season tickets. There was an older gentlemen who collected autographs of many different players over the years. He even got some players that ended up being stars of the game. Hall of famers. He was part of the reason I thought it’d be cool to try to get these tennis autographs. Honestly, it’s just about as easy as getting a minor league baseball players’ autograph. I thought it’d be nice to put all the autographed tennis pictures in a book. It’d be something that down the road could grow into something even more special, depending on how many and who I get.

One thing I’d say is I’m good at finding the weak spots. The spots where not many people are around. The spots close to the players. Look around you. Don’t be satisfied with the spot you’re in, especially as more and more time goes by. It’s kind of a balance though. If they’re heading your direction, you’re alright, but if they’re not, definitely look for other spots to get closer. You never know how much time a player will spend signing.

Most of the autographs I get aren’t because I’m there and prepared. Okay, maybe for the lesser players, but the top players I’m able to get, I don’t devote the time to getting. They just happen. You could spend hours trying to get a good spot, watching the practice, and may not get anything. I go for autographs that are possible. I’d rather go to an outside court with just a few people to get a sure thing autograph than spend a lot of time trying to get a top player autograph. It’s just not worth it.

There was one day this year, I spent the entire day on practice courts. Don’t be afraid to do that. They’re the best ways to get autographs, especially early in tournaments. Also, I look at the practice schedule before I enter the grounds. I write down times of practices in a note on my phone. Having a plan like this will give you the best ideas of where to be and when.

I realize not every tournament is as fan friendly as Cincy. Believe me, I know. I went to Toronto last year and it wasn’t close to Cincy. Majors are probably even worse. Not every tip I’ve mentioned may end up being useful to you, but just keep these in mind and see which one could be useful to you and the tournament you’re at 😉

Now I’d like to mention some stories about the autographs I got this year.

I mentioned earlier how I don’t spend a lot of time trying to get top players autographs. I got Andy Murray’s autograph three times this year (tied with Kerber for most). The first one I got I was lucky. I went to the court he was on and he’d just finished his practice and was already signing. (I actually got a number of autographs this way). I got a spot and got the autograph within a minute. The next autograph I got was before one of his matches. There was literally maybe 30 people there. It was too good to pass up. The other was an autograph session. I got a ticket. I tried to give it away, but couldn’t. These just kind of happened. I didn’t try to get his autograph, they just happened. 

This year I brought a retractable sharpie to make it easier to get things signed. You wouldn’t believe how confused the players were by it. I laughed every time. (Not in front of them, but after I walked away). A few players tried clicking it because they didn’t think the marker part was out. Kasatkina was one of those. Pironkova was another. Vesely too. With Strycova, she accidently got marker on her hand in the process. I can still envision her reaction to that happening. She kinda looked at her hand in disgust. I apologized of course. It was just funny to see all these players struggle with it. I mean, they must sign thousands of autographs a year. You’d think they’d see everything. Apparently not a retractable sharpie 😛

I’d also like to mention how much I loved getting John Isner’s autograph. He’s so tall that there are so many spots you can reach to. Usually you have to reach your arm straight ahead, but with him, you could just reach up. If only every player was like that lol

Rain Delays

Rain was the theme in Cincy this year. I believe there was at least one rain delay every day of the tournament, except for the finals. It was a mess. The parking lot is grass fields that are used for golfing. It turned into a mud pit. By Thursday, many of the parking spots were unavailable anymore because it was impossible not to get stuck in them, so the tournament organized shuttle buses from other locations in the city. That was very nice of them to do that. It was well organized that they would set up something like that to make it easier for fans. I didn’t want to deal with it though. This was another reason I left early. I just couldn’t put up with the rain anymore or the mess of a parking lot. I heard they had more rain that week than they’d had all summer/year up to that point. What awful timing.

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One of the more amazing things that happened during the tournament was during a rain delay surprisingly enough. I found myself next to a player during one of the many rain delays. I was going to a few different courts with a friend from Twitter, Mike, to try to get autographs, when it started raining. We found cover in a store. As the rain got harder and harder I began to wonder how one of the players, Bautista Agut, left. I was just on that court before it started raining. I didn’t see him leave. Well, as it started pouring, I see him and his coach come running in my direction and take a spot right next to me. It was unbelievable. I was just watching him practice and waiting to get an autograph. Now he’s right next to me. It was pretty awkward. I didn’t feel right asking him for an autograph in that setting. Plus, I’d already put the picture in my bag, so it’s not like it was still in my hand ready to go. He was nice though. An older lady asked to get a picture of him and he obliged. No one else asked for anything though. People around started talking about up and coming players and Federer and the rain was letting up, so he left. Mike and I had a laugh about that being the reasoning. It was such an unusual circumstance. We wished it’d have been a WTA player we liked though 

Tournament Expansion

Having gone to the tournament for so many years, it’s always nice to see what new things they add each year. This year there were many things.

TV Courts – When I first started going there might have been 2 or 3 streamed courts. Court 3 was a streamed court some of those years then wasn’t some others. This year though, I noticed early on there were cameras on more courts. I first noticed them on Court 9, which was the biggest court that didn’t have streaming. Then I noticed them on Court 4 and Court 10. When matches were on those courts, I saw they were streamed, which is awesome for everyone! I was really glad to see this. Cincy’s one of the best tournaments in the world. It’s great for others now to be able to see these courts I talk about and see more of the grounds as well. They went from 2 or 3 streamed courts to 7. Only two match courts weren’t streamed, Courts 5 and 6. Those are the only match courts without lights either.

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Court 3 TV booth –  They built a permanent structure in Court 3 for broadcast purposes. I didn’t go to Court 3 for a while, so it didn’t jump out at me. I think I even walked by it one day and noticed you could look into the court, which you previously couldn’t do. I never realized until I went in though that this permanent structure was built. It’s nice and adds to the view fans get watching at home. The only negative to this is it took away a portion of seats. Not sure how many, but maybe a few hundred. Less fans isn’t good, but maybe they’ll make up for it in the years to come.

Security – This year they added metal detectors to the entrance. You have to empty your pockets now too. I loved this change. There were some shootings in the country and I’ve always been a bit concerned for player and patron safety since Cincy didn’t have better security measures at entrances. In Toronto, they had wands to check people. It felt safer when I went there. I’m very glad Cincy boosted up security as well.

Tweets of Funny Moments

 I will never get over this. How can you possibly confuse those two?

It was soooooo loud too. She got a verbal warning lol

They probably became experts by the end of the tournament. Sob.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, check out my other articles from Cincy:

Cincy 2016: Fave Experiences

New Fave Surprise in Cincy: Varvara Flink

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