One of These Things is Not Like the Other

Written By: achangeofends - Aug• 14•11

The Kings Island Amusement Park Replica Eiffel Tower. Photo from

This week, the entire tennis community, every top player from both the ATP and WTA, has descended on the town of Mason, Ohio. The Western & Southern Open is a Masters 1000 event for the ATP and a Premier 5 event for the WTA. If you are unfamiliar with tournament levels/tiers, these are the biggest and the best outside of the four Grand Slams. In fact, the draws are actually stronger than those at Grand Slam events because they feature the Top 64 players, rather than the Top 128. This means the qualifying field is absolutely stellar and can often feature household names whose rankings have slipped a bit. At this level, there are nine tournaments per year. So by now, you probably understand how prestigious these tournaments are. Cincinnati has upped its level big time this year by having the WTA and ATP events during the same week, for the first time in the tournament’s history. However, something about this event has always struck me as a little bit different. Let’s have a look at the others and see what it might be.

BNP Paribas Open – Indian Wells, California: Generally thought of as the fifth Slam, Indian Wells is one of the largest events on tour and attracts the ritzy crowd you would expect from its Palm Springs location. The tournament hotels are five star resorts with golf courses that golfers dream about and rooms that will cost you upwards of $300/night.

Sony Ericsson Open – Miami, Florida: Miami’s a true party city, home to beautiful people and beautiful beaches. A vacation destination all on its own, the SEO attracts even more tourists to the city each March to enjoy the lively nightlife and the best tennis. Some say Miami rivals Indian Wells for its fifth Slam status.

Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters – Monte-Carlo, Monaco:  Is there a city more glamorous than Monte-Carlo? No. Monaco is the definition of rich and famous. More celebrities and wealthy foreigners reside in Monaco than actual citizens of Monaco. You can’t walk ten feet without bumping into a Bentley or Maserati, and every other block has a yacht insurance broker on the corner. A significant portion of the players don’t even need to rent a hotel room for the week because they can stay at their tax shelter apartments.

Mutua Madrid Open – Madrid, Spain: Madrid is not only the largest city in Spain, but also the third largest city in the European Union. It’s a popular vacation destination with tons of cultural attractions, a thriving financial industry, and plenty of great food and bars.

Internazionali BNL d’Italia – Rome, Italy: Rome has been a cultural mecca since the BC times and has some of the most important historical and artistic sites in the world. It’s a fascinating place to walk around because the old and the new mix almost flawlessly. You can almost imagine the tennis players battling it out in the middle of the Colosseum.

Rogers Cup – Toronto/Montreal, Canada: Canada’s two major cities both play host to a Masters event in August and to keep things fair, the men and the women alternate between Toronto and Montreal. Toronto is hugely cosmopolitan and has a more business like feel, while I hear Montreal is like being transported to Europe without crossing the Atlantic.

The Shanghai Masters – Shanghai, China: This tournament is relatively new, having only been played twice, but so far it’s been a pretty big hit. China is new to the tennis scene, but that’s changing. So far, Shanghai is only an ATP event. From 2005 to 2008, the arena was home to the ATP Tennis Masters Cup (now known as the World Tour Finals) which featured the Top 8 players in the world. Shanghai is also a popular tourist destination.

The Eiffel Tower - Paris, France

BNP Paribas Paris Masters – Paris, France: Do I really need to explain why Paris is fantastic? I couldn’t imagine a more magical city. There’s art, there’s music, there’s history, there’s architecture, there’s fashion, and there’s tennis. This beautiful city is also home to the French Open.

Now, let’s talk about the Western & Southern Open. Mason, Ohio is a suburb of Cincinnati with a population of a little less than 31,000 people. The city’s claim to fame is the King’s Island amusement Park. The city’s nicest hotel is probably the Great Wolf Lodge which is connected to an indoor amusement park. If your looking for famous food, your choices are Skyline Chili, Dewey’s Pizza, and Graeter’s Ice Cream. Now, before I get lots nasty replies, I am not ragging on Cincinnati/Mason. I love Graeter’s as much as the next person and I’m sure the Mason amusement parks are fun. My point is, the Western & Southern Open has a slightly different feel than the other Masters Series events.

I actually think it’s fantastic that there’s such a large tournament in Cincinnati each year. As someone who spent the last several years living in the Midwest, I can attest to the fact that being a Midwestern tennis fan is difficult. There are only two tournaments held in the Midwest, Memphis and Cincinnati. This means that if you live in any number of cities from Chicago, to St. Louis, to Kansas City, to Indianapolis, you have to travel if you ever want to see some pro tennis. Let me tell you, making the trip from St. Louis to Cincinnati and staying in a Holiday Inn is a hell of a lot easier than flying to Palm Springs or Paris. Tennis is often criticized as being inaccessible to large audiences and in some ways that is true. However, the Western & Southern Open brings high level tennis to a group of people who probably wouldn’t bother making the trip if it was farther away.

As a fun history lesson, the Cincinnati Open was first played in 1899 and is the oldest tournament in the United States that has kept its original home.

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