If the television cameras had stayed on after Roger Federer the Victorious and Mardy Fish the Valiant left Center Court Sunday following the final of the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters in Mason, Ohio, tennis fans would have seen that a tournament set disappears faster than Fish burns calories these days. This year, the organizers had a special reason for hurrying the tear-down.Â A major expansion of the Lindner Family Tennis Center begins right away in preparation for a combined ATP and WTA event over eight days beginning in 2011.
From 2004 through 2010, the Masters and Womenâ€™s Open, a WTA Premier event, were held on separate weeks. Next year, they will take place concurrently. Combining the two events will elevate the Mason tournament to the level of the Sony Ericsson in Miami, the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells, and the Mutua Madrilena in Madrid. For fans, that means more matches each day and menâ€™s and womenâ€™s action side by side, in a city where most hotel rooms cost around $100 per nightâ€”it will be a cut-rate version of the biggest tournaments in the world.
It will also make the house much more crowded with double the field and double the fans on site at the same time. To handle the increased lineups and audiences, the tournament is adding six new courts, a new indoor ticketing building, and a new food and entertainment plaza. Two new show courts will seat 4,000 in one arena and 2,500 in the other; both will be lighted for night matches. Already, the site is the only non-Slam tennis center in the world with three permanent show courts.
The improvements are the second phase of the expansion. The first phaseâ€”a $10 million building for players and media–debuted at this yearâ€™s event. TheÂ 52,000-square-foot building, to be named the Paul Flory Player Center, houses new locker rooms with enlarged lockers for todayâ€™s equipment bags, state-of-the-art fitness and treatment amenities, a modern playersâ€™ lounge with video games and high-backed sofas for privacy, a media center with 100 desks, an indoor/outdoor player dining room, and interview rooms. The building also has close to 700 new covered seats.
When tours collide, players feel the pinch most on the practice courts. Even with 16 courts, players wonâ€™t be guaranteed extra-long practices or preferred times. The tournament scorekeepers felt the impact of the transition this year. Moved from a booth on the south end of the court to the West Building, their vantage point has changed. The scorekeepers record every touch of the ball, including the direction of each serve (out wide, into the body, or down the center), and call each point as a winner, forced error, or unforced error. From the side of the court, itâ€™s harder to judge spins and angles, which factor into their calls.
The enormity of the logistics aside, a combined event will only enhance what is already a fan and player favorite. With its unassuming suburban environs and summer symphony of cicadas, Mason (about 30 minutes north of downtown Cincinnati) couldnâ€™t be more different than the glamorous company it keeps on pro tennisâ€™s schedule. But with 111 years of practiceâ€”thatâ€™s right, this tournament is the third-oldest in the countryâ€”the W&S knows how to host pro tennis. And itâ€™s staying in the Midwest for a long time to come.
More notes from the grounds of the Lindner Family Tennis Center:
–By defending his title in Cincinnati, Federer remains number two on the ATP World Rankings and will be the second seed at the US Open. He defeated Mardy Fish 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-4 and lost his serve only once during the tournament.
–Federer won $443,500 for this weekâ€™s victory. He received a first-round bye, a second-round win by his opponentâ€™s retirement at 5-2, and a third-round win in a walkover. He completed five sets through the finalsâ€”earning $88,700 per set.
–Mardy Fish has now reached the final of three Masters events and lost each in a three-set match. In his post-match news conference, he said, â€œI desperately want to be remembered for a big tournament.â€
–Fish tied Ivo Karlovic for the record number of aces (87) during the W&S tournament.
–Mike and Bob Bryan won the doubles title, their third in Cincinnati, with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Max Mirnyi and Mahesh Bhuphati.
–According to a volunteer on the transportation committee, players and their teams receive their own car to use during the tournament and drive themselves to and from the site. Lower-ranked players share a car.
–A fun gift for WTA fans: Zagatâ€™s Best of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour 2010 guide. It features Zagatâ€™s expert reviews of restaurants and shops in major WTA Tour locations, with scads of player testimonials and personal tips from Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Rennae Stubbs, Na Li, Ana Ivanovicâ€™s, and many more players. Find it at Tennis Warehouse. Also, listings for tournaments in progress and coming up are posted on the WTAâ€™s website
–The Chiquita Banana smoothiesâ€”addictive. Recipe here: http://www.chiquitabananas.com/Banana-Recipes/Classic-Banana-Smoothie-recipe.aspx