A College Football Fan at a Tennis Tournament

We take a break from Michigan football here to discuss ATP tennis. While this is not a sport I know a ton about I was able to attend the Western & Southern Open just outside of Cincinnati this weekend. Both my Mother and youngest Sister are huge tennis fans and they went last year and they asked me to go along this year.

I don’t keep up with tennis outside of the majors and I only really keep up with tennis by what is written on Grantland about it. This means I know about the Big Four, Serena and all of the tennis players that make weird noises when they play.

So I was excited when I saw the men’s draw and saw all of the big names hoping to be able to see these elite guys I watch every summer at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Only one problem, both Murray and Djokovic lost in the quarters and Rafa took out Federer Friday night before we got to the event on Saturday. So the “big four” was down to just one. We enjoyed ourselves anyway…

The Venue

Rafael-Nadal-WallpapersThe tournament takes place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio. For those of you that have been to King’s Island it is right across the street. In fact from our seats on Saturday I could see all of the roller coasters going and it made me want to hop across the street and take a ride or two. (Except on the Beast because I don’t want a raging headache for three hours.)

The layout was fairly simple with a Center Court, a Grandstand Court and then a bunch of additional courts that wouldn’t be used that weekend with so few matches remaining. The food court was fantastic and this is important to an overweight individual such as myself. The beer selection was a bit whack but there was Pacifico so life was good.

The crowd was about what I expected, very similar to that of a golf tournament. Most people were dressed up in their tennis polos and Federer and Rafa insignia hats. (This weekend was the first time I saw the Nadal logo, it made me hungry for steak.)

I only had two real complaints watching the tennis and that was from the side angle it was impossible to tell if certain balls were in or not. (Especially at 130 plus mph serves.) The other was we were in the sun on Saturday so I was sweating out all the beer I was drinking. This isn’t a complaint against the venue rather that no one has invented an app for when you are buying tickets to let you know how long your seats will keep you in the sun. I expect better from you internet.

I can’t just be negative as one of my favorite things was when a player challenged a call and the whole crowd claps in unison as the computer program renders its verdict. It is basically a glimpse into the robot led future and their version of Gladiator.

Rafael Nadal

Of the big names on the men’s side Nadal is my favorite. I suspect its for two reasons, first that my youngest sister loves the guy so its who we root for in our household. Second I just liked that he was able to push Federer after Roger dominated with no real rival for a few years.

So when he was the only big name left I was happy I would get to see him in person and see what he was all about. He drew Thomas Berdych in the semi on Saturday after Berdych upset Murray in the quarters.

The match went as expected with held serves and groundstrokes. For the first few games it looked like Berdych was the better player but he just could not break Nadal. My sports hot take here is that Nadal is a “grinder.” I don’t have the vocabulary to come up with something better and I don’t have the tennis knowledge to make a fair comparison to who he is most like.

When you watch Nadal there is just this sense of inevitability that Nadal will win, no matter how long the set goes. (He won three of his four sets this weekend  in tiebreaks and was only broken once by Berdych and Nadal immediately broke him back.) Hes like a tennis python that will slowly ground stoke you to death.

He ended up playing American John Isner in the final on Sunday which led to a weird crowd dynamic. The majority of the fans there loved Rafa but were also American so it was like they were rooting for both to win. (Isner went to UGA so this led me to seek people wearing Georgia apparel out to talk college football. Even at a tennis tournament I can’t not think about it.)

Isner was a surprise finalist but with his 6’9” frame and 144 mph serves you can see why he could beat some of the best players. Unfortunately for him Nadal was on top of his game as each of the two sets went to a tiebreak and ultimately Rafa did his thing and won each of them and captured the championship.

He also won last weekend in Montreal and while he is ranked number three in the world you would have to think he is the favorite heading into the US Open. I forcast many tiebreaks in his near future.

Serena vs Azarenka

We didn’t stay Saturday night for the Women’s semis but we stayed for the final on Sunday for a 1 vs. 2 matchup: Serena Williams vs. Victoria Azarenka.

Serena came out and I couldn’t figure out if she was hurt or disinterested. The old ladies near me said it was both and I trust their insider opinion. (Sidenote: Tennis fans have the same ability as golf fans to be critical of a shot that they can no way either attempt much less execute in their own lives.)

Despite not looking 100% Serena won the first set 6-2. I thought the match might be over in 40 minutes and we could hit the road to get back at a decent time but then Azarenka called upon her noise making powers and won the second set 6-2. (The noise she makes reminds me of one of the kids in South Park with tourettes.)

At this point I was feeling tennis fatigue and really just wanted it to end so of course the third set went to a tiebreak. Azarenka wore Serena down in a Nadal esque fashion and beat the presumed favorite for only the third time in her career.

It was a good weekend and certainly will have tennis fans salivating for the US Open in two weeks. Unfortunately for tennis this happens as the same time football starts so I am not sure how much of it I will watch.


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