2019 Western and Southern Open

Henri Robbins | Online Editor

After 120 years, the Western and Southern Open is still drawing crowds and connecting a community. 

Over what was the last week of summer for many, Mason hosted their annual Western and Southern Open tennis tournament from August 10 through 18. At the tournament, players from 49 different countries competed for titles in both men’s and women’s singles and doubles. On the women’s side, Madison Keys took home the trophy, and Daniil Medvedev won the men’s. In doubles, Sania Mirza and Barbora Strycova took the women’s, and Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo won the men’s side.

During the week, community members volunteer to help out with various aspects of the tournament. Some teens, such as sophomore Nishanth Kondragunta, are even able to volunteer as “ball kids” on the court, where they retrieve tennis balls between points and return them to the players.

“I knew the rules and everything, and I live like five minutes away, so I heard about it (from my sister) and decided I should do it,” Kondragunta said. “I ball-kidded for Kyrgios last year, which felt pretty good. Sometimes they’ll say thank you, they’ll recognize you for something and say something to you, that feels special.”

Along with students being able to be involved on the court, many of the players will become involved with the community off the court. Media Director Peter Holtermann said that many of the players enjoy the area, and will take the tournament as an opportunity to explore it. 

“The players feel that sense of home and sense of community,” Holtermann said. “One of the things that sets us apart from other tennis tournaments in the world is the proximity and the closeness that the fans can have to the players when they’re here on the grounds. That continues when the players go to restaurants and movie theaters, because it’s a really welcoming community. The players enjoy that, and for the community to have that engagement back is a great thing.”

Because of the community that is present, 2019 women’s champion Madison Keys said that the tournament, which is now her highest-profile win, is one of the highlights of the tour for her.

“(The Cincinnati fans) are awesome,” Keys said. “It’s always been one of my favorite weeks of the year, and seeing how many fans came out this week, I feel like every match I played, every stadium was full. It was really great that so many people came out to watch.”

Many of the other players in the past have taken some time to explore the area, Holtermann said, taking a special interest in locales such as Kings Island. 

“Last year, Nick Kyrgios went, and so did Murray,” Holtermann said. “One of the players went over and won an eight-foot stuffed animal. They came back to the tournament and just left it sitting in the players’ lounge. You’re not going to be doing that in New York.”

While the players may take the time to explore the area, the reason they’re there is for the tennis. Having won for the first time, Keys said that the tournament was reminiscent of her own hometown of Rock Island, Illinois. 

“I think it’s the closest thing that I’ll have to a hometown tournament, so I’ve claimed it as that,” Keys said. “I don’t know if the tournament has claimed me back, but I’ll take it.”

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Photos by Henri Robbins