118 years ago, the second largest tennis tournament in the USA (after the US Open) began as the Cincinnati Open. Started on 18th September 1899, the tournament now enters its 116th edition for the men and the 89th edition for the women. One of the most elite tournaments on the tour, this tournament’s past involves a period where the event was nearly scraped off from the circuit.
It was the Avondale Athletic Club that was first held the Cincinnati Open. Two years from then, the tournament was renamed to the Tri-state tennis tournament.
The tournament enjoyed four years at this club, after which it was moved to the Cincinnati tennis club. This club was home to the Cincinnati Open for nearly 70 years. In 1974, the tournament was nearly dropped from the circuit, when the last minute change moved the tournament to the Cincinnati Convention Centre. In 1975, the tournament was moved to Coney Island amusement park, near the Ohio river, and the tournament cruised its way to success yet again.
Three years later, the tournament was added as a major tournament of the Grand Prix circuit. It stayed as a part of this circuit till 1989.
In 1979, the organizers realized that the flooding of the Ohio river was hampering the activities at the Coney Island amusement park. This meant a change of venue yet again. Mason, the current home of the Cincinnati Open was chosen as the permanent venue. The place where the tournament is now held is known as the Lindner Family Tennis Centre. It is named after a former sponsor of the event, Carl Lindner Jr. The first event played here gave no ranking points and the tournament was named the ATP Championships that year.
In 1981, 1995, 1997 and 2010, the four stadium courts were built. This makes Cincinnati the only event after the four grand slams to have more than two stadium courts. The Centre Court, Grandstand, Court 3 and Court 9 along with more than 15 other courts hold all the matches. The most striking feature at the venue is the West Building, now known as the Paul M. Flory Player Centre.
The Paul M. Flory saga
In 1975, when the tournament was moved to Coney Island, Paul M. Flory, who began his services as a volunteer for the tournament, became its director. The tournament earned in millions and Paul decided to give a major part of the earnings as charity to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre, Tennis for Youth and, Charles M. Barrett Cancer Centre. As a result, Flory was honored with the Arthur Ashe humanitarian award by the ATP. He remained the tournament director, till his death on January 31, 2013.
For 1899 till 1978 the event was played on clay. In 1979, the playing surface was permanently changed to DecoTurf hardcourt.
The women’s event was held each year from 1899 till 1917. In 1918, 1919, 1921 and 1935 the tournament was not held due to war, the Great Depression, and many other factors. It was once again not held from 1974 till 1987. Another spell of emptiness came from 1989 till 2003. In 2009, the event gained the status of being a Premier 5 tournament on the women’s circuit.
Western & Southern Open
In 2002 the tournament was sponsored by the Western & Southern Financial Group.
In August 2008, the men’s event was sold to United States Tennis Association (USTA), the owners of the US Open.
In 2011, the men’s and women’s event was played at the same time for the first time making it a joint tournament. This was when the tournament was named as the Western & Southern Open.
Despite the multiple changes in venues over the years, the event has survived elimination and the Cincinnati Masters is till date the oldest tennis tournament in the United States held in its original city.
This year, with Andy Murray out of the event and thus unable to defend his 600 points from last year, top seeds Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will lock horns in a battle for the World No.1 ranking. If Roger Federer can go on to win the ongoing Rogers Cup and a record 8th Cincinnati title, he can become the World No.1, a position which he last held in November 2012.