The world's best tennis players my photos, my words

Each August I spend a few days watching and photographing the world's best tennis players competing in the Western & Southern Open Tennis Tournament in Cincinnati. And each September I use the new photos as my featured gallery on my web site.

The Western & Southern Open is about as close to a Grand Slam tennis tournament as an event can get. It's one of only nine tournaments in the world where the top men and women play simultaneously at the same site: the four majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open), and combined ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier events in Rome, Madrid, Miami and Indian Wells, Calif., along with Cincinnati.

The Cincy tournament is two weeks before the U.S. Open, the final Grand Slam of the year, so all the top players from the ATP and WTA typically flock to Cincinnati to hone their games for New York.

Kei Nishikori (Japan), ranked seventh in the world, on the practice court.

It’s a big deal.

But this year the Olympics tennis competition, held in Brazil the week before the Cincinnati tournament, threatened to weaken the field. Roger Federer, a seven-time winner of the tournament, had to miss the Olympics and is taking the remainder of the year off to strengthen his surgically repaired knee. Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s player, pulled out of Cincinnati a few days before the tournament began, claiming a wrist injury after losing early at the Olympics. Serena Williams, the world’s top-ranked women’s player, had not entered Cincinnati because she planned to compete in the Olympics and stay for the second week of the Games. But after losing early at the Olympics, she accepted a wild card into the Cincy tournament after realizing her ranking (and the number one seed for the U.S. Open) would be in jeopardy if she skipped Cincy. Then she withdrew again after arriving in Cincinnati, practicing one morning and deciding her shoulder was too sore to play.

Simona Halep (Romania), ranked fourth in the world.

So the tournament didn’t have everyone who would usually be there, and some of the top players were fatigued after a week in Brazil, but 18 of the top 20 men and 17 of the top 20 women started the tournament. It was still a “can’t miss” event for tennis fans.

This year I attended day-session matches the first three days of the tournament and suffered through periods of very heavy rain all three days. It was so bad that the large dirt parking lot used by the tournament turned into a swamp, with mud and standing water much deeper than the tops of my shoes. By Wednesday tournament officials decided to close the on-site parking and use paved off-site lots instead. Unfortunately for me, the decision was made and communicated after I arrived so I had a third day in the mud.

But the matches that were played between storms were fun to watch, and fun to photograph. The featured gallery on my web site includes 88 photos of 52 players.

On the courts in Cincinnati

Rafael Nadal, background photo, had been out for months with a wrist injury before playing the Olympics in Brazil. He lost in the semifinals in singles and won the doubles, spending many hours on the court. He arrived in Cincinnati ranked fifth in the world, but he looked fatigued and lost in the second round.

Below are photos of some of the other players at the Western & Southern Open. Rankings cited are from the start of the tournament.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (France), ranked 10th
Size difference: Reilly Opelka, a 6-11+ 18-year-old from the United States, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, who is only 6-2, stand with the umpire before the start of their match. Opelka is the tallest player to ever participate on the pro tennis tour.
Reilly Opelka (United States), an 18-year-old who turned pro this year and is the tallest professional player at 6-11+.
Kei Nishikori (Japan), ranked seventh
Simona Halep (Romania), ranked fourth
Milos Raonic (Canada), ranked sixth
Gael Monfils (France), ranked 11th
Dominic Thiem (Austria), ranked ninth
Steve Johnson (United States), ranked 23rd
David Ferrer (Spain), ranked 12th
Pablo Cuevas (Uruguay), ranked 19th.
Marcos Baghdatis (Cypress), ranked 44th
Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria), ranked 34th
Feliciano Lopez (Spain), ranked 18th
Elina Svitolina (Ukraine), ranked 19th
John Isner (United States), ranked 22nd
Marcel Granollers (Spain), ranked 46th
Belinda Bencic (Switzerland), ranked 27th
Jiri Vesely (Czech Republic), ranked 50th
Andrea Petkovic (Germany), ranked 42nd
Roberto Bautista Agut (Spain), ranked 17th
Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic), ranked 28th
Richard Gasquet (France), ranked 15th
Christina McHale (United States), ranked 59th
Misaki Doi (Japan), ranked 38th
Timea Babos (Hungary), ranked 41st
Nicolas Mahut (France), ranked 42nd
Mikhail Youzhny (Russia), ranked 68th
Annika Beck (Germany), ranked 44th
John Millman (Australia), ranked 91st
Mischa Zverev (Germany)
Pablo Carreno Busta (Spain), ranked 48th
Adrian Mannarino (France), ranked 58th
Alison Riske (United States), ranked 70th
Bernard Tomic (Australia), ranked 21st
Joao Sousa (Portugal), ranked 36th
Kiki Bertens (Netherlands), ranked 22nd
Alize Cornet (France), ranked 59th
Taylor Fritz (United States), ranked 54th
Sara Errani (Italy), ranked 32nd
CoCo Vandeweghe (United States), ranked 33rd
Jeremy Chardy (France), ranked 53rd
Caroline Garcia (France), ranked 30th
Daria Gavrilova (Australia), ranked 47th
Sam Querrey (United States), ranked 29th
Kevin Anderson (South Africa), ranked 24th
Alexandr Dolgopolov (Ukraine), ranked 37th
Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (Slovakia), ranked 57th
Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia), ranked 39th
Julien Benneteau (France)
Nicolas Almagro (Spain), ranked 47th
Jared Donaldson (United States)
Created By
Pat Hemlepp


All photos and text: © Copyright - Pat D. Hemlepp

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