Have you ever heard of the Western and Southern Open professional tennis tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio? Are you a tennis fan and dreamed of attending the U.S. Open grand slam in New York but don’t have it in your budget to attend?
I have a great news for tennis fans. The best kept secret in professional tennis is The Western and Southern Open (otherwise known as The Cincinnati Open). The Western and Southern Open is a Masters 1000 (second highest to a grand Slam) – but a fraction of the cost of a grand slam. Additionally, the players are very friendly and willing to give autographs and take photos when asked.
Two years ago, I bought tickets for my family to attend the semifinals and finals weekend. What I didn’t realize is that there were only four female and four male players left in the draw. As a result, we didn’t get any autographs.
But then some good friends of ours told us we were going about the Western and Southern Open all the wrong way. They invited us to join them over qualifying weekend. I thought Why would we go to qualifying weekend when none of the star players will be there?
They said that all of the big stars are there during qualifying weekend warming up and doing practice matches with each other. Also, their nerves are not on high and they are very willing to sign autographs and take photos with the kids.
So I found tickets for a whopping $15 and drove up to Cincinnati for qualifying weekend. It was the most fun we have ever had at a professional tennis tournament.
My friend also gave us the insider tip is that all of the players stay at the Marriott in Mason, Ohio (call and verify this year before you book a reservation). If you grab a coffee at the hotel lobby Starbucks or a breakfast in the hotel café, you will be surrounded by tennis stars.
My daughter and I went to the lobby early one morning and we were the first to arrive. But little by little all of the tennis star started walking in. We were surrounded by Borna Coric, Agnieszka Radwanska, Jo Wilfried Tsonga, Jelena Ostapenko, Vasek Pospisil, Coco Vandeweghe, Roberta Vinci, Fabio Fognini…plus many others.
WHAT TO BRING TO THE WESTERN AND SOUTHERN OPEN
- A good camera. Your iPhone will be find for selfies with the tennis stars, but if you have a better camera with a high speed lens, that is a must to bring. The photos I took below I would’t have been able to capture with my cell phone
- Bring your kids! Normally I would not recommend bringing young kids to a professional tennis tournament. The days are long and hot and most kids are miserable. The qualifying weekend at the Western and Southern open is also Kids Day. They have a lot of fun activities set up for kids. My kids had a blast. If you have to leave early because your child is miserable in the heat, at least you only spent a whopping $15 to get in the gate.
- Bring something to get autographs on. Those Wilson Jumbo Tennis Balls are perfect for young kids. You might buy a hat and get your own autographs on it.
- Bring plenty of sharpies for autographs.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE US OPEN AND WESTERN & SOUTHERN OPEN
I have attended both major tennis tournaments. As a result, I can give you a side-by-side comparison.
- The US Open is much more expensive than the W&S Open for reserved seats. My husband and I paid well over $1000 for three days at the US Open and only paid $10-15 per day for the Western and Southern Open tickets.
- There is not a bad seat in the biggest stadium at the Western and Southern Open. But if you sit in the nose bleed section of Arthur Ashe stadium at the US Open, the players will look like ants down below.
- Western and Southern Open has easy access with parking – US Open you cannot park on site unless you are VIP. In New York, you must take the train to the stadium and walk
- The tennis players are much more accessible for photos and autographs at the Western and Southern Open than at the US Open. The practice courts at W&S are like neighborhood courts with fences waist high. The practice courts at the US Open have very tall fences and tight security.
If you have in in your budget to attend the US Open, I definitely recommend it. In comparison, you just can’t get any bigger bang for your buck than the Western and Southern Open – one of the best kept secrets in tennis.
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All photos by Kate Raidt