2016 Tournament Preview: Western & Southern Open

February 22, 2016 09:46 AM

Where: Lindner Family Tennis Center, Cincinnati, OH

When: Aug. 13-21

Defending Champions: Roger Federer (men’s singles); Serena Williams (women’s singles); Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (men’s doubles); Chan Hao-Ching and Chan Yung-Jan (women’s doubles)

Tournament Website: www.wsopen.com

History: The Western & Southern Open is the nation’s oldest professional tennis tournament held in its city of origin. First played in 1899 on the site of current-day Xavier University, the W&S Open has been a fixture in the Queen City for more than a century. First held at the Avondale Athletic Club, the tournament is today played in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, about 20 miles from the spot where the tournament’s first ball was struck 117 years ago.

The men’s event has been held annually, almost without interruption, since that time. The women’s event was held annually from 1899 to 1973, then went on hiatus (with the exception of a lone tournament in 1988) before returning in 2004, when it rejoined the men’s event to form the current dual tournament.

Befitting its status as one of the world’ premier tournaments, the W&S Open boasts an impressive list of past champions that includes Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Rafael Nadal, Pete Sampras and Stan Smith among the men, and Victoria Azarenka, Kim Clijsters, Margaret Court, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Virginia Wade and Serena Williams among the women.

2015 Recap: The date may have been different, but the 2015 tournament had a similar feel to 2014, with both Roger Federer and Serena Williams successfully defending their titles.

Federer did not drop his serve in 49 service games across five matches in 2015, replicating his 2012 feat. Ranked third in the world entering the tournament, Federer toppled No. 2 Andy Murray, 6-4, 7-6, in the semifinals and then defeated No. 1 Novak Djokovic, 7-6, 6-3, in the final to earn his record seventh Cincy crown. It marked the first time he has beaten the top two-ranked players in the world in consecutive matches in winning a title.

On the women’s side, Williams was able to avoid the upsets that beset a large number of the top players; six Top 16 seeds crashed out in the first round and another four were gone by the third round. Williams, meantime, cruised into the final, dropping just one set, when she was forced to rally from a set down to take out the No. 6 seed Ana Ivanovic in the quarterfinals. From there, the 21-time Grand Slam women’s single champion defeated No. 14 seed Elina Svitolina, 6-4, 6-3, in the semis before beating world No. 3 Simona Halep, 6-3, 7-6, in the final.

In the men’s doubles, Nestor of Canada and teammate Roger-Vasselin of France upset two-time defending champions Mike and Bob Bryan in the quarterfinals before beating Marcin Matkowski of Poland and Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic, 6-2, 6-2, in the final. Among the women, the Chan sisters, Hao-Ching and Yung-Jan, ran the gauntlet of seeded teams to secure the title; they toppled No. 3 seeds Caroline Garcia and Katarina Srebotnik in the second round, Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta in the quarterfinals, top seeds Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza in the semis, and fourth-seeded Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova, 7-5, 6-4, in the title match.

2016 Preview: The biggest stars in tennis are expected to return to Cincinnati in 2016 to begin their post-Olympic run to the US Open in the third of four Emirates Airline US Open Series events.

Defending champion and world No. 1 Serena Williams accepted a late wild card into the event, which bolsters an already strong women's draw that includes No. 2 and 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, No. 3 and 2016 Rogers Cup champion Simona Halep and No. 4 and 2016 French Open winner Garbiñe Muguruza. Also in are No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, 2015 US Open finalist Roberta Vinci and two-time WImbledon titlist Petra Kvitova.

Injuries robbed the men's draw of last year's finalists, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, but the rest of the best in the world remain, including world No. 2 Andy Murray, No. 4 Stan Wawrinka, No. 5 Rafael Nadal and every other member of the world's Top 20.

Ed. Note: Updated 8/11

Ed. Note: Serena Williams withdrew with a shoulder injury 8/15

Fun Fact: Federer holds several Western & Southern Open records, including most singles titles (seven), most times seeded No. 1 (seven) and most consecutive titles (two, twice). Federer is also a perfect 3-0 against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Cincinnati, winning the 2009, 2012 and 2015 finals against his closest rival without dropping a set.

– Ashley Marshall