By Benjamin Snyder, special to EmiratesUSOpenSeries.
CINCINNATI - Nestled in between a packed hardcourt schedule, the Western & Southern Open may offer some respite for players contending with jet lag, fatigue, and other ailments associated with the heavy travel schedule leading to the season’s final push and attempts to claim fame in The Big Apple.
During the North American swing, players get the rare chance to remain in the same country, or at least the same continent when tournaments in Toronto and Montreal beckon, for extended periods of time. That’s not a given over previous portions of the season where a trans-Atlantic transition might take a player from Dubai to Indian Wells, Calif. to Stuttgart, Germany within nearly a month.
According to recent Toronto champion Petra Kvitova, the travel time simply comes with the job description. "Yeah, I think that it’s our life, so I think that we are used to it," she said. "Every week at different places and different opponents, that’s for us pretty normal."
At times, the schedule can get a little overwhelming, the World No. 5 and 2011 Wimbledon champion admitted. "Well, sometimes, I think in the end of the season sometimes it’s too much and we feel tired sometimes," Kivotva said. "But I think, yeah, it’s part of our life, so I can’t think too much about it."
While Kvitova spoke about the travel required to actually get on-site at each event, Roger Federer and Serena Williams cited Cincinnati as a personal favorite once there.
With the Olympics London tacked on this year, the schedule became even more of a feat for top players to conquer. No one handled bouts of jet lag or surface change preparations better than Serena, whose 18-match win streak includes titles at Wimbledon and Stanford, a gold medal at the London Olympics and a victory in Cincinnati.
Earlier in the week, Serena spoke of Cincinnati favorably. One reason: It may be because she’s able to sit – relatively -- still for a few weeks. That is, when she’s not out on-court collecting titles.
"I love it here," she said simply.
She was also happy to share of her 2006 run to the Cincinnati semifinals during a tough time for her career. "You know, I had a great comeback here," she explained. "It was a great story for me." Serena highlighted her first round match of the event in which, as the No. 139 in the world, she defeated the No. 2 seed Anastasia Myskina 6-2, 6-2.
"I just have great memories here," said Williams. "That really propelled me to start over my career." After claiming her spot in the Cincinnati final four, the now 14-time Grand Slam champion advanced to the semifinals at Los Angeles weeks after. She also made it the round of 16 at the US Open, her second major of the year after skipping Wimbledon and Roland Garros due to a knee injury.
Even better results were to follow on Tour. To kick off 2007, the younger Williams, whose older sister Venus is playing this week as a wild card, claimed the Australian Open title.
"I came on and I kept going and I kept going," said Serena." Eventually I started winning my Grand Slams again. It was a great time for me. I have so much support here in Cincinnati."
She continued, "You have such great fans here and great people. The Midwest is filled with people with wonderful heart."
Four-time champion Roger Federer agreed with Serena’s sentiments about the Cincinnati atmosphere. "It’s always been a nice place for me to come to," he said. "I have great fan support here."
The Olympics silver medalist in singles spoke about the intimacy provided by the Lindner Family Tennis Center and reasoned that while it may not be New York, London or Paris, it’s something special.
"Every practice you go to is packed, every match you play is packed, so it’s really a nice event," he said. "They do a great job for the players."
Now, it’s up to Federer and Serena to give back to their fans with wins at the tournament they appear to appreciate so much.