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Cincinnati Masters

The Cincinnati Masters is one of the ATP’s premier summer hard court events. 

The tournament has remained in its host city ever since it began in 1899, and has welcomed some of the biggest stars in men’s tennis over the years. Many past champions have gone on to win the US Open just a few weeks after lifting the trophy in Ohio.


Background

The Avondale Athletic Club was the original setting for the Cincinnati tournament. In 1903, the event moved to the Cincinnati Tennis Club, where it would stay for almost 70 years. The tournament suffered somewhat after switching locations several times in the 1970s, but at the end of that decade a new, permanent home was found. 

The Lindner Family Tennis Center was constructed in the city of Mason, around 20 miles from Cincinnati. With the move, the decision was also made to swap clay for hard courts, in keeping with the US Open’s recent change in playing surface. The venue has been extended and updated since its Center Court opened in 1981. In 1995, Grandstand Court was built, and a new “West Building” was added in 2010, providing first-class facilities for fans, players and media.

Although Cincinnati has always been a top draw for the best male players in the world, the tournament only introduced a premier event for the women in 2004. Since 2011, both competitions have been staged concurrently.


Past Champions

From 1899 until 1941, an American man won the title every single year in Cincinnati. George Lott and Bobby Riggs were the most successful players of the amateur era, winning four trophies apiece.

As the Open Era dawned and professionals were welcomed for the first time, players from further afield began to make the trip to the midwestern city. Australian legend Ken Rosewall was triumphant in 1970, and Romania’s Ilie Nastase was the victor three years later. 

After the event switched to hard courts, power players began to dominate, and the 1980s roll of honour is full of familiar names. Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg each won titles, but most dominant was Mats Wilander, who won four times from 1983 - 1988. 

However, it is Roger Federer who holds the record for most titles won in Cincinnati. The Swiss has been the last man standing on five occasions, making the tournament one of his most fertile hunting grounds.


Classic Matches

Rafter def. Sampras, 1998 final:
In 1997, Australia’s Pat Rafter admitted that he and Pete Sampras were not the best of friends, after exchanging some terse words following Rafter’s US Open victory that year. With the tension palpable, the pair met in the final of the Cincinnati Masters in 1998, and each man was determined to get the upper hand. Sampras came charging out of the blocks, serving and volleying to perfection on his way to a 6-1 shutout. But Rafter began to find his range in the second set, rushing the net with equal gusto to sneak it on a tie-break. There was little to separate the rivals in the decider, but in the ninth game the Aussie managed to break. Serving for the championship, Rafter hit what appeared to be an ace on match point, but Sampras wasn’t convinced, even after the match was called for his opponent. The American legend refused to shake the umpire’s hand, and said later that Rafter should have asked for the point to be replayed. While a great victory for Rafter, this contest also showed that the usually gracious Pete Sampras had a temper. When asked subsequently about the difference between him and Rafter, he replied, “About ten Grands Slams.”

Video: Rafter v Sampras, 1998

Federer def. Fish, 2010 final:
The 2010 final may not have been of the highest quality from start to finish, but it was still an enthralling battle between two players with very different histories. Roger Federer was a 16-time Grand Slam Champion, while the USA’s Mardy Fish was enjoying something of a late career renaissance following knee surgery in 2009. The first set was extremely close, with Federer short of his best form and Fish working hard to extend the rallies and coax errors. The American produced some superb shots at clutch moments to win it on a tie-break, and was mere points away from scoring the upset in the second. But Federer, more experienced in pressured situations, played with greater aggression in the second set tie-break, and pushed the match to a decider. As his opponent began to show signs of fatigue, Federer earned the only break of the match in the ninth game of the third set. He then held serve convincingly to close out the 2 hour, 40 minute slugfest and pick up his fourth Cincinnati Masters title.

Video: Federer v Fish, 2010


Trivia

  • Although a two-time winner, Stefan Edberg lost four finals in Cincinnati, including two in final set tie-breaks. 
  • Andy Murray won his first ever Masters title in Cincinnati in 2008.
  • Apart from the Grand Slam events, the Lindner Family Tennis Center is the only tennis venue in the world with more than two permanent stadia. 
  • Novak Djokovic is a four-time runner up in Cincinnati. 

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