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Fri, Feb. 28

Howard: Western & Southern - Some New Blood
My Point

Being from Ohio there’s some extra enjoyment in covering the final Masters/Premier 5 men’s and women’s tournament prior to the U.S. Open - the Western & Southern at the Lindner Tennis Center across the road from Kings Island in Mason, Ohio.

It was a unique and unusual event with two new singles winners - both obtaining their first major titles. 23 year-old Daniil Medvedev from Russia, who has been in the finals of the previous two ATP tournaments (Washington & Montreal), defeated Belgium David Goffin in a close 2 setter, 7-6 (3), 6-4 and Madison Keys (USA) defeating come-back, wild card, vetran Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (5) to win the biggest title of her career.

What, no finals with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka, Simona Halep or Rafa Nadal? How unusual is that the week before the U.S. Open begins?

Federer, who has won this event 7 times was beaten in his second match by qualifier Andre Rublev in straight sets.

The one-and-only Nick Kyrgios received the largest fine for poor behavior in tennis history, $113,000, in his 3 set loss to Russian Karen Khachanov. It’s surprising he wasn’t suspended from play as well. A great talent who goes ballistic over what most players wouldn’t give a second thought to. It is entertaining to some degree, but sad and distasteful at a certain point.

Low and behold, Andy Murray took a wild card and tried to renew his singles career against Frenchman Richard Gasquet, losing in 2 sets and deciding not to play singles in the Open...only men’s and mixed doubles. Murray had the ball joint of his hip resurfaced and is working toward a singles come back.

Rafa Nadal won the Montreal Masters and decided that was enough tournament play before the Open begins August 27th.

Serena Williams wanted to play Cincinnati, but her back that was having spasms just didn’t come around in time to commit.

U.S. Open thoughts on some of the women and their possible success or failure:

Ashleigh Barty will be dangerous; Maria Sharapova - one dimensional player, one or two rounds; Sloane Stephens - confident, but a bit cocky; Madisen Keys - a dark horse second weeker; Simona Halep - dangerous, but is she healthy yet? Naomi Osaka - having trouble with her concentration: Bianca Andreescu - dangerous if healthy; and Serena Williams - could win #24, if she’s healthy enough.

As for the men at the Open.

I’d still like to see the big 3 go out early (unlikely) and give everyone else their chance at a Slam title.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see any of the following Gen-X guys have a great run? Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, Fritz Taylor and a few others who we’ve all had high expectations for that seem to be good ambassadors for the game and are players you can rally behind.

This tournament is a real “garden party” tennis happening with a history that dates back to 1899. The attendance numbers this year were just shy of 200,000 paying guests and going to Mason makes for a nice road/airline trip from the Southwest to rub elbows with the best players in the world, male or female and its affordably in comparison to going to the Open and staying in New York, as well as ticket prices there.

So the question now becomes, who will stay healthy and peak at the right time? Getting a decent draw is a big part of getting through the first week at the Open, and then it’s talent, grit and determination, concentration. hanging tough and a little bit of good fortune.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or

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