The Western & Southern Open (W&S Open) has become a favorite event we look forward to in summer. We first went there in 2016 and just got back from the 2018 tournament, great experience both times.
Why come to the Western & Southern Open
The W&S Open (also known as Cincinnati Masters) is one of the nine prestigious Masters 1000 tennis tournaments on the ATP Tour and one of the Premier 5 events on the WTA Tour. So you will get to see all the big names in tennis just like at a Grand Slam event. We have watched many exciting matches here, such as Andy Murray vs. Marin Cilic in 2016, or Simona Halep vs. Kiki Bertens and Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic in 2018.
The atmosphere is intimate, and the tickets are much more affordable than at the US Open. The venue, Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, is modern and beautiful. Hotel accommodation is also plentiful at reasonable prices. Getting to Mason and getting in and out of the event is usually easy.
1. Western & Southern Open Tickets
Which Seats Are Good at the W&S Open
Most seats are good at the Cincinnati Masters. The Center Court capacity is just over 11,000, so there aren’t really any bad seats. You don’t need to buy the most expensive tickets to have good views. With the new South Building, I’m suspecting that some seats in section 318 right next to it may have obstructed views though. You can check virtual seat view on their website.
How Are the Views at the Terrace Level
The cheapest tickets are at the terrace level (300’s sections). The view from the very last rows is still pretty good, and you even get some cool breeze when sitting up there.
Some cons: no individual seats, share the same bench with everyone else in the same row so pretty tight space if everyone in the row shows up. The metal bench isn’t very comfortable to sit all day. The rows aren’t very steep so you may get blocked views because of people sitting in front of you. Overall not bad for the price. We have sat in row V and Y before and could still enjoy the matches.
Which Seats Have Shade in the W&S Open Center Court
The last seven rows (T-Z) of Section 311-315 have shade thanks to the canopy overhead. Yes, you are further away from the action, but the view is still good. One con is you may not be able to see the large screens where they display scores and challenges, also because of the canopy (see the photo above taken from row Y).
Seats in pavilion sections also have shade, but depending on the time of the day, some seats may still get a little sun.
As for more expensive seats, box sections 501-504 are also shaded throughout the day. All sections in the South Building have shade. We sat in section 701 and 702 this year (2018), and it was very comfortable and cool up there.
What Are the Best Seats at the W&S Open
It really depends on your preferences and budget. I personally like the new Grand View box seats (Section 701-707). They offer an end-court shaded view, individual seats, nicer and cleaner indoor restrooms plus an indoor bar with snacks and drinks. Another good thing is you will also get access to a balcony overlooking directly into the Grandstand Court. The only minor con is I feel like the speed of the match is slower when viewing from here since these sections are a little high up.
In 2018, we bought grand view box seats on StubHub for the semifinals just one day before the matches and paid $100-$120 (fees included) for each ticket. I think it’s pretty reasonable, considering we bought them the day before through a reseller. They are much cheaper than what we paid for US Open tickets!
Should We Buy Western & Southern Open Ticket Packages
I would say if you know for sure you are going for a few days, go for it. In 2016, we bought two full series terrace tickets and paid $500 for each. We only planned to watch matches from Thursday evening to Sunday, so we sold the rest of the tickets on StubHub and got back about $350 net payments. And we even set the selling prices lower than what other resellers set.
If you are not super committed to the event and just want to go, let’s say to the semifinals or final only if your favorite player plays, you can wait and buy resale tickets. Prices aren’t too bad but remember if people speculate that Federer will make it to the next round, prices may go up a little.
2. Plan Your Visit to the Western & Southern Open
Where to Stay
There are quite a lot of hotels in nearby neighborhoods. It is totally fine to choose a hotel about 10-15 miles from the Lindner Family Tennis Center since driving in Mason is very easy.
Every year, the tournament publishes a list of nearby hotels with negotiated rates. I have never tried booking at those rates. In 2016, we used 60,000 Marriott points to book five nights at the AC Hotel at Liberty Center. In 2018, we made last minute booking for two nights there to watch the SFs and finals and only had to pay $175-$200 per night including tax. The “discounted” rate for this hotel published by the tournament is $249 for 2018, so probably their rates aren’t necessarily the cheapest you can find.
By the way, the AC Hotel at Liberty Center is very clean with lots of nearby shops and an easy 15-minute drive to the tournament. I strongly recommend it.
I read that players often stay at the Marriott Northeast hotel, so if you stay there, you probably have a higher chance of seeing them. A tip I saw on Reddit is a fan went to the Marriott Northeast for breakfast (quite cheap) though he stayed at a different hotel, and he got to see several stars at breakfast. Don’t bother them while they are eating though.
Where to Park at the W&S Open
Full series ticket holders of the Cincinnati Masters will get a parking pass for designated lots. If you buy individual tickets, chances are you might have to park at their free public parking lots which are the furthest of all lots. With that said, it’s not too far away, and there are a lot of volunteers to guide you to the right place. However, be aware that if it rains a lot, these unpaved lots can get muddy. You can try to find a parking pass for better lots on Stubhub.
What to Wear to the W&S Open
Just wear comfortable clothes. It can get pretty hot at noon and early afternoon. We like to bring our sun hats and sunglasses too. Wear sunscreen since it can be very sunny, but they do have free sunscreen onsite if you forget to do so.
What to Bring to the W&S Open
Bring your tickets. I’m not sure if they do electronic tickets. Our e-tickets had to be printed. Bring your parking pass if you have any. The ushers usually recheck tickets whenever you go out to buy snacks/drinks or go to the restroom.
I often bring a bottle of Dasani water, but of course, you can buy water once inside. They also sell cups and ices to fill with free tap water on the ground. The line for free tap water is sometimes long too, even longer than the one for restrooms.
Install their app before you go. It contains live information about schedule, scores and players’ practices.
Bring a phone or camera to take a lot of photos. I was a little worried if they would allow our DSLR cameras, but we could get in with a Canon 6D, a 100mm lens, a 50mm lens as well as a Sony a7iii, a 35mm lens and 55mm lens without any questions.
It can get pretty hot and humid during the day, so bring a mini handheld fan.
Don’t forget to check the list of prohibited things on the event website.
3. Plan Your Day at the Western & Southern Open
Earlier rounds usually start at 11 AM, and 7 PM but gates open 2 hours earlier. Security screening is painless, but I’m guessing it may be busier if arriving near 11 AM. Getting out at the end can also be crowded too. It took us 45 mins to get our car out to the main road after the men’s final in 2018.
If the weather is good, top seeds or crowd favorites like Federer usually plays in the evening session.
The Cincinnati Masters is a great tennis event, but rainy weather sometimes ruins the fun quite badly. When we went in 2016, it rained almost every day. They had to close a majority of the on-site parking lots because those were all muddy. We had to park off-site and took the shuttles arranged by the tournament to the event. Matches got delayed, and some players had to play very late, until 1-2 a.m. In 2018, it also rained a lot for a few days of the tournament. Matches had to be delayed, resulting in crazy schedules for a lot of players. Some had to play two matches on the same day.
Tips to prepare for bad weather at the Western & Southern Open: check the weather before you go. Take some towels with you if there will be rain. You will need those towels to dry your seats.
Lindner Family Tennis Center
Get a map from the information booth or pull it up from the app and familiarize yourself with the layout. The most prominent building is the Center Court. Grandstand and smaller courts are surrounding it. Tents selling food are everywhere, and there is a big tent from Midwest Sports selling tennis apparels and souvenirs.
Top seeds usually play in Center Court. You can get in and out during a match, but you will need to present your tickets to ushers each time you want to get in.
Grandstand and Other Courts
There are also great tennis matches in the Grandstand and other courts. Moreover, you have chances to see players very up close in those courts. Back in 2016, we watched the match between Maric Cilic and Tomas Berdych at a smaller court, and the experience was terrific.
Players’ Practice Sessions
You can check which players are practicing on which courts using the W&S Open app. I heard that you have a higher chance of getting an autograph at practice courts. You also have the opportunity to take some good close-up photos there as well.
What to Eat at the W&S Open
There are quite many vendors at the food court, with some popular chains in Cincy such as Skyline Chili and Graeter’s Ice Cream. The quality of food (including the chili and ice cream) is quite underwhelming, and the line can get really long. Even when you manage to buy the food, it may be difficult to find an empty table and chair to sit down.
The situation is much better for those with more expensive tickets (i.e., box seats). For example, when we sat in the grand view box seats, we got access to an indoor bar with drinks and some snacks such as chips and salsa, burger and sandwich. There was no line at all.
If you stay in Mason, make sure you visit some local Mediterranean restaurants. Our favorite is the Aladdin’s Eatery. Their menu is very extensive, and pretty much everything is delicious, so we always eat there several times whenever we go to the Cincinnati Masters. We also tried the Phoenician Taverna which has a more upscale atmosphere and tasty food. Our favorite breakfast spot in the Mason area is the Northstar cafe at the Liberty Center. Love their fresh fruit juices and smoothies.
Where to Take Photos at the Western & Southern Open
Before and right after the match, you can go down to the lower level near the court to take close-up photos of pre-match warm-up and post-match speech. If you use a DSLR camera, use fast shutter speed, such as 1/400 for 100mm lens. Burst mode is helpful to capture swift actions at the right moments. So make sure you have a lot of free space in your memory cards :). I heard that practice courts and outside players’ lounge are good places to take photos of famous players.
4. Where to Go for Sightseeing
If you have extra time, Cincinnati is not too far away. We like the Underground museum, the Eden Park, and the Spring Grove Cemetery. There are good restaurants in Cincy also. I remember we had a great lunch at Sotto in downtown Cincy.
In general, I think the Western & Southern Open is a great event for both serious and casual tennis fans. I hope you are able to find some helpful tips in my post. If you have other tips, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.