Casual tennis fans know the 2021 US Open is looming. Scheduled to start on Monday, August 30, arguably the world’s biggest tournament draws attention from around the world. However, for many world class ATP Tour players, this week’s Western & Southern Open may be more important for their careers.
Contrasting Two Events
More serious tennis fans know the series of tournaments leading to the US Open provide opportunities to see intense competition with significant prizes at stake. A comparison between the last large ATP level events in North America show just how much is on the line this week in Cincinnati.
Winning the US Open obviously provides nearly unmatchable riches, ranking points, and marketing opportunities. $3 million, 2,000 ranking points, and pictures of a trophy-holding champion splashed around the globe. Still, it is an accomplishment done by one man a year. It may be better to win this week’s Western & Southern Open than to advance to, and then lose, a quarterfinal match at the US Open.
Money and Points Available at the Western & Southern Open
Though relegated to smaller TV stations and virtually zero ESPN coverage, the Western & Southern winner will collect over $650,000 in prize money while the US Open quarterfinalist, likely shown on ESPN in Arthur Ashe Stadium, will win $425,000.
Nearly as important, the Western & Southern winner will nab 1,000 ranking points, almost triple the 360 available to the quarterfinal loser in New York. Many fans tuning into ESPN in September do not know ranking points from exclamation points, but for journeyman tennis pros ranking points translate into access to more events, more endorsements and potential access to more prize money.
Comparing Apples to Apples, Sort Of
Matching round for round, a player at the US Open must win four matches to reach the quarterfinals. At the same time, in the smaller Western & Southern, a player outside the top eight seeds must win three matches, and one of the top eight seeds only two matches to advance to the quarterfinals. True, quarterfinal losers in Cincinnati earn $116,655, barely more than one-third of the $425,000 their counterparts in New York. At the same time, Cincinnati quarterfinal losers nab 180 ranking points, exactly half of the 360 awarded a few weeks later at the US Open.
Opportunities, But Nothing is Free
At the same time that big money and significant points are available, many players are not there. Traditionally, the very top players pick and choose their pre-Grand Slam events carefully. Due to injuries, need for rest and other factors, four of the top nine male players in the world are not playing in Cincinnati. With #1 Novak Djokovic, #4 Rafael Nadal, #6 Dominic Thiem, and #8 Roger Federer all sidelined, opportunities abound. Already, World #11, but now seed #8 Casper Ruud pocketed nearly $18,000 by receiving a bye into the second round in Cincinnati.
Still, nothing comes easy. The World #54, Serbia’s Laslo Djere, grabbed the last direct entry spot into the main draw in Cincinnati. A golden opportunity to avoid qualifying in an attempt to win points and money while most attention is turned elsewhere. Djere even avoided having to play one of the 16 seeds in the first round. No luck. 21-year-old Sebastian Korda sent Djere packing 6-4 6-4. In the world of ATP Tour tennis, no matter the circumstances, win or go home.
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