Tennis players are used to hopping among some of the world’s most exciting cities, but during the Western & Southern Open, they find a different sort of sizzle.
The tournament, also known as the Cincinnati Masters, is 23 miles northeast of downtown Cincinnati and is the lone suburban stop for most of the world’s best players, forcing them to adapt to staples of American life. Among those staples is a restaurant that has served as an anchor of player life since it opened in 1997: Applebee’s.
Tucked next to a Marriott that serves as an official hotel of the tournament, Applebee’s has been packed by players for years, not only for its reliable food, but also for its convenience and long hours. The restaurant is open until 1 a.m., making it the lone option for those playing long matches during night sessions.
After winning a late-night semifinal in 2011, Jelena Jankovic found herself at Applebee’s, and she was followed moments later by Andrea Petkovic, her her opponent. “Starving, there’s no food, then me and my opponent, we were in Applebee’s, half asleep,” she said, closing her eyes and miming shoving food into her mouth.
Applebee’s often becomes an intersection for those who have played, are soon to play or are related to those about to play.
After winning a doubles match Tuesday, Robert Lindstedt waited at the bar for a carryout order. Jamie Murray, part of the team Lindstedt and his partner had beaten that day, ate at a table near the door, his eyes locked on a screen showing a women’s match that was rounding out the day’s play. In a nearby booth, João Sousa ate with two friends. His next opponent was Murray’s brother, Andy.
No tables available
Eugenie Bouchard, 20, who reached the Wimbledon final in July, dragged her coach, Nick Saviano, from their hotel to the restaurant on the eve of the tournament. “I wanted to go there; I’m the one who pushed him,” she said. “He thinks he’s maybe too classy for that, but I was like, ‘Applebee’s is great, you know?’ ”
When they arrived at 7:45 on Sunday evening, there were no tables available, so they ate at the bar. “He wasn’t a fan that we sat at the bar, but I thought that was cool, too,” Bouchard said. “We didn’t have to talk. Let’s just watch TV and eat.”
During the tournament, a majority of the seven televisions that encircle the bar at the center of the restaurant are tuned to tennis, though Cincinnati Reds baseball games and preseason football are also regularly on.
John Isner, the highest-ranked American man, defends American culture to European players when the tour rolls through Mason – the tournament’s home for the last 35 years – assuring them that baseball is interesting and that the food continued…