MASON, Ohio (AP) — Despite losing some big-name stars, the main draw of the Western & Southern Open got underway Sunday night, with the tournament returning to the Lindner Family Tennis Center after a one-year absence, and at full capacity.
“We are thrilled this world class tennis event is back in Cincinnati,” tournament chief operating officer Katie Haas said. “We value the opportunity to be the first combined event to welcome back fans at full capacity.”
The U.S. Open tune-up event was played in New York last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are a few noteworthy absences this year.
Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin withdrew due to injury. Venus Williams also will not participate. One the men’s side, seven-time champion Roger Federer, last year’s champion Novak Djokovic and runner-up Milos Raonic, and Rafael Nadal are out with injuries.
“It’s a big opportunity for a lot of players to win this event when those guys aren’t playing, especially for guys just behind them in the world rankings.” said Andy Murray, who entered the tournament as a wild card.
The 34-year-old Murray won the event in 2008.
In first-round action Sunday night on center court, Argentinia’s Guido Pella upset 15th-ranked Belgian David Goffin, a 2019 Western & Southern Open finalist and 2018 semifinalist, 6-3, 6-3. Also, Frenchman Benoit Paire beat Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
Cincinnati native Cat McNally will make her third appearance in the event. The 19-year-old wild card reached the third round of the U.S. Open last year.
“The Western & Southern has been here for a long time, and I’ve been coming every single year,” McNally said. “I started playing tennis when I was 3, so I pretty much grew up coming here.”
McNally also is playing doubles with 17-year-old American Coco Gauff.