Citi Open Celebrates Its 50th Edition This Week In Nation’s Capital City

Citi Open (photo: Michael Dickens)

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

The Citi Open, which begins Monday at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in Washington, D.C., is entering its 50th edition. It’s one of the oldest open tournaments in the United States and serves as the major kick off to the North American hard-court circuit leading up to the U.S. Open, which begins in a month. Its longevity is a testament to the staying power of tennis in the nation’s capital city and the list of past champions, which includes Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Andy Roddick, comprises an elite group of American Hall of Fame talent. The last American to win it was Roddick in 2007.

Wozniacki and Zverev lead the field

Today, the Citi Open is the only U.S.-based ATP 500 level tournament on the 2018 schedule. There is also a concurrent WTA International event, which began in 2011, being contested here this week. It is headlined by World No. 2 and top seed Caroline Wozniacki and World No. 3 and second seed Sloane Stephens, who won the Citi Open women’s singles title in 2015.

World No. 3 Alexander Zverev won last year’s Citi Open men’s singles final over Kevin Anderson and returns to defend his title as the top seed in a crowded, 48-player field that features seven current Top 20 players: No. 9 John Isner, a three-time Citi Open finalist who on Sunday won his fifth BB&T Atlanta Open; No. 11 David Goffin, No. 16 Kyle Edmund, No. 18 Nick Kyrgios, No. 19 Lucas Pouille and No. 20 Kei Nishikori, who are seeded second through seventh respectively.

Zverev hopes to be the first repeat Citi Open champion since Juan Martin del Potro won in consecutive years in 2008 and 2009. Del Potro also won a third Citi Open title in 2013. The young German, who is playing in his fourth consecutive Citi Open, reached the quarterfinals in 2015, the semifinals in 2017, and won the title last year.

Other seeded players in this year’s tournament include: No. 8 seed Hyeon Chung (ranked 23rd), No. 9 Denis Shapovalov (27th), No. 10 Stefanos Tsitsipas (32nd), No. 11 Steve Johnson (34th), No. 12 Karen Khachanov (35th), local favorite No. 13 Frances Tiafoe (42nd), No. 14 Jeremy Chardy (43rd), No. 15 Mischa Zverev (45th), and No. 16 Andrey Rublev (46th).

Last year, after Alexander Zverev defeated Anderson in the Citi Open final, the rising 21-year-old #NextGenATP star immediately followed up his success by lifting the trophy at the Rogers Cup, a Masters 1000 event in Montreal, where he beat Roger Federer in the final. His eighth and most recent ATP title occurred in May when he won the Mutua Madrid Open on clay by besting Dominic Thiem in the championship match. Outside of the men’s “Big Four” (Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray), Zverev is the only active player to have won as many as three Masters 1000 events.

Murray returns to hard-courts

Speaking of Murray, the former World No. 1 and three-time Grand Slam champion has played just three matches in 2018 — all on grass — following hip surgery in January. He lost in the first round to Kyrgios at Queens Club, then beat Stan Wawrinka the following week at Eastbourne before bowing to Edmund in the second round. Murray has played a total of just seven competitive sets this year. The Citi Open represents his first hard-court action since the 2017 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Unseeded and currently ranked No. 838, Murray received a wild card into the main draw. He will play 77th-ranked Mackenzie McDonald, a former NCAA singles champion, in a first-round match on the Stadium court Monday night. If he wins, he would face Edmund in the next round.

Asked about his hip during a pre-tournament gathering with the media on Saturday afternoon, Murray said he’s ready to compete. “It’s feeling better all the time,” he said. “It takes time after you’ve been out for a long period to get match sharpness back. I’ve only played three matches in the past year, so I’m just trying to get back on the match court as much as I can and see how I’m feeling after two, three, four, five matches in a week. That’s the big test. I’ve done a lot of training recently and I’ve come through pretty well. So, hopefully if I get into that situation, I’ll be alright.”

Although Murray has never won the Citi Open, he enjoys competing in Washington. “It’s a beautiful city and there’s lots to do and see,” he said. “The event itself has great history and it’s nice when you practice on the center court to see all the past winners on the boards.”

Wawrinka back in action

Another three-time Grand Slam champion trying to get back on track is Wawrinka, who like Murray was awarded a wild card into the main draw. Currently ranked No. 201, the 33-year-old Wawrinka has been idle since losing to Thomas Fabiano in the second round of Wimbledon. This will be just the 17th match (6 wins and 10 losses) of the year for Wawrinka and his first hard-court competition since the Australian Open last January. His first-round opponent on Monday night will be qualifier Donald Young, ranked 230th, who won two qualifying matches over the weekend to reach the main draw. If Wawrinka gets past Young, whom he owns a 3-1 career head-to-head record against, his second-round opponent would be 2015 Citi Open champion Nishikori.

The Murray and Wawrinka matches highlight a total of 10 first-round men’s singles matches scheduled at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center on Monday. Also, there are two first-round doubles matches featuring the second-seeded team of Henri Kontinen and John Peers and the fourth-seeded team of of Jamie Murray (brother of Andy) and Bruno Soares.

Among the four women’s seeds playing on the opening day are: defending Citi Open champion and No. 4 seed Ekaterina Makarova (ranked 30th), who faces 87th-ranked Ana Bogdan; No. 5 Aleksandra  Krunic (44th), No. 6 Belinda Bencic (45th), and No. 7 Donna Vekic (46th).

Photo Gallery (by Michael Dickens):