Citi Open: Weather Cooperates Long Enough For Both Zverevs To Advance And Set Up Brotherly Show Down

Alexander Zverev beats Malek Jaziri in Washington (photo: Michael Dickens)

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

All second-round men’s singles matches in the Citi Open were on Wednesday’s order of play as all 16 seeds faced their first opponents. It meant a delightful choice of tennis matches for fans to see but posed a potential scheduling nightmare for organizers, who started play at noon – two hours early – in an effort to get caught up because of numerous rain delays during the first two days of this ATP 500 World Tour and WTA International event in Washington, D.C. For once, the weather cooperated and sunny skies prevailed throughout much of the afternoon and into the early evening at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center.

Then, by 10:30 p.m., Mother Nature intervened and the rain started pouring down accompanied by thunder and lightening. Play was immediately called off for the rest of the evening with three matches hanging in the balance until Thursday and two matches that never got underway, including the final Stadium match featuring a pair of Americans, No. 2 seed John Isner against wild card Noah Rubin.

The afternoon began on a positive note on Stadium court with local favorite and men’s No. 13 seed Frances Tiafoe winning his first Citi Open match. Then, German fan favorite Andrea Petkovic upset No. 2 Sloane Stephens of the U.S, the highest remaining women’s seed, to be first to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. It continued with the successful return of former World No. 1 Andy Murray as the Stadium began to fill up on this sunshine-filled, 88-degree Fahrenheit summer day.

Zverev to face Zverev 

As evening began to set in and the clouds thickened, defending champion and top seed Alexander Zverev returned for the resumption of his match against Malek Jaziri. Zverev started his match against the unseeded Tunisian at 11 p.m. Tuesday night following an hour-long rain delay. After squeezing in a set around some additional rain stoppages, play was suspended for good at 1:10 a.m. early Wednesday morning. It left the World No. 3 Zverev’s pursuit of a sixth consecutive match victory in Washington – and his chase after a third ATP title this year – on hold.

When play continued Wednesday evening, Zverev played “just incredible tennis,” in the words of Jaziri’s coach, Christophe Freyss. Neither player had much time to work up a sweat. The resumption was completed in barely 30 minutes time as Zverev advanced easily 6-2, 6-1 and will now face his older brother, Mischa, in the third round on Thursday.

During a spirited exchange with the media, Alexander Zverev was asked about facing his brother for the first time after a combined 539 main draw matches between the two.  He grinned at the thought, then joked, “I didn’t not know him much because it’s the first time we’re playing.” Then, the younger Zverev became more serious if not emotional when he spoke. “It’s definitely not just another match, I think for both of us. It’s going to be a special day because not a lot families can say that two brothers played against each other on such a high level. Obviously we both want to win. We won’t give each other anything.”

After Zverev got everyone in the right mood, the night session continued successfully for No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, who beat American qualifier Donald Young, 6-3, 6-4.

Murray rallies for win over Edmund

In a battle of Brits — and friends — on Stadium court, former World No. 1 Andy Murray, who is currently ranked No. 832 as he mounts his comeback from a persistent hip injury that required surgery earlier this year, rallied past No. 4 seed and current British No. 1 Kyle Edmund, 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-4.

While Murray may have ceded his spot as British No. 1 to the World No. 18 Edmund for now, he still exudes the competitive desire each time he steps on the tennis court. He’s more focused on playing tennis than worrying about his ranking.

“It was much better, just in terms of the way I actually played the match,” said Murray. “In the first match, I basically spent the whole match defending, I was playing quite far behind the baseline. And that’s not really how I want to be playing moving forward.”

By winning, Murray continued to mount his climb up the rankings ladder to No. 476 on the provisional rankings. Next for Murray is Marius Copil of Romania, who upset No. 14 seed Jeremy Chardy of France, 6-4, 6-4. If he wins, he will reach his first quarterfinal in more than a year.

Local favorites advance

Unseeded Denis Kudla, a local Washington, D.C., favorite who is ranked 85th, became the first men’s player to advance to the third round when he upset No. 12 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia, 6-2, 6-3, in just 65 minutes. Soon after, Kudla was joined by his Citi Open doubles partner, Tiafoe, another favorite with local ties from nearby College Park, Maryland, who opened play in the Stadium on Wednesday and advanced over Hubert Hurkacz of Hungary, 6-2, 6-4. It was Tiafoe’s first Citi Open win. “It’s unbelievable being here in the DMV. Best place in America if you ask me. … You know it’s a believable what I’ve been able to achieve, so I think it’s an absolute honor. … At the end of the day, I never make it feel like a job because it’s definitely not. I have as much fun with it as I can.”

Other men’s results

No. 15 seed Mischa Zverev of Germany advanced over American wild card Tim Smyczek, 6-2, 7-6 (7); James Duckworth beat lucky loser Jason Kubler, 1-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5) in a battle of Aussies; and a wild card Tommy Paul of the U.S. defeated qualifier Alex Bolt of Australia, 3-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2. Also, No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada won over wild card Daniil Medvedev of Russia, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4; No. 3 seed David Goffin of Belgium advanced over Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (5); No. 8 seed Hyeong Chung of South Korea defeated Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3; and No. 10 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Jared Donaldson of the U.S., 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Kyrgios withdraws

Talented but mercurial Nick Kyrgios withdrew from both Citi Open singles and doubles competitions due to a hip injury. The No. 5 seed tweeted that he was “absolutely gutted” to have to withdraw from the Citi Open. “I’ve done all I can to get my hip ready but ran out of time.” He offered his thanks to the tournament director for her support and apologized to his fans, stating “I’ll be back.”

What they’re saying

Tennis Channel analyst Paul Annacone, who formerly coached World No. 3 and Citi Open No. 2 seed Sloane Stephens, was asked by his broadcast partner, commentator Brett Haber, to describe the most tantalizing thing about the reigning U.S. Open champion’s talent, during Stephen’s first round match against Bethanie Mattek-Sands on Tuesday.

“There’s so many I don’t even know where to start,” said Annacone, who is part of the Tennis Channel broadcast team here commenting on the Citi Open this week. “One thing real simple is she’s a tremendous athlete; she moves incredibly well both proactively and reactively. Some players are good reactive movers but don’t move great proactively. She can do both. It’s a different mindset.

“When you have someone who can defend like Sloane yet also have the capability of seeing balls to attack, where you get into position to very easily put it in corners, it’s a great recipe for a well-rounded game – offense and defense, too.”

Petkovic dances, again

On Wednesday afternoon under bright sunshine and before an appreciative Stadium crowd, crowd favorite Andrea Petkovic of Germany upset No. 2 seed Sloane Stephens, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. As the one hour and 47 minute match wore on, the former Top 10 Petkovic gained the upper hand against Stephens and broke her serve four times over the final two sets while also only losing just four points on her own serve. It was Petkovic’s first Top 5 win since beating then-No. 5 Garbine Muguruza at Doha in 2016.

“I tried to just hang in there, and become more solid,” said Petkovic during a media exchange following her win. “I think I also found a better rhythm on my serve later on, and it gave me confidence to just let my arm loose and play more solid, less mistakes.”

Other women’s results

The women’s first round was completed with four matches played. Winners included: lucky loser Ysaline Bonaventure over Anzhelina Kalinina, 6-3, 6-3; Saisai Zheng of China defeated Katie Swan of Great Britain, 6-2, 6-4; Magda Linette of Poland advanced over Olivia Rogowska, 6-4, 6-1; and Jennifer Brady of the U.S. beat Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia, 6-1, 6-4.