Brotherly Love: Zverevs Give Citi Open Fans A Few Great Rallies, A Lot Of Fun And Plenty Of Entertainment

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

The best part of the first-ever meeting in an ATP match between the Zverev brothers – Sascha and Mischa – was the hug that came at the end of Sascha’s 6-3, 7-5 victory Thursday evening at the ATP 500/WTA International Citi Open in Washington, D.C.

It capped a one hour and 51 minute family affair full of brotherly love that began with the coin flip, when you could see the emotions beginning to show on each brother’s face. It ended with Mischa netting a drop shot on match point, then walking around to Sascha’s side of the court to share what turned into a lengthy embrace. As Sascha walked off the court, he tapped his racket and his heart numerous times in a show of his appreciation.

Sascha Zverev outpointed his older brother, 77-67, and capitalized on three service breaks. It was Sascha’s 39th tour-level victory this season in 53 matches.

After it ended, the brothers sat for an interview with Tennis Channel on a stage just outside the Stadium as a large crowd gathered around them. They both called the match a very special moment in their respective careers. “As Mischa said, who can say you played your brother in one of the biggest tournaments in the world?” Sascha told Tennis Channel’s Justin Gimelstob. “It was unbelievably special. I hope this is not the last time. I hope we play a final one day or something like that. So, hopefully, (this was) the first of many.”

“We had a few great rallies tonight. … It was just fun,” said Mischa.

Indeed, and while the featured match on Stadium court at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center gave fans of both players plenty of entertainment, it was too predictable of an outcome as 21-year-old Sascha, the World No. 3 and defending champion and top seed in this ATP 500 event, advanced to the quarterfinals by beating his older brother, Mischa, 30 who is ranked 39 places below and was seeded 15th.

It was the first tour-level meeting between brothers since Gerald Melzer beat Jürgen Melzer during the 2016 Generali Open.

Next, the younger Zverev will face No. 7 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, who bested No. 9 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, 7-6 (1), 6-3. The Zverev-Nishikori quarterfinal is part of the Friday day session in the Stadium.

Later Thursday night, the Zverev brothers teamed to beat World No. 1 Oliver Marach of Austria and Mate Pavic of Croatia, 6-1, 6-4, to reach the quarterfinals of the men’s doubles.

Isner upset by upstart Rubin

World No. 9 and second-seeded John Isner was unable to carry the momentum from his BB&T Atlanta Open title victory last weekend into the Citi Open. With an extra day of rest brought on by Wednesday night’s rain out, Isner’s power game and touch was a bit off. He served just nine aces, committed five double-faults and was bounced by fellow American Noah Rubin, ranked 152nd, 6-4, 7-6 (6), in one hour and 39 minutes to open play on the Stadium court. It followed a four-hour rain delay, which pushed the start of their match back to 6 p.m. Thursday evening.

At 6-all during the second-set tie-break, the feisty 22-year-old Rubin pushed ahead for good after Isner misfired hitting an overhead smash. On second match point, on his serve, Rubin forced Isner to net a forehand return. The victory was Rubin’s to enjoy.

Looking fatigued but not backing away from answering the media’s questions afterward, Isner said, “Part of the reason I lost was (Noah) was very hungry. He played with a lot of energy. It wasn’t my day.

“I think this may have been a good loss, but I have to put it behind me. Things happen for a reason. I’ll put my focus on Toronto next week.” Because he will have a first-round bye in the Masters 1000 Rogers Cup, Isner will now have even more time to rest before he plays again.

Rubin’s victory advanced him to a third-round match later Thursday against No. 16 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, who earlier beat American wild card Tommy Paul, 7-6 (5), 6-4. Rublev prevailed over Rubin, 6-3, 6-2.

Other results

Men: Alex De Minaur of Australia advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Steve Johnson of the U.S., 6-4, 7-5, and later upsetting No. 8 seed Hyeon Chung, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Meanwhile, No. 10 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece defeated James Duckworth of Australia, 6-3, 6-4, and will next face No. 3 seed David Goffin. The Belgian defeated No. 13 seed Frances Tiafoe of the U.S., 6-0, 6-3. Also, unseeded local favorite Denis Kudla, from nearby Arlington, Virginia, continued his surprising run by beating No. 6 seed Lucas Pouille of France, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5).
Finally, Andy Murray continued his comeback well into the early hours of Friday morning because of the earlier rain delay. The Scot finished his remarkable 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (4) win over Marius Copil of Romania at 3:01 a.m., after three hours and two minutes of play. It was the latest finish in the 50-year history of the Citi Open. Afterward, Murray sat for several minutes by himself on his bench sobbing into a towel, overwhelmed with emotions. Next, Murray will face De Minaur Friday night in the last quarterfinal match.

Women: No. 6 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland earned a quarterfinal berth against Andrea Petkovic of Germany with a walkover against Nao Hibino of Japan, who withdrew. Also advancing to the quarterfinals were: No. 7 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, Saisai Zheng of China, qualifier Allie Kiick of the U.S., 2014 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia and Magda Linette of Poland, who upset No. 3 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan in three sets. Going into Friday’s quarterfinals, Bencic is the highest remaining seed following the withdrawal of top seed Caroline Wozniacki with a leg injury earlier this week coupled with upsets to seeds two through five.

News and noteworthy

Forty year-old Bob Bryan, half of the highly-successful Bryan brothers American doubles team along with his identical twin brother Mike, will miss the rest of the season, it was revealed on Thursday. Bob Bryan faces a six-month absence after hip surgery this week in New York. Mike Bryan is playing doubles at the Citi Open with Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. The pair reached the quarterfinals after defeating Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya in the first round on Wednesday. Mike Bryan will team with Jack Sock in big events such as the U.S. Open until the end of the year. The pair won the men’s doubles title at Wimbledon last month, which was Mike Bryan’s 17th Grand Slam title. The Bryans, who have won 16 Grand Slam championships together and more than 100 ATP titles, have been a fixture at the Citi Open. The two have played here together 14 times. They hope to reunite next year shortly after the Australian Open.

What they’re saying

* Mischa Zverev, older brother of World No. 3 Alexander Zverev, on the anticipation of facing each other in the third round of the Citi Open: “It’s nice because we’re finally at a point where, we’re at a big tournament, we both play decent tennis. I think it’s a win-win situation because it means both of my parents did a good job. They raised decent tennis players, and it’s going to be a win-win no matter what.”

* Stan Wawrinka, whose comeback from a knee injury that required two operations last August, has hit some roadblocks along the way, including a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3) first-round loss to Donald Young on Tuesday: “It’s painful to lose in the first round here, especially 7-6 in the third. There were some positives, but I saw a lot of negatives. I was missing a lot, not feeling the way I wanted – I’m looking for confidence, for sure. It’s tough to not win a lot of matches. Then, you start to think too much out on the court.” With his ranking currently at No. 198, Wawrinka was not afforded a main draw wild card for next week’s Masters 1000 Rogers Cup in Toronto and will play in the qualifying draw starting Saturday.

* World No. 3 Sloane Stephens, on the new 25-second serve clock that is being used during the Citi Open and other tournaments leading into the U.S. Open: “It’s a little weird. You have to pay attention but overall it wasn’t too bad, but I definitely think in a match that’s a little bit close, like if you were battling and it’s six all n the third set, you’re not going to be wanting to look at the clock, but it is what it is. You can’t change the rule now, so we’ll see how it goes the next couple of weeks leading into the U.S. open, and hopefully everyone adjusts to it well.”

* Naomi Osaka on why she chose to play at the Citi Open: “I have never come here before, and I like that its on the east coast. It is pretty easy travel. I also saw that most of the matches were later in the day, and I wanted to get used to playing night matches. I love playing on hard courts. Red clay, no thank you; grass is okay, I guess. Hard court, heart court.”

* Andy Murray, currently ranked No. 832, on his comeback following hip surgery last January, after beating current British No. 1 Kyle Edmund: “I’m interested in staying healthy and playing as long as I can; I’m not naturally motivated by rankings.”