Zverev Repeats His Citi Open Success

WASHINGTON, August 6, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

Top seed Alexander Zverev successfully defended his Citi Open men’s singles title, battling both the summer heat and rising ATP star Alex de Minaur in tandem, en route to winning his ninth career title in Washington, D.C., Sunday afternoon.

Zverev’s 6-2, 6-4 triumph against de Minaur earned the German his third ATP title of 2018.

A near-capacity crowd filled the Stadium at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center for “Championship Sunday” and many of them could be seen fanning themselves in an effort to stay cool amid the scorching 91-degree heat and 52 percent relative humidity. After battling oft-rainy conditions through the first five days of the tournament that wreaked havoc to the schedule, the weather brought consecutive hot and sunny days by the weekend.

While the weather affected both players at various times, Zverev did his best not to disappoint the appreciative crowd. He put on quite a show. Zverev served six service aces, captured a near perfect 90 percent of his first-serve points, lost just 11 points on his serve and faced no break points from de Minaur, who was pushed hard by Andrey Rublev less than 24 hours earlier while gutting out a three-set thriller over the Russian on Saturday night. Meanwhile, the young Aussie had trouble with his first serve, placing just 48 percent in play. He faced 11 break points but saved just eight of them. Cheers of “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!” seemed to boost de Minaur’s spirits, but it wasn’t enough to bring him a triumph.

After a mere 74 minutes, the victory was Zverev’s to savor and he lifted the Donald Dell Trophy, named after one of the tournament co-founders. Dell presented the trophy to the young champion, much to the delight of the fans who greeted him with tremendous applause, including his parents, father and coach Alexander Sr. and mother Irina.

“It’s quite funny, because this final could be the final of the next 15 years, so I hope you guys all enjoyed it,” said Zverev during the trophy presentation, suggesting that he and de Minaur could become to the future of tennis what Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are to its present.

“Roger and Rafa are still the best out there right now. They are still winning the Grand Slams. They are still winning the biggest titles. … Saying that I’m at their level is something that wouldn’t be fair to them,” said Zverev, who answered questions from the media for 15 minutes before getting ready to fly to Toronto to defend his Masters 1000 Rogers Cup title.

The World No. 3 Zverev joined Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Juan Martin del Potro as the only back-to-back champions in the Citi Open’s 50-year history. The German became the first repeat champion at the Citi Open since del Potro achieved the feat in 2008-09.

The 21-year-old Zverev and 19-year-old de Minaur combined for the youngest ATP World Tour final since 20-year-old Rafael Nadal beat 19-year-old Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in 2007, and this was the youngest championship match in the nation’s capital city since 1982, when Ivan Lendl beat Jimmy Arias.

In their only prior meeting, Zverev won a fifth-set tie-break to best de Minaur during a three hour and 54 minute Davis Cup tie in February.

On Sunday, de Minaur praised Zverev as “such a quality and skilled opponent.

“Today, he was too good for me, but I’ll learn from this match.

“I’m really proud of myself. I played some very high-level matches, and they’re all new experiences for me.”

Kuznetsova wins second Citi Open crown

Svetlana Kuznetsova won her first WTA title of the year – and did it most impressively. The 33-year-old tour veteran from Russia, ranked 128th, saved four second-set match points, then came on strong in the final set against No. 7 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, ranked 44th, to win 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2 Sunday night. It was Kutznetsova’s second Citi Open crown and came four years after she won her first one in 2014.

Kuznetsova, who will move into the Top 100 this week at No. 87, celebrated her 18th career tour-level title – but just her first since 2016 – by dancing around the court while clapping hands in appreciation. She’s overcome a lot of personal and professional issues since turning pro in 2000, including a recent wrist surgery.

During the trophy presentation, Kuznetsova said, “I like my work.” Then, turning to Vekic, she offered her fallen opponent words of encouragement: “Sometimes, you learn more when you lose. You’re a hard worker. You’ll win many more matches.”

Murray and Soares win second 2018 title

Mike Bryan has traveled the world playing doubles with his identical 40-year-old twin brother Bob. Imagine how strange it must have been to have someone else sitting on the bench together and sharing fist pumps after points. That’s the predicament Mike Bryan faced this week at the Citi Open after Bob Bryan underwent successful hip surgery in New York.

Taking Bob Bryan’s place this week in the men’s doubles competition, Mike Bryan partnered for the first time with Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. They were a formidable doubles pair, reaching the final and winning the first set over No. 4 seeds Jamie Murray (brother of Andy) and Bruno Soares, who were seeking their second title of the season following their triumph at Acapulco. The successful pair had reached two other finals, at Doha and Queen’s Club in London.

However, Murray-Soares, who have been regular partners since the start of 2016 – and have won two Grand Slams together – prevailed in the end by winning 3-6, 6-3, 10-4 to earn their eighth title together. They played a tremendous second set and tie-break en route to winning their first Citi Open title.

“Hard courts have always been our best surface,” said Murray. “This was a very good week for us; we won 500 points. … We kept fighting. We served better in the second set. We started seeing the ball well.”

Han and Jurak win women’s doubles

No. 3 seeds Xinyun Han of China and Daria Jurak of Croatia beat the No. 4 seeds Alexa Guarachi of Chile and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand, 6-3, 6-2, to capture the women’s doubles title.