Citi Open Extends Title Sponsorship Through 2023

Citi Open (photo: Michael Dickens)

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Soon after Mark Ein, who took over ownership of the Citi Open in 2019, announced that he had secured a commitment from 20-time Grand Slam singles champion Rafael Nadal to play in this year’s ATP 500 tournament at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in Washington, D.C., ticket sales took off.

By the time Nadal arrived in Washington, D.C. at the end of July for the early August event, fans couldn’t get enough of the global tennis superstar. Not only did the two matches he played during the tournament – both at night – sell out, all 11 sessions over the tournament’s eight days were sell outs, too. And fans packed his two weekend pre-tournament open practice sessions that were held in the main stadium.

On Tuesday, Citi, the global banking leader reaffirmed its commitment to the Washington, D.C. community and the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF) by extending its contract as title sponsor through 2023. The announcement was made by Ein and MDE Sports.

“We are thrilled that Citi has not only renewed its commitment to the tournament, but also to the students of WTEF,” said John Borden, CEO of WTEF, in a statement. “The Citi Open has provided the core financial support for our organization since our founding, as well as a unique experience for our students and families that allows them to immerse themselves in a one-of-a-kind event and be inspired firsthand and up close by the best professionals in the world. We could not be happier that this relationship will continue.”

Ein, CEO of MDE Sports and chairman of the Citi Open, said in a statement: “Our team at MDE Sports and the entire D.C. community is deeply grateful to Citi for their continued support of our tournament and belief in our expansive vision to continue to build the tournament as one of the best in the world so that we can touch as many lives as possible.

“Citi’s continued support will help us take the Citi Open to the next level and support the next generation of young Washingtonians through WTEF and our other charitable partners.”

Under Ein’s stewardship, the Citi Open has reimagined the fan and player experience through substantially-increased investment to bring in world-class talent to fill the draw and in on-site dining and entertainment venues. The tournament is also broadcast from first ball to last ball by Tennis Channel in the United States and around the world.

Eric Starelli, ATP executive vice president of the Americas, said in a statement: “We congratulate our Washington, D.C. ATP 500 tournament and thank Citi for extending their title sponsorship through 2023. Citi’s continued support of this key stop on the ATP Tour highlights the strength of the ATP’s summer swing in one of the largest and most important markets in the U.S. and provides affirmation of the significant fan and player enhancements that MDE Tennis has made since taking over running this historic ATP tournament.”

The Citi Open tournament was founded in 1969 to support Arthur Ashe’s vision of playing a professional tennis tournament in a public park setting that was fully accessible to everyone. Citi became the title sponsor of the event in 2011. The Citi Open is the only ATP 500 event played in the United States and it’s also the longest-running U.S. professional tournament in its original location.

Wimbledon to add another retractable-roof show court

Nine years may seem like an eternity in tennis – and by the year 2030 the sport’s Big Three plus Andy Murray will likely all be retired – but by the start of the next decade, Wimbledon expects to have an expanded grounds in place as it redevelops a golf course across the street from the All England Club.

Not only will the Championships’ expansion enable the Wimbledon qualifying draw to be played on site instead of at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton, about 6.4 kilometers away, it will also have more practice courts, too. The showpiece of the expansion is a new 8,000 stadium with a retractable roof – the Parkland Show Court – that will bring to three the number of courts with retractable roofs and put it on equal footing with the Australian Open.

The Wimbledon website has up to date details on the Wimbledon expansion.

Murray adds European Open to his schedule

Great Britain’s Andy Murray, whose current ranking of No. 113 isn’t high enough to secure him many direct entries into ATP main draws, has been given a wild card for next month’s ATP 250 European Open in Antwerp, Belgium.

The entry list for the upcoming indoor hardcourt tournament was announced Tuesday and it’s headlined by current No. 11 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada. Among other Top 20 direct entrants are: No. 14 Jannik Sinner of Italy, No. 15 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 16 Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, No. 17 Cristian Garin of Chile, No. 18 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, and No. 19 Reilly Opelka of the United States.

Last year’s European Open champion, Ugo Humbert of France, who is currently ranked 26th, will return to defend his title.

On Tuesday at the ATP 250 Moselle Open in Metz, France, Murray rallied from a set down to beat the sixth-seeded Humbert, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Humbert is the highest-ranked player that the Briton has defeated this season and it’s the third time this year he’s come back to win after losing the first set.

The last of Murray’s 18 service aces secured match point at the end of the two-hour and 24-minute match to advance him to Wednesday’s second round against No. 66 Vasek Pospisil of Canada.

During Murray’s pre-tournament press conference earlier this week, he said: “I need to be playing matches and want to compete as much as I can between now and the end of the year. I won’t have a few weeks to prepare for each tournament, but it will be more like a few days. But that is the challenge. I have to do my best in these next couple of months.”

Passing shots

Three days after being knocked out of the semifinals of the Zavarovalnica Sava Portoroz in Portoroz, Slovenia, 44th-ranked Yulia Putintseva was back on court playing a first-round match against No. 49 Zhang Shuai of China at the WTA 500 J&T Bank Open in Ostrava, Czech Republic. It turned into a lengthy and dramatic battle that lasted three hours and 24 minutes – seventh longest in the WTA this season – and there were a whopping 273 points contested.

Putintseva outlasted Zhang 5-7, 7-6 (7), 6-4, saving a match point along the way – despite losing one more point (137-136). It was the sixth time this year Putintseva had come back to win after losing the first set. She and Zhang were even in break-points converted as each broke the other’s serve seven times. However, Putintseva parlayed 32 winners and withstood Zhang’s 48 winners by taking advantage of her opponent’s 57 unforced errors.

“I think I lost my concentration and she started to play much better,” Putintseva said during an on-court interview after her victory. “I tried to changed the rhythm [in the second set] to get even. In the end, it was my fighting spirit.

“The most important points are the most important. That’s why I gave 100 percent concentration and I’m happy that I fought until the end and that I could turn around the match.”

Next, Putintseva, who was seeded second at Portoroz but is unseeded in Ostrava, will face No. 1 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland in the second round on Wednesday.

The Way Back Machine / 48 years ago this week

By the numbers

When the new WTA Rankings came out Monday, among the notable jumps was by Maria Sakkari of Greece, who is now ranked 13th, following her run to the US Open semifinals. What is significant is Sakkari surpassed Elena Daniilidou as the highest-ranked Greek woman in WTA history.

“Quotable …”

“I didn’t imagine myself competing at this point of my career, and I’m not talking about at 40, I mean a few years ago, that’s why I’m enjoying myself so much. I didn’t expect it at all.”

– Feliciano Lopez, 40, as told to ATP Tour website this week. Lopez is an alternate on Team Europe for this week’s Laver Cup in Boston.