Kyrgios, Raducanu Put On Good Show For Citi Open Fans

Nick Kyrgios (photo: Richard Kessler/Citi Open)

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The Nick Kyrgios Show came to the Citi Open in the nation’s capital city Tuesday evening. Back on the singles court for the first time since Wimbledon, the mercurial Aussie toned his act down for this all-ages audience that flocked to the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in northwest Washington. Later, special guest star Emma Raducanu took center stage and gave a performance worthy of a star attraction.

Within a matter of 59 minutes, Kyrgios had advanced to the next round with an easy 6-3, 6-2 victory over American Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA champion. Although his evening was short, nobody left disappointed. That’s because Kyrgios got his tweener out of the way during the first point of the match. Later, on match point, like he did during his title run in 2019, he consulted with front-row fans to see how he should place his match-point serve. It worked for him three years ago, it worked for him, again in his first-round win.

“I think it’s just a cool experience for, you know, someone that’s paid money to come watch you play and potentially to go home with that memory, if it’s a young kid or an older lady like today, I think that’s something that’s pretty cool,” Kyrgios explained during his post-match press conference. “I wish I had that experience when I was watching tennis matches.”

Kyrgios dominated Giron for much of the match, certainly from 3-all in the opening set after saving a break point. He went on to record 12 aces, win 82 percent of his first-serve points, and break Giron’s serve three times. He outpointed his opponent 56-37 to advance to Wednesday’s main event against No. 14 seed Tommy Paul of the United States.

“I came out a bit slow, obviously very different conditions to Wimbledon,” Kyrgios said, admitting it took him a long time to recover and get over his four-set title defeat to Novak Djokovic. “I think it was just a bit of nerves as well. I won the tournament in 2019. Seeing my name up on the stadium and then knowing I didn’t play well here at all last year – I lost first round and I was just going through such a dark time in my life.

“I’m just so happy to be here with my team, the love and support from the crowd. I’m just really happy to be out here playing some good tennis again.”

Raducanu takes center stage, leaves fans feeling happy

Following the Nick Kyrgios Show, it was time for none other than Emma Raducanu to take Stadium court to kick off her North American summer hard court season. She did so successful with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over American qualifier Louisa Chirico.

The reigning US Open champion, who is seeded second in Washington, D.C. this week, needed just an hour and 27 minutes to eliminate the 216th-ranked Chirico. Raducanu won 77 percent of her service points and broke Chirico four times in 10 tries. She outpointed her opponent 70-47 and was aided by 42 unforced error from Chirico.

“Definitely feels really good to get a win here in D.C. and after not playing for quite a bit after Wimbledon or many matches at all this year,” Raducanu said during a late-evening press conference after beating Chirico. “I think it’s a really nice feeling, you know, just to get on the board. 

“I didn’t necessarily think I played anything special. I didn’t necessarily play like a wizard today, but I got through it and I fought, and that’s all that matters.”

Next, Raducanu will oppose 67th-ranked Camila Osorio of Colombia, who defeated American wild card Sofia Kenin, 7-6 (2), 6-1, in one hour and 27 minutes on John Harris Grandstand. In breaking her five-match losing streak, Osorio struck 29 winners and converted six of 10 break points against Kenin. The former American No. 1, who is now ranked 416th following a lengthy injury timeout, is now winless in her last seven WTA Tour matches going back to Adelaide in January. She has won only two of nine matches this season.

Dominik Koepfer: German by birth but enjoying American lifestyle

Dominik Koepfer is a German by birth. For years, though, be has been living the life of an American based in Tampa, Florida. The personable, 28-year-old lefty born in Furtwangen, is slowly starting to build back his form back that saw him reach a career-high of World No. 51 in March.

However, it was short lived. Instead, Koepfer saw his ranking slip to No. 145 after suffering a stress fracture that sidelined him for three months and affected his ability to properly serve for much longer than that.

The injury kept Koepfer off the European clay swing and, except for playing on grass in the Netherlands, at Wimbledon and in Newport, he’s been exclusively playing hard-court tournaments this year, most recently in the United States.

“I skipped the clay season because of my injury,” Koepfer told Tennis TourTalk after he beat Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to a second-round meeting with No. 7 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia Tuesday night.

“I like playing hard courts. I grew up on clay [in Germany]. Now, I live in the U.S., in Tampa. So, I’m used to the hard more.

“It worked out this way this year. I don’t think I’ll do it next year. Next year will be a little bit different. I’ll play a full season.”

Koepfer earned a berth in the Citi Open main draw after winning a pair of qualifying matches over the weekend, something which he said he benefited from as it enabled him to get acclimated to the hot and humid conditions that prevail in Washington, D.C. this time of year.

“It was pretty hot and very humid,” Koepfer recalled of his Monday match with Kwon. “Within 20 minutes my shirt was soaked, my shoes were swelling and my socks were wet. It’s not easy to play here.”

Koepfer overcame the obstacles thrown at him by both Kwon and the weather and fought his way back into the match in the third set after being down a break. He outpointed Kwon 98-87.

“Somehow, I got [the win] done,” he said. “It definitely helps to get a few matches under your belt and instill confidence that you can take with you in the first round.”

Against Khachanov, whom he was facing for the first time, Koepfer ultimately lost 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4 after winning the opening set. The two-hour and 45-minute match on John Harris Grandstand was the last match to complete Tuesday’s order of play.

Although now residing in Florida, where Koepfer enjoys following the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL, his German roots are a reason he still follows German football through the Bundesliga. Koepfer’s family is still in Germany. “I try to get back there whenever there’s a tournament in Europe,” he said. “I try to stop by Germany and see my family, see my friends.”

Looking ahead, Koepfer would like to be able to return to form and stay injury free. “I would like to get back into the Top 100, see if the arm holds out,” he said. “Hopefully, I can play as many tournaments as possible, and try to get some wins under my belt. The ranking will improve – but I can’t look at my ranking all the time.”

Next week, Koepfer will step down to the Challenger Tour and play in Vancouver with an eye toward being ready for the US Open at the end of the month.

Around the Citi Open

Doubles is making a big splash at the Citi Open this year. On Monday evening, Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock headlined on the Stadium court much to the delight of fans who stayed late after watching Venus Williams. During the day Tuesday, there were a couple of exciting doubles matches worth taking note of as the quarterfinals are starting to take shape

First, playing together for the first time were Alex de Minaur of Australia and American Frances Tiafoe, both well established as singles players. As a doubles team, they scored a big upset by knocking off the top-seeded team of Rajeev Ram of the United States and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, 6-4, 1-6, 10-2, to reach the quarterfinals.

Later on, Colombian pair Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah advanced after winning a match tie-break over Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain, 6-4, 3-6, 10-8. The Colombians won the final four points of the match.

Tuesday’s Citi Open ATP results

Tuesday’s Citi Open WTA results

Wednesday’s Citi Open order of play

“Quotable …”

“I do believe that by being united and doing good things for the peace, tennis can be, in general, if tennis will be example of it, maybe other sports will follow, and in general, maybe one day sport can be without politics.”

– Top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, asked during his post-match press conference after defeating Jack Draper if tennis can be a platform for unity and positive messages.