Citi Open: Kyrgios Thrives On Crowd Support To Return To Washington Final

Nick Kyrgios (photo: Ryan Loco/Citi Open)

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

After needing to win two matches Friday, unseeded Nick Kyrgios had a bit of a lighter work load coming into his Citi Open semifinal against No. 115 Mikael Ymer Saturday evening at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center in northwest Washington, D.C.

At stake, the 63rd-ranked Kyrgios was looking to reach his second final in a row after bowing to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon title match last month. What remained to be seen was whether the 27-year-old Canberra native would have enough energy after saving five match points in his Friday evening quarterfinal against Frances Tiafoe while not wrapping up his 6-7 (5), 7-6 (12), 6-2 victory until nearly 1 a.m. Saturday morning.

The answer, which took an hour and 34 minutes to reveal, was yes.

Krygios took advantage of the only service break of the match, which came in the eighth game of the second set after he slapped a forehand half volley crosscourt that eluded a lunging Ymer. Kyrgios consolidated the break into a 7-6 (4), 6-3 semifinal victory over the 23-year-old Swede to advance to his 11th ATP Tour final and to reach the final of back-to-back tournaments for the first time in his career.

By all impressions, Kyrgios looked and played locked in and focused and the crowd had his back. He found a way to overcome Ymer’s foot speed and defensive skills. Overall, it proved to be an entertaining match for all to enjoy – even if Kyrgios may have been a little low on energy.

“Honestly I didn’t play anywhere near my best tennis today and I don’t know,” Kyrgios said during his on-court interview. “The role was reversed, the past couple matches I’ve been on paper, rankings-wise the underdog in my past couple matches, but today I definitely felt like the favorite.

“I served pretty solid. Obviously my winning percentage behind my first serve would have been high, but from the back of the court I didn’t play well at all.”

Kyrgios struck 10 aces, adding to his tournament-leading total of 84, and hit 25 winners to 18 unforced errors. He outpointed Ymer 72-59 to move into Sunday afternoon’s final against Japan’s 96th-ranked Yoshihito Nishioka, who knocked out No. 1 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 20 minutes in Saturday evening’s second semifinal.

The 26-year-old lefty from Tsu took advantage of 31 unforced errors by Rublev, converted four of five break point chances and outpointed the Russian 62-51 to advance to his first ATP 500 final and first tour-level final since February 2020. It was his third career victory over a Top 10 player.

Despite the loss, Ymer enjoyed one of his best weeks as a professional. He broke new ground by advancing to his first ATP 500 quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. As he readied to play Kyrgios in the first semifinal Saturday evening, the young Swedish star had already moved up 39 places in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings after securing wins against former World No. 1 Andy Murray of Great Britain, No. 15 seed Aslan Karatsev of Russia, Scandinavian rival Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland and American NextGen star Sebastian Korda. Each of those matches went the distance.

Against Kyrgios, Ymer responded with 13 winners and made 11 unforced errors. However, Kyrgios came up with all the right stuff, including his 10th ace on match point to put away the victory. It gave the mercurial Aussie a chance to win his second Citi Open title after garnering his first one three years ago over Daniil Medvedev. The 2019 title in Washington, D.C. is the last ATP Tour title won by Kyrgios.

Ymer inspired by his week in Washington, D.C.

After breaking new ground by reaching his first career ATP 500 quarterfinal and semifinal, Sweden’s Mikael Ymer opined earlier this week that he’s inspired by coming to the United States.

“I have a good momentum from last year during this American swing,” Ymer said. “I enjoy playing on the hard court – and I’m her with two very close friends, too.

“I enjoy being in America, because it’s a very good tournament in general, like, in terms of the service, hotel, the food is very good. I have a lot of energy from the crowd here.

“So, in general, you know, for me it’s a lot. If I’m having fun and I’m feeling good outside, I’m usually able to transfer that to on the court. I am just enjoying a lot of things that Washington has to offer in general.”

Around the Citi Open

Fourth seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States advanced to Sunday’s men’s doubles final after defeating unseeded Rohan Bopanna of India and Matwe Middelkoop of the Netherlands, 7-5, 6-3, in an hour and 17 minutes on John Harris court. Dodig and Krajicek combined for eight aces and won 84 percent of their first-serve points. They saved all but one break point and converted three of six breaks.

In Sunday’s final, Dodig and Krajicek will face the Aussie-American duo of Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock, who won a spirited semifinal over Frenchmen Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 3-6, 6-2, 10-6 Saturday night on John Harris court. Kyrgios and Sock, who combined to serve five aces, outpointed their opponents 57-54 during the one hour and 17 minute match.

The doubles final will take place Kyrgios goes for his second Citi Open singles title.

“I think I could have easily pulled the on doubles tonight and gone home and gotten that rest under my belt and gone into singles as fresh as possible,” Kyrgios said in press coming off the doubles court. “But it was actually a goal this week to me to go after the doubles title as well with Jack.

“I told him at the start of the week I felt like we could do it. He was asking me, ‘Are you feeling okay for singles?’

“I was, like, ‘Bruh, I want to play doubles. I want to do both.’

“This is going to be right up there if I’m able to do both.”

Saturday’s Citi Open ATP results

Saturday’s Citi Open WTA results

Sunday’s Citi Open order of play

By the numbers

Through his first four matches this week at the Citi Open, Nick Kyrgios established himself as the service ace leader with 74 in four matches. In his semifinal match against Mikael Ymer, Kyrgios added 10 for a total of 84. Trailing Kyrgios was Andrey Rublev with 26, accumulated in three matches.

“Quotable …”

“I have played consistently good, I think, and some places where I wasn’t used to playing well I played well this year, like [the] Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami. Indian Wells, especially. Miami I have played well. 

“Yeah, I think good scheduling and taking my time to get used to the conditions everywhere I go.”

Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, on what she thinks has made this season different for her. On Sunday, she will go after her fifth career WTA singles title and first since 2013.