By Steve Fogleman
(August 4, 2013) WASHINGTON, DC – A rare temperate and gorgeous day in August in the Nation’s Capital was an extra incentive for fans in Washington to pack the house for Championship Sunday at the Citi Open. This year marked the first time that three title matches were played on the same Sunday at the event. Men’s Doubles began at noon, the Men’s singles final began at 3:00 p.m. and the Women’s Singles final started a little after 5:45 p.m. Though each final was exciting and close, only the match between Del Potro and Isner was not decided in straight sets.
In the opener, Julian Benneateau and Nenad Zimonjic scraped by Mardy Fish and Radek Stepanek, 7-6(5), 7-5.
The men’s final featured former finalist John Isner and two-time event champion Juan Martin Del Potro, who had won the tournament in 2008 and 2009 when it was known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. Isner’s serve was clearly a problem for Del Potro in the first set, and Del Potro looked to be on the verge of being upset as Isner commanded 6-3. Then, Isner’s first serve and accuracy quickly unraveled in the second. Isner hit 4 aces in the first set, but he only scored a single ace in each of the two remaining sets. Del Potro began standing a good 20 feet behind the baseline for a first serve and came very far forward on the second. Isner seem baffled by Del Potro coming so far in during the second serve, as it appeared to be a sign of disrespect to his usually scorching second attempts. Del Potro allowed Isner to win only 2 second service points in each of the final two sets.
“It’s amazing,” Del Potro said. “I’m so happy to win here once again. Always when you win a tournament, it’s special, it’s big. And after Wimbledon, to be in my first tournament on hard court, it means a lot. I’m looking forward to Montreal, Cincinnati and the US Open. That gives me big confidence to keep trying and getting closer to the top guys.”
Isner was gracious in defeat, and spent more time in press than Del Potro. Isner indicated that he believed Del Potro to be a favorite for the US Open, a suggestion that made Del Potro blush. Like the good guy that he is, Del Potro made it clear that he thought Isner was a leading contender for a US Open title as well.
Del Potro faced Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic, Kevin Anderson and Tommy Haas before nabbing the title with the win over Isner.
Isner beat Alex Kuznetsov, Somdev Devvarman, Marcos Baghdatis and Dmitry Tursonov to reach the match with Del Potro.
The women’s final was expected to be close, too, and it was to some extent. Petkovic raced out to a 4-0 start in the first, but began to show the fatigue of having been on court at 2:15 a.m. the same morning in her rain-delayed win over Alize Cornet in the semifinals. She stated that she only got four hours sleep, and after she dropped the first set 6-4 and was down two breaks in the second, it looked like Rybarikova has already won the match. But Petkovic got those two breaks back as Rybarikova was not able to close it out. The set eventually went to a tie break which the defending champion won at 7-6(2). Fans expecting a championship Petko-dance were disappointed, but there were certainly more spectators pulling for Rybarikova than in last summer’s DC final, when most in the stands knew little about her. It appears that by winning the title in Washington last year, she was more of a known local commodity. By repeating her success, she will be talked about by DC tennis for years to come.
“I played great today – I couldn’t be happier,” said the women’s champion. “Today there were some really good parts of the match for me. Andrea was playing too well at the beginning so I’m happy I managed to win the first set – and then again at the end she started playing very well again, and I was getting a little tight and my arm was kind of shaking, so I’m really happy I could play a great tie-break there.”
“It was a pretty good week – all in all I’m quite satisfied,” Petkovic said. “I would have loved to win the title here to really feel like I’ve completely come back, but I’m really okay with this. Magda was really stepping up her game, not missing a lot and not giving me many free points. It was a really difficult match but all the credit to her, she really deserved to win the title today.”
For the championship, Rybarikova rolled past Christina Mc Hale, Jana Cepelova, top seed Angelique Kerber and 3 seed Ekaterina Makarova before defeating Andrea Petkovic for the trophy.
To reach the final, Petkovic had a tough road herself, beating Jessica Pegula, 6 seed Mona Barthel, Paula Ormaechea and 4 seed Alize Cornet.
The tournament featured a new stylish players lounge and cafeteria, which were major improvement on this leg of the tour which had long been considered by players a no-frills tournament. Media center staff was amazingly helpful and use an announcement system that I have not seen in the smaller tournaments I attend. They emailed all press conference times, so that even if you were on the grounds, you knew when to show up to the media center. That was a huge relief, since I have missed many post-match banter sessions because I wasn’t in the tent when someone screamed “John Isner 9:15!” I spend less time in the media center than many bloggers because I’m dying to see some of the great matches, and the matches go on no matter what time a player is in press.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience and probably the best all around Washington tennis tournament in the twelve straight years that I have made the pilgrimage to Rock Creek Park for world class professional tennis. Thanks to Tennis Panorama for allowing me the opportunity to share my experiences with you.