2014/10/01

Raonic and Kuznetsova Claim Citi Open Crowns

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

 

(August 3, 2014) Milos Raonic and Svetlana Kuznetsova won the singles titles at the Citi Open on Sunday in Washington, DC.

In the first-ever all-Canadian final on the ATP World Tour in the Open Era, No. 7 Milos Raonic defeated Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-4.

For Raonic it’s his sixth ATP title, his last coming last September in Bangkok.

“It’s great the way (the match) started, Raonic said. “I couldn’t have asked, really, for more. I had a chance to break in every single game in that first set. Then I continued to play solid after that. All in all, a very good performance and an important moment for me.”

“I wasn’t nervous about playing in the final,” Pospisil said. “It was a combination of (Raonic) playing very well and me being a little bit heavy-legged. It took me a little bit to get into the match, to get my groove and get the legs going a little bit. But credit to him, he played very well.”

Kuznetsova Wins

Svetlana Kuznetsova won her first WTA title in four years, her 14th overall, holding off Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Her last trophy came in San Diego in the summer of 2010.

“It feels like too long since my last title,” the Russian said. “I had a chance to win in Oeiras earlier this year and I got tight. The same thing happened today and I couldn’t play my best tennis at the end of the second and third sets. I was just hanging in there and in that last game I knew I just needed to get four points somehow. It’s a great feeling. I work very hard and winning titles is why you play tennis.”
“I did my best and I stuck to my plan out there, so I have no regrets,” Nara said. “She hits a very heavy ball so it made it difficult for me to get inside the court and attack. It was a great week for me and I like Washington very much and hopefully I’ll come here next year.”

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Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau Take Citi Open Doubles Crown

Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer

Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer

 

(August 3, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – The Dutch and Romanian doubles team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau have combined for their fifth doubles title of 2014, at the Citi Open in Washington, DC. Their opponents, Australia’s Sam Groth and India’s Leander Paes, were competing in their first tournament together, reaching the final after a tough semifinal against American team Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson.

 

It was Groth and Paes who made the first move on Stadium Court in Rock Creek Park, breaking Tecau’s first service game and surging to a 4-1 lead before their opponents edged their way back into the match by breaking Paes’ serve once to level, and then twice to take the first set 7-5. “Once we got back the break,” said Rojer after the match, “We were able to get some more energy and confidence, and then we just rolled throughout the match.”

 

Despite Groth delivering seven aces in six service games throughout the course of the match – including two consecutive aces at speeds of 144mph, then 143mph – it was his serve being broken that allowed a 4-2 buffer for Tecau and Rojer, which they would not relinquish.

 

Although Paes and Groth’s finesse and reflex volleying kept Tecau and Rojer on their toes – and provided the DC crowd with some high-quality entertainment – it was not enough to prevent the four-time ATP doubles titlists from earning their fifth title of the year at the Citi Open with a 7-5, 6-4 match lasting an hour and a quarter.

 

“It’s because we’re friends first,” said Rojer on the synergy he and his partner are currently enjoying in 2014, “I’ve known him for a long time. We can just say a few things to each other and not get so upset about it, I think that helps.”

 

“We were able to watch a few of their matches during this week,” said Tecau, describing their preparation for the final, “We made a plan for the match today, we knew what to expect. Groth is a big server, with Lee (Leander) at the net. We knew that’s gonna be a tough task. We were just hoping to get in the return games, when Lee was serving, and engage Groth at the net, and put a lot of pressure on Lee when he’s serving.”

 

There was mild tension between the teams late in the match, when a Tecau volley connected squarely with Paes’ back, the Indian world No.12 unresponsive to the Romanian No. 30’s apologies. “He tagged us a few times during the matches that we played,” said Tecau, “You know, it’s fine, it’s something that you accept. Our coach tells us if you don’t get hit, you’re not moving enough.”

 

Tecau alsow described the challenge of facing the Sam Groth serve, saying, “We don’t see many serves like that in doubles. But it was a good practice today, to return that serve and to be able to break him one time, it means a lot for us.”

 

The European doubles specialists will forgo any celebration of their win; the nature of the tour requiring that they get on an 8:00pm flight to Toronto for the Rogers Cup. “It’s a nice win and a great tournament for us, big tournament win, but some weeks you don’t get to celebrate. Many of the weeks we’ve won this year, we had a tournament the very next week, so we haven’t been able to really celebrate any of our wins.”

 

On Tuesday, they’ll play their first-round match in Toronto against the team of Feliciano Lopez and Jurgen Melzer, while Paes will reunite with his regular doubles partner Radek Stepanek. Groth, meanwhile, will recover from singles and doubles competition this week before preparing for the remainder of the Emirates US Open Series.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days.

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Pospisil Joins Countryman Raonic in Citi Open Semis

 

Pospisil 882013

By Dave Gertler

 

(August 2, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – Canada’s Vasek Pospisil has fought his way through one of the more physically and mentally taxing matches of the 2014 Citi Open, and will join his compatriot Milos Raonic in the semifinals to be played today at Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC.

 

His opponent, Colombian world No. 34 Santiago Giraldo, drew first blood last night when they took the court at 9:20pm, the last of the Stadium matches on Friday. No breaks in the first set, a double fault and some errors from Pospisil early in the tie-break would provide the Colombian with a lead he would not relinquish, sealing the first set tie-break 7-4.

 

Pospisil struck back early in the second set, regrouping for a 3-1 lead. Off the back of an improved first-serve percentage, the Canadian 24-year-old would face no break points throughout the second set, meanwhile pressuring his 26-year-old opponent, who needed to defend nine of them, only saving seven, leading the match into a deciding set.

 

By 11:00pm, both players were hitting their stride when the weather closed in, forcing play to be resumed today. “The rain delay didn’t help me, for sure,” said Pospisil, “Because I felt like I was in a really, really good groove and had him, mentally, (Giraldo) was down on himself a little bit. I felt like I had to go back to square one a little bit today.”

 

Both players showed signs of tension today when they came out onto Stadium Court, cloud cover again looking ominous. Neither player could convert opportunities on the other’s serve, whilst neither was playing steadily enough to hold confidently. “We were hitting the ball well last night,” said Pospisil, “We were grooved into the match, and then, coming out today, suddenly every point is that much bigger, because it’s just one set, obviously, and you’re not that warm, you’re coming out a bit cold.”

 

Giraldo saved two break points in his first service game, but couldn’t save a third break point at 4-5, also a match point, giving Pospisil cause for celebration, followed by preparation for his next match later today against semifinal opponent, Richard Gasquet.

 

“Just try to rest, eat, recover as quickly as I can because it was a pretty physical match,” Pospisil, who will play Richard Gasquet in the semifinal tonight at 7:00pm described his approach to the tight turnaround, “Two sets last night, late, and one today. But I’ll do my best and I’m sure I’ll be ready.”

 

“I might be feeling the ball a little bit better,” he ventured, “Maybe my timing will be better, because I had one good set. Physically, it’s a disadvantage, for sure, just because it’s humid and it was a physical match and a quick turnaround.”

 

Pospisil will take a 1-0 head-to-head advantage into his match against the Frenchman, having beaten him at the Shanghai Masters in October last year. In the other semifinal, Milos Raonic plays home favorite Donald Young, who reached the same stage of the 2011 event in Washington, DC.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

 

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Donald Young Reaches Citi Open Quarterfinals

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Donald Young photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

By Dave Gertler

(July 31, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – Donald Young has bounced back from a four-match losing streak to find redemption at the Citi Open this week, where today’s win over Denis Istomin places him in his second ATP quarterfinal of 2014.

“I had to fight some nerves, and it’s tough to play an opponent who you can visually see was not on top of his game,” said Young of Istomin who appeared exhausted at times throughout the match, “I asked him at the end. He said he was a little tired.”

The 25-year-old American broke his opponent late in the first set, before consolidating the break – and the set – with a love service game, taking the opener 6-3.

Aforementioned losing streak aside, Young has found himself on a mid-career upswing in the last 12 months, and has raised his ranking from outside the top 150 to where it is now at No.73, mostly through wins at Challenger level.

Along with his second-round win against Julien Benneteau yesterday, today’s win against Istomin means Young now has an even 7-7 win/loss record against top-50 players in 2014, a sure sign he himself is heading in that direction.

“It’s been three years since I’ve been in the top 50,” said Young, “It took me a while to get my head together. Next time I get there – which I think I will – I want to stay and be consistent, at least for a good part of the rest of my career.”

Istomin swung the momentum in his favor in the second set, capitalizing on an early break and holding the advantage for 6-3, but with the Grandstand One crowd well and truly behind him, Young outlasted Istomin in the decider, proving more physically equipped than his opponent to gain the advantage in the majority of their long baseline duels.

Closing out the match, however, required a different approach. Young said his strategy on this crucial 5-3 service game was to, “Put some good first serves in, be aggressive, move forward. When I move forward, the nerves don’t have a chance to kick in, ‘cause it’s so instinctive.”

Now enjoying his sixth career appearance in Rock Creek Park, the 6-foot former junior world No.1 from Georgia is hoping to outdo his 2011 run to the Citi Open semi-final, but to reach that stage in 2014, he’ll need to turn the tables on his next opponent, Kevin Anderson, who has beaten Young the last five times they’ve played.

It was a good day for American men at the Citi Open, with Young, as well as Steve Johnson getting through to the quarter-finals, Johnson taking out 9th seed Ivo Karlovic in three sets and two hours.

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Raonic Set to Take on Hewitt in Round of 16 match at Citi Open

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

 

By Dave Gertler

(July 31, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – Last year’s Citi Open in Washington, D.C. played a crucial role in the lead-up to what would be Milos Raonic’s first appearance in a Masters 1000 final. At the time, he was still ranked outside the top 10, had never made it past the round of 16 at a major, and promptly bowed out to Australian journeyman Marinko Matosevic in the second round.

 

“I didn’t play well here last year,” said Raonic of his reasoning for returning to this year’s event, “And I really would not have wanted to start off Montreal that way. So I think even though I had a poor result last year, it helped me a lot with the result in Montreal. I think it’s a positive for me to come and play here.”

 

The Montenegro-born Canadian earned his first single-figure ranking in March and, given his transposition to a higher echelon of men’s tennis this year, is now within striking distance of the top 5, especially considering the rest of the year will play out on his favorite surface – hard courts – and in his home continent of North America.

 

“After spending four months of playing tennis where I’m adjusting to figure out the surface,” said Raonic about his transition to the hard courts of the Emirates US Open Series, “It’s a surface I come to and I don’t have to worry about – ‘OK, in this situation, I gotta hit this shot’ – I have that stuff sort of ingrained in myself naturally.”

 

In his first match in D.C. last night, Raonic served 16 aces against Jack Sock on his way to a straight-sets win over the American. In a match characterized by the consistency that has helped the Canadian to five career ATP 250 titles, the 23-year-old Canadian served an even eight aces in both sets, and only allowed his opponent three points in each of the tie-breaks they played.

 

In their third round match tonight, Raonic will face a significant obstacle in the form of Lleyton Hewitt, who as well as winning their only meeting so far, is also the tournament’s last remaining former champion. A lot has changed since their 2012 meeting at the Australian Open, including Raonic reaching the semi-final of the most recent slam.

 

While the No.2 seed seems to have shifted his focus towards winning majors, he has not made the final of any tournament since September 2013, something Hewitt has done twice, winning both times and bringing his overall career tally to 30. While Hewitt’s slam-winning days are arguably behind him, the Canadian is focused on his own upward career trajectory, and the opportunity to go deeper in the next slam. “I can do much better than I did at Wimbledon,” said Raonic, “And that doesn’t put me far away from giving myself an opportunity to win that tournament.”

 

In other men’s round of 16 matches at the Citi Open today, Vasek Pospisil takes on top seed Tomas Berdych while American Donald Young plays Denis Istomin.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Dominican Journeyman Victor Estrella Burgos Sets Sights on Career High Ranking as he Topples Eighth Seed Feliciano Lopez at Citi Open

estrella burgos 1

By Dave Gertler

 

(July 30, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – Victor Estrella Burgos, the Dominican journeyman who broke into the top 100 for the first time in March, will celebrate his 34th birthday with a new career-high ranking, after claiming the scalp of the Citi Open’s eighth seed, beating Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 6-4 on Wednesday.

 

With no breaks of serve in the first set, Lopez served three consecutive aces to take it to a tie-break. Estrella – basking in the Washington, DC heat – used his power and whipping topspin from the baseline to gain a vital mini-break at 5-4, and managed to hold on for the opening set, much to the delight of a small but vocal nucleus of Dominican supporters.

 

“I tell you, if you have ten Dominican people here, it’s gonna be like 100,” said Estrella Burgos, who along with his first-round win against Tobias Kamke, has now compiled four main-draw career wins over top-100 players at ATP events, all of which have remarkably have come in 2014.

 

Lopez was broken to 15 early in the second set, and showed signs of nursing a slight arm strain in between points. Serving only three aces in the second set compared to nine in the first, the 32-year-old Spaniard also showed signs of irritation at the enthusiasm with which his unforced errors were welcomed by Estrella Burgos’ supporters. The 5’8” Dominican would save the only break point Lopez could muster in the second set, closing the match out in 78 minutes.

 

“If I can still play till Saturday, it’s gonna be the best birthday of my life, for sure,” said Estrella Burgos, of his potential progress at the Citi Open. Ranked No.386 a year ago, he reached the second round of the Claro Colombia Open as a qualifier. This year at the same event, he reached the first ATP semi-final of his career, claiming a win over world No.14 Richard Gasquet along the way.

 

Now ranked No.87, Estrella Burgos has the chance to go even deeper in the Citi Open draw if he can replicate his recent form in his third-round match against Santiago Giraldo. “I working hard to be here,” said Estrella Burgos when asked how he feels about his late-career purple patch, “Every unbelievable shot I do today, I think, I worked for that.”

 

In a March interview with Josh Meiseles of  ATPWorldTour.com, Estrella Burgos described a 6-month layoff due to injury in 2012/13 as being fundamental to his ascension to the top 100, from outside the top 300, in just under a year, saying, “When I began the recovery process I became more determined, more physically energized and I looked forward to returning. I matured a lot and got stronger mentally too. I trained hard and returned to the tour with the strong desire to win (Emirates ATP Ranking) points, build my confidence and here I am.”

 

“Today I do some backhand passing shot for broke him in the second set,” said the 5’8” Dominican, who has spent most of his 13-year career on the Challenger and Futures tours, “I never do that in Challenger. I think it’s a motivator.”

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

 

 

 

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Isner Among the Top Seeds in Action at Citi Open on Wednesday

John Isner

John Isner

By Dave Gertler

(July 30, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – The top seeds in the men’s draw at the Citi Open are all in action today, and with defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro still recovering from injury, as well as the pre-tournament withdrawal of would-be No.3 seed Grigor Dimitrov, fifth seeded American John Isner might be sensing the opportunity to finally raise the trophy of the tournament that has meant so much to him during his professional tennis career.

 

“For me, Washington has always been a special place,” said Isner during a USTA-organized conference call two weeks ago. “I’ve always played extremely well there, but I’ve never won it. I know I’ve made two finals and two other semi-finals, so I’ve always played well there, but haven’t quite finished it off. So hopefully this year will be different.”

 

“I was lucky enough to get a last-minute wildcard in 2007,” said Isner of his first appearance in Washington as a 22-year-old, “If I remember correctly, Fernando Gonzalez pulled out or something and I was able to get a wildcard. I was extremely lucky.” Having found success later in his career than most players, Isner’s nine career titles have all come in the last four years; five of them have been on hard courts, and all but two having come on American soil.

 

“I had nothing to lose,” he told of his debut at what was then the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, “And that’s how I played that week, and I made the finals. It helped me out so much. I sort of made a name for myself, and got my ranking up there pretty high really quickly.”

 

By making the finals that year, albeit one that he would lose to Andy Roddick, Isner’s dramatic rankings jump took him from 416 to 193 in the world.

 

Isner has since lost as many ATP finals as he has won. His most recent opponent in Washington, Del Potro, took a 4-0 winning record against the American into their 2013 final. One of those wins had in fact come in the quarterfinals of the 2008 Legg Mason. In 2009, Isner would lose once again to Roddick, this time in the semi-finals.

 

Along with Del Potro’s absence, the withdrawals before the tournament of No.3 seed Grigor Dimitrov, as well as Gael Monfils – a player who’s stopped Isner’s progress here in the past – has considerably opened up  the field for the 29-year-old, who maintained that, “Even without (Del Potro), I think the field is stronger than it was last year,” said Isner. “There are a lot of, lot of good players. This is one of the toughest 500 tournaments in the world, no doubt about that.”

 

While Isner’s best recent result was reaching the second week of Roland Garros, world No.7 Milos Raonic made the semi-finals of Wimbledon a few weeks ago, and can now be considered amongst the favorites to take out any ATP 500 Series tournament, as can Kei Nishikori, and world No.5 Tomas Berdych, who accepted a late wildcard into the Citi Open two weeks before it began, and plays as tournament’s top seed. Berdych has played the tournament three times, making a semi-final and two quarterfinals, most recently in 2010.

 

“I think it’s more exciting for me,” said Isner about the high caliber of players in attendance at the Citi Open, “Me personally, I always want to go up against guys that are ranked higher than me. That means I’m progressing well within that tournament. But it’s good for the tournament, it’s good for everyone.” Isner’s first match will be a second-round encounter with compatriot Steve Johnson, while fellow big man Ivo Karlovic awaits the winner in the third round.

 

While Isner will be making his seventh appearance at the tournament since 2007, one dangerous floater will also be making his seventh appearance since first appearing in the 1998 Washington draw as a 17-year-old. 33-year-old Lleyton Hewitt – who refuses to discuss any plans for retirement – will be celebrating ten years since he won the 2004 Washington title. Hewitt’s second-round win against countryman Marinko Matosevic pits him against the winner between Jack Sock and Milos Raonic, who are billed as the third match on Stadium Court today. Also on Stadium Court today, Americans Sam Querrey and Robby Ginepri to face Kei Nishikori and Tomas Berdych respectively, while 4th seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet takes on in-form Israeli Dudi Sela.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Kristina Mladenovic Stuns Citi Open Top Seed Lucie Safarova

Lucie Safarova photo by Christopher Levy @Tennis_Shots

Lucie Safarova photo by Christopher Levy @Tennis_Shots

By Dave Gertler

 

(July 29, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – It’s still only the first round, but the Citi Open women’s draw is now without a defending champion or a No. 1 seed.

Top seed at the Washington, D.C. event, Lucie Safarova, has been eliminated in the first round by French world No. 78 Kristina Mladenovic.  This upset came off the back of a straightforward win by No.2 seed Ekaterina Makarova over Magdalena Rybarikova, albeit not an upset other than the fact that the Rybarikova had never lost a match at the event, include her match against Makarova at last year’s Citi Open.

 

While Makarova’s was a straightforward 6-1, 6-1 win in under an hour, Mladenovic needed two hours, five minutes and three sets to topple world No.17. Broken twice in the first set, Mladenovic would turn the match around in the second set, breaking at 4-3 on a Safarova double fault, from which point, she held and continued to pour pressure on the Czech veteran, breaking her once at 2-2, and again at 5-3, when she converted a match point brought about by three consecutive errors from the Czech 27-year-old.

 

Kristina Mladenovic  photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Kristina Mladenovic photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

It will be a second-round battle of the young guns when 21-year-old Mladenovic faces 18-year-old American qualifier Taylor Townsend who won through her first-round battle in three sets against Julia Goerges. Makarova is now the top seed remaining in the WTA draw.

 

Dudi Sela

Dudi Sela

On the ATP side, Dudi Sela’s run of form since Wimbledon continued in a tight 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 win against Australian Sam Groth, which lasted exactly two hours. Sela managed to get a read on Groth’s serve – one of the biggest in the game – in time to take control of a tight first-set tie break. Groth’s reaction to losing the first set – smashing a racquet to smithereens and receiving a code violation – would normally indicate a mental breakdown, but in fact Groth was spurred on to breaks in the first and last games of the second set, which he won 6-3.

 

By the decider, Sela had regained the confidence that has seen him go 8 wins to 3 losses since Wimbledon, and although Groth would recover one of them, Sela’s two breaks of serve allowed him to take the final set 6-4. “He has a very big serve,” said Sela of Groth, “But he’s serving-volleying so I have more target on the returns, so it was a little bit easier for me. He played some great games, some terrible games, and these terrible games that he played, I took my chance and broke him.”

 

It was a successful day for American men, with Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson getting through their first-round matches in straight sets.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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WTA Event Enters Its Fourth Year at Citi Open

Alison Riske at  Kid's clinic at Citi Open. Photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Alison Riske at Kid’s clinic at Citi Open. Photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

By Dave Gertler

 

(July 28, 2014) Now in its fourth year, the WTA Citi Open event in Washington is hosting one of its most impressive fields to date, even with the withdrawal of tournament favorite Eugenie Bouchard. Now seeded at No.1, Lucie Safarova leads an exciting field of 32 women including some top European hard-courters as well as American up-and-comers.

 

For the last two years running, it has been Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova who has capitalized on a line-up that has been improving from scratch since Washington began hosting the WTA International event in 2011. The world No. 37 is undefeated across ten straight matches at the tournament, and has defeated the top seed both years – Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in 2012, and Angelique Kerber in 2013. Russian Pavlyuchenkova was ranked 28 at the time, while this year all eight top seeds are within the WTA’s top 29. Rybarikova did not play the Citi Open’s inaugural tournament in 2011, when world No.24 at the time, Shahar Peer, reached the final as No.1 seed, losing to second-seeded Nadia Petrova.

 

While Rybarikova is back in 2014 to attempt to prolong her dynasty at the Citi Open, Bouchard, Peer, Petrova, Kerber and her opponent in the 2013 final, Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, are prominent names missing from this year’s player field. The impact of their absences on the tournament, however, will be heavily reduced by the fact of the players that ARE attending.

 

Sloane Stephens leads the camp of exciting ‘new-wave’ of WTA players that will be in attendance this year. The world No. 22 – known for being much more solid at majors than she is across the WTA Premier and International calendar year – first entered the Citi Open in 2011, when she was 18 years old and ranked outside the top 120, losing in the first round. The following year, ranked just inside the top 50, she would reach the Washington semi-finals, losing to the eventual champ Rybarikova. In 2013, as a top 20 player, she would lose in the first round once again. It would seem apparent, therefore, that she’s due for another enduring showing at the Citi Open this year.

 

Although Bouchard has withdrawn from the 2014 tournament as the top seed, citing a knee injury, her results have been mixed since the Citi Open initiated their relationship with the Canadian in 2011 when they offered her a wildcard into her first main draw of a WTA event. In 2012 she lost a quarterfinal to Stephens, while last year – ranked No.62 in the world – she lost in the first round. Having reached at least the semi-finals of all three grand slams since then, Bouchard’s ranking has shot up to No.7 at the start of the Emirates Airlines US Open Series.

 

While the tournament has secured the first-time attendance of its high-profile Czech top seed Lucie Safarova, this only serves to augment the returned appearance of Romanian Sorana Cirstea, France’s Alize Cornet and American Madison Keys.

 

Cornet last year reached semi-finals on her first appearance at Citi Open. While the third seed will be vying for her fifth career WTA title, many Washingtonian tennis enthusiasts will have their eye on rising American talent, Madison Keys, who will be taking her career-high No.27 ranking into the Citi Open draw for her second appearance there. Despite retiring injured from her most recent match, a third-rounder at Wimbledon, Keys has been one of the big movers since clay season ended, going 8-2 on grass, and taking her first WTA title at Eastbourne along the way. Keys’ big serving game is a force to be reckoned with on hard courts, and has already ushered her to two WTA Tour semi-final appearances over the past year.

 

While unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova has managed to upset the field for the past two years straight, this year she faces a much tougher task if she’s to three-peat, considering the elevated level of play that will be coming off the racquets of top seeds with whom the Citi Open has been developing strong relationships over the past few years.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Citi Open Set to Begin

Milos Raonic (R) poses for a "selfie" on Saturday at Citi Open. Photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Milos Raonic (R) poses for a “selfie” on Saturday at the Citi Open. Photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

By Dave Gertler

(July 28, 2014) The Citi Open in Washington D.C. is the only North American fixture on an 11-event ATP World Tour 500 series calendar. The defending men’s champion is Juan Martin del Potro, who hasn’t completed his rehab from left-wrist surgery in time to defend his title, leaving Czech Tomas Berdych as the highest-ranked player in a strong men’s field that also includes world No.7 Milos Raonic, No.11 Kei Nishikori, No.12 John Isner and No.14 Richard Gasquet. The withdrawal of stars Grigor Dimitrov and Gael Monfils before the draw was announced did not impact the fact that this is one of the strongest men’s draws the Citi Open has seen.

 

The tournament takes place at the William HG Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, with a Stadium Court that holds 7,500 people at full capacity. The arena took a year to build, opening in 1991, and was named after a man who was one of Washington’s leading philanthropists, and who helped establish what is now the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF), and organization that uses tennis to help disadvantaged youth in the D.C. area.

 

The WTEF is the owner and beneficiary of the Citi Open, and has organized a series of fundraisers and community programs throughout the week, including top seed Tomas Berdych leading a community tennis clinic, a ‘Celebrating Our Heroes Day’ which featured WTA drawcard Sloane Stephens, and the screening of a documentary called ‘Queens At Court’, about struggles and successes of four lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender amateur tennis players.

 

While the WTA Citi Open event has only been going for three years, the history of the men’s singles event goes back to 45 years ago, when Thomaz Koch from Brazil beat Arthur Ashe in a five-set final. Since then, the tournament has been won by luminaries of the sport such as Ken Rosewall, Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Guillermo Vilas, Ivan Lendl, Yannick Noah, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt. Agassi currently holds the record at five titles, Connors also won all three finals he appeared in (as well as being doubles runner-up with Ashe in 1974), as has Argentina’s Del Potro.

 

Inaugurated as the Washington Star International from 1969 to 1981, the tournament was also known as the Sovran Bank Classic from the early ‘80s to the early ‘90s. Pete Sampras, whom many consider the greatest player that ever lived, was actually born in Washington D.C. but never played the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, as it was known from 1994-2011.

 

While Sampras is long retired, the D.C. crowd will still be able to cheer on a few of their own. Treat Huey, a D.C. native and resident, will take the court with doubles partner Dom Inglot in an attempt to reclaim a title they won in 2012.

 

Considerably more hype, however, has been placed around the 16-year-old winner of the Citi Open Wildcard Challenge, Francis Tiafoe, who grew up a short drive north of Rock Creek Park, at College Park Tennis Center. Taifoe’s wildcard was initially purposed for qualification-round entry, but after the withdrawal of France’s Gael Monfils, it was upgraded to a main-draw berth. Tiafoe faces Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy in their first round match on Monday night.

 

Australia’s Sam Groth, who lost in qualifying, has been named Lucky Loser in Dimitrov’s absence, and will play Israel’s Dudi Sela in their first round match on Tuesday.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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