Big Names Should Draw Big Crowds as Citi Open Gets Underway Saturday, July 28

By Jane Voigt

Washington D.C. — Citi Open is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary, as the tournament gets underway Saturday, July 28, at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. Many things have changed since 1969, including the tennis. Instead of a men’s-only tournament, it is now a combined event with both men’s and women’s competition. 

This year promises to showcase the deepest of draws, as well. Two three-time Grand Slam champions — Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka — are on board, Wawrinka as wild-card entry. And, Caroline Wozniacki, the reigning Australian Open champion, will make her debut in D.C.

Alexander Zverev on the run against Borna Coric in Miami earlier this year. Zverev will be the defending champion and top seed at Citi Open.
Photo credit Karla Kinne

Other notables include the 2015 men’s singles champion Kei Nishikori and defending champion and the number-one seed Alexander Zverev. American John Isner, who first showed off his big-serving game here in 2007, returns having battled his way to his first Grand Slam semifinal appearance at a major: Wimbledon. The Georgia Bulldog lost to another Citi Open competitor, Kevin Anderson. 

The talented and always entertaining Aussie Nick Kyrgios is in the lineup, along with the top British player Kyle Edmund. 

Local favorites Francis Tiafoe and Denis Kudla, who is a graduate of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in near-by College Park, Maryland, will play singles and team up for doubles. Mike Bryan, who won his 17th Grand Slam in doubles at Wimbledon this year, tying him with John Newcombe for the most all-time Grand Slam doubles crowns, will play D.C. with Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The Frenchman won Roland Garros with Julien Benneteau in 2014 and Citi Open in 2016 alongside Daniel Nestor. (Mike Bryan and twin brother, Bob, have won Citi Open four times. However, Bob is recovering from a hip injury.) 

Caroline Wozanicki will lead the women’s field at Citi Open as its top seed. Photo credit Leslie Billman

Ekaterina Makarova is back to defend her 2017 Citi Open title, along with the current U.S. Open champion and Roland Garros finalist, Sloane Stephens. Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2014 champion, is here, too.

Citi Open signals the beginning of the American hard-court season, which concludes at the U.S. Open beginning August 27 in Flushing Meadows, New York. The weeks ahead will tax the fields’ physical fitness more than at any other time of the year because of the inflexible surface. Couple that with the relentless movement during matches and minor injuries, which players deal with most of the time, can worsen. Additionally the court soaks up the sun and can elevate temperatures well past 125 degrees farenheit. Plus, in D.C., the humid air doesn’t allow the body to cool as fast as it should, given the level of exertion. 

Citi Open is the only 500-level ATP tournament in the United States, which makes it a standout. Its history is rich, as well. Former player and first chairman of the ATP, Donald Dell, began the tournament with John Harris in 1969. Dell asked his friend Arthur Ashe if he would play at the first event. Ashe only accepted after his demands were met: the venue had to be a public one in “a naturally desegregated neighborhood, where everyone, regardless of race, has the opportunity to watch,” the tournament’s website reported.  

A few years after its founding Dell and Harris donated the tournament charter to a local non-profit to benefit local you. Ever since, the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation has owned the tournament. It provides underserved area youth with a safe environment to learn tennis skills and life skills.


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