By Jane Voigt
Washington D.C. — Andy Murray, former world number one and three-time Grand Slam champion, will play at Citi Open this week. The Greek 20-year-old, Stefanos Tsitsipas, who barely got a seed last year when he made his inaugural debut, is the top seed this year. Sloane Stephens, the 2015 Citi Open champion and 2017 U.S. Open champion, could meet friend and 2017 U.S. Open finalist, Madison Keys, in this tournament’s final come a week from Sunday.
None of that matters.
Why? Because Cori “Coco” Gauff has stolen the show.
The 15-year-old American who dazzled millions during Wimbledon, one of them Venus Williams who Gauff beat in the opening round, is playing in her first event since that debut on the world stage. She advanced to the main draw Sunday, defeating Hiroko Kuwata, 6-1, 6-2, and is now two rounds away from a possible match against Stephens, another idol of Gauff’s.
Gauff’s appearance at the Rock Creek Park facility was a last-minute decision. She had used up all her wildcard options so could not, therefore, directly enter the main draw. Instead she was given a slot in the qualification tournament.
Ticket sales for the qualification tournament, which ran Saturday and Sunday, rose 23% compared to 2018.
“We entertained a record crowd for our qualifying tournament, witnessed great matches and there was a level of electricity and buzz on the grounds that has never been felt on a first day,” Mark Ein, Chairman of MDE Tennis, the new management team for Citi Open, said. “We couldn’t have imagined a better start to the reimagined Citi Open.
Gauff’s appearance on Saturday drew 3,000 fans inside a steamy, hot Stadium Court, the biggest turnout for a qualification match here.
Sunday, the doubles draws were announced, and Gauff will pair with American Caty McNally. The two won the 2018 U.S. Open Junior Girls Doubles title.
“Caty and I are great pair together on the court,” Gauff said. “This will be our first match [together] on the professional level … and playing with my friend on the court is cool, too.” The two begin their doubles’ competition Monday, third up on Grandstand. Matches begin there at 1 p.m.