Washington D.C., — Tennis fans living in and around Washington D.C are lucky.
Little more than two months ago an agreement was signed to transfer management of Citi Open tennis tournament to Mark Ein, a D.C. native, venture capitalist and owner of The Washington Kastles. Had the complex contract not been negotiated the home of the 50-year old tennis tournament, and vision of Arthur Ashe, might have relocated to California, South America, Europe or Asia. Thankfully with Ein’s backing and the blessings of Citi Open owners, the nonprofit Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF), the event will remain in the nation’s capital with the 2019 edition opening its gates Saturday, July 27, in Rock Creek Park.
“Thanks to a lot of people, we all wanted to make sure this tournament didn’t just leave here now but that it’s going to be here forever,” Ein said, according to The Washington Post. “My goal is for everything about this event to be lifted to a new level, and we’re going to work very hard to make that happen.”
Ein’s willingness to step forward could be fraught with self-imposed financial troubles because he “assumes all financial risk.” However, the WTEF can continue to provide support to underserved areas of D.C. through education and tennis instruction. Ein also has a five-year option to buy the tournament, which in essense means buying the ATP sanction. The WTA tournament, which runs concurrently with the ATP event and began in 2012, is also included in the deal.
The WTEF disregarded offers worth upwards to $20 million from other interested parties. However Ashe wanted the tournament staged on a public park. Donald Dell, a local sports agent at the time (1969), backed Ashe. The two are recognized as the founders of the tournament.
The change of management did not affect the tournament’s 500-level status with the ATP. In fact, Citi Open remains the only 500-level tournament in the U.S., which comprises 13 tournaments.
Ein’s love of doubles and its success in the World Team Tennis league have given hope to fans who play and love doubles. Normally considered a second-tier category by tournament management, sponsors and TV producers, Ein plans to focus on it.
“We set out to make doubles a highlight of the Citi Open and the entry list has exceeded even our highest expectations,” Ein said, according to the tournamen’ts website.
The field of men’s doubles teams at Rock Creek Park include “every member of the ATP Top 10 doubles rankings.” Eight of the 10 teams have at least one Grand Slam men’s doubles championship.
At the top of the list has to be former world number one Andy Murray and his older brother Jamie Murray, who won the doubles title here last year with then partner Bruno Soares. Andy returned to tennis after hip resurfacing surgery this spring and has been using doubles to prepare for a return to singles, perhaps at the U.S. Open.
“[i am] hoping to have a good summer over in the States, keep progressing physically and hopefully get back on the singles courts soon,” Murray said, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Highly-charged Nick Kyrgios and the tournament’s number-one seed in singles, Stefanos Tsitsipas, will make their doubles debut at the event Monday evening, July 29. Also appearing will be Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, this year’s Wimbledon champions who are the first team from Columbia to have won a men’s doubles Grand Slam title. The Columbians defeated Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the Wimbledon final over five hours and five tiebreak sets. Mahut and Roger-Vasselin are also in Citi’s men’s doubles draw. And what doubles competition would be complete without the best team in the history of the game: Bob and Mike Bryan, the four-time D.C. winners.
Citi Open is a combined event, although the women don’t get top billing. Complaints of court assignments and glancing recognition for the performances in D.C. have given way to more equitable circumstances for the field. Sloane Stephens will return for her ninth consecutive appearance. She won her first WTA career title at Citi Open in 2015. Also on tap are Madison Keys, Belinda Bencic, Barbora Strycova (Wimbledon Ladies Doubles Champion), and Monica Puig (Olympic Gold Medalist). The 2018 titlest, Zvetlana Kuznetsova, pulled out of Citi Open Thursday due to problems obtaining a U.S. visa.
Although two-time Citi Open men’s singles champion Alexander Zverev will not be defending his title, former champions Gael Monfils (2016), Milos Raonic (2014), and Kei Nishikori (2015) will battle for Citi honors.
The draw ceremony is expected Friday, July 26. For complete information about the tournament, please click on this link: Citi Open.