By Jane Voigt
Washington — When Stefanos Tsitsipas arrived at Citi Open last year he had just cracked the top 32, after a meteoric rise from the Challenger Tour to the the ATP Tour. He was seeded number ten and lost in the semifinals to eventual champion, Alexander Zverev. The Greek 20-year-old is Citi’s top seed this year. He won’t have to face Zverev because he’s not defending his title. Nonetheless Tsitsipas’s aspirations to win his first 500-level tournament and do that here for the first time is littered with big opponents who also are striving to take home the hardware.
“I’ve matured a lot since last year,” Tsitsipas said Monday. “Getting to play so many matches on the Challenger Tour was really good for me. I was very hungry and excited to see what was lying ahead. I was motivated to make that transition from Challengers to the ATP [tour]. There were many chances to play the big guys. That’s what got me so pumped.”
In addition to his rocketing tennis career — Tsitsipas is currently at his highest ranking of number six — he is a budding video blogger and recently added a videographer to his team, which certainly is unorthodox when scanning the domain of player teams.
“I decided to step it up,” he said. “I created a new season episode series on my YouTube channel, which [will] consist of six seasons. I thought in order for me to make it [the seasonal v-blogs] it would be nice to have a videographer next to me.”
Although he’s only been on tour for less than three years he said he had aspirations to become an actor, which would make sense following the decision to hire a videographer who’ll follow him on the tour.
“Yes, I have a lot of aspirations,” he began. “And I’m a big fan of Robert De Niro, [Martin] Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Bradley Cooper. And the voice of Morgan Freeman, obviously.”
Although Karen (pronounced Ka-wren) Khachanov didn’t seem to have acting aspirations, he sure would like to turn out a top-notch performance as the number two seed this week at Citi Open in his second appearance.
“I’ll definitely try to do better this time,” Khachanov said, laughing, because as the number twelve seed in 2018 he was upset in his opening match by local favorite Denis Kudla.
Seeded right behind Khachanov at number-three this year is countryman Daniil Medvedev. He also played here in 2018, but was entered as a wild card. Both players are from Moscow and both now sit in the top ten: Khachanov at number eight and Medvedev at number ten. At the same time a year ago, he was ranked outside the top sixty.
“We are just two players from the same country, actually, trying to enrich our goals,” Khachanov began. “It’s great for us and hopefully we go further and further.”
Unlike other players at Citi Open such as John Isner, Frances Tiafoe, Nick Kyrios, and even perhaps, Bernard Tomic, Khachanov can walk around Washington and enjoy the sites in relative anonymity.
“I had one evening off and went to the Capital of the United States,” he began. “I went there on a Segway. I like electric ones. It was a nice ride.”
Players return to favorite restaurants they’ve discovered over the years and Khachanov is no different.
“There’s one good restaurant Mari Vanna. It’s quite famous,” he said. “It’s a world-wide chain. Quite famous. I was there last year so most likely I will visit this year as well.”
Madison Keys usually plays a tournament in Stanford this week, but changed up her schedule to be in D.C.
“I really enjoyed going to Stanford for the longest time,” Keys said. “But the downside was being on the west coast [made] it much harder to get back to the east coast for the Canada tournament. And seeing that I’m trying to be more consistent and get in more matches, I thought that there are better options here.”
Keys doesn’t know Cori Gauff well, like most other players on tour. How could they when the teen only appeared, in any measurable fashion, on the tennis scene in Wimbledon. Nonetheless, Keys saw her play there and like thousands of others was struck.
“She is so wise beyond her years,” Keys said about Gauff, comparing their ascensions in tennis. “I was really impressed with how well she handled herself on court [at Wimbledon]. I don’t think a lot of us could do that at any age. So seeing her do that at such a young age was impressive.”
Tsitsipas, Khachanov, Keys and Gauff all start their singles’ competition at Citi Open Tuesday, July 30.