Bigger Might Not be Better at Citi Open, 2021Tweet
Washington D.C. August 3, 2021 — Yeah. I get it. Citi Open Tennis Tournament has become a big deal, now that Rafael Nadal is there. It’s his first visit to this ATP 500 tournament located in America’s capital, Washington D.C. This tournament that’s been a headliner for over 52 years and was conceived and started by Arthur Ashe.
The pandemic plus Rafa’s presence put a squeeze on who gets in and who doesn’t get in to this version of Citi Open, media included. Sure capacity crowds are welcome. But not all the press that would like to be there and have been there through the years are at capacity because, well, there’s no room in that media tent.
I’m one of the one that didn’t get in, didn’t get media credentials, although I’ve covered the event since 2007. Remember that tournament? It was called Legg Mason back then. John Isner just had graduated from the University of Georgia, was awarded a wildcard to the tournament and took the city by storm. First he beat Tim Henman in round one. Then German Boris Becker. Then Wayne Odesnik, who was kicked out of tennis because of doping allegations. Then Isner had the audacity to defeat Tommy Haas. Next was Gael Monfils in the semifinals. Isner cut his way through the draw, using his serve as a weapon that it has remained to this day, having just won his 6th title in Atlanta. Isner beat all those fine opponents in DC in third-set tiebreaks. The thrill was palpable. Isner, a rocking six-foot-nine, packed stands with wildly enthusiastic tennis fans, which there are a plenty in the DC area. In the final American Andy Roddick put an end to Isner’s biggest goal, the title. Roddick beat the Bulldog on Stadium Court on a sweltering Sunday, much like most summer days in Washington D.C. The all-American final in the nation’s capitol, the only ATP 500 level event in the states, putting it just a notch down from Grand Slams and ATP Master’s 1000 tournament, like Indian Wells and Miami, springtime benchmarks for hard courts on the men’s tour. Think ESPN big.
Tennis Channel now has the broadcasting franchise, which is relatively new. It does a fine job, but, as many know, Tennis Channel isn’t included in top tier cable packages, like The Golf Channel. Tennis Channel costs extra through any cable or streaming subscription. That’s another story, but part of this big-deal tournament, the 2021 version, as well.
I – downthetee.com – didn’t get a media credential because “Your media credential request for the 2021 Citi Open has been declined as the tournament’s limited on-site media capacity is full and, thus, cannot accommodate your request,” the Citi Open media team wrote.
Basically, my reader base isn’t big enough and won’t get the clicks this big deal Citi Open wants and needs since it didn’t run last year due to the pandemic. And that was only one year after MDE Tennis took over.
“We are thrilled to announce the return of the Citi Open to Washington, D.C. this summer,” Mark Ein, CEO of MDE Tennis, said as reported by wjla.com. “Coming off a difficult 15 months, we can’t wait to bring back together our community, fans, and the best tennis players in the world for a memorable week of competition and celebration in the nation’s capital.” Ein hadn’t worked his magic with the Nadal team then, which was the beginning of June. But Ein has a golden touch with DC tennis, having lead The Washington Kastles to victory in World Team Tennis 2009, 2011-2015.
Ein sincerely wanted what was best for Citi Open, but knew the constraints: infrastructure that’s in great need of reinforcement plus expansion of the site. But the property where the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Stadium and courts sit is Rock Creek Park and belongs to the U.S. Parks Service. The site is called The Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. It’s open to the public, which Ashe and Dell wanted. They were looking out for the people, the DC people. Ein has a chore in front of him if he wants to expand because his group will have to come in agreement with the District, the US Parks Service, and the legacy of Arthur Ashe. Sounds like a hefty dose of political sparring wrapped in all shades of red tape.
So no matter the Nadal effect plus the horrible consequences we all suffer under from the pandemic, Citi Open may not be as big as its hopes. Nonetheless, for this version of Citi Open, with Rafael Nadal spiking the prices of tickets – he begins his campaign – on Wednesday night against American and former top-10 player Jack Sock, Citi has transformed in to a big deal. But, it left out some of the good guys from the media who know intimate details about it, who have a sixth sense about it and have worked tirelessly for years to pump up the volume for the Rock Creek event, a pearl of a tournament in a world no one knew was coming.