The ATP tour took a trip to Washington D.C. this past week for the first major event of the US Open Series. Under the new ownership of Mark Ein, the Citi Open hosted the most successful week in tournament history, shattering every attendance record in the fifty years of tournament play. Ein attracted fans with high-quality restaurants in Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, greater entertainment on tournament grounds, new seating on stadium court, and by inviting star players to play in both the singles and doubles events.
In the early rounds, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, beating second-seed Karen Kachanov in three sets, before losing to Kyle Edmund. Tsonga is beginning to show signs of his old form after missing much of 2018 with injuries which caused him to drop out of the top 200.
Similarly, Yoshihito Nishioka, the 5’7” lefty from Japan, upset seventh-seed David Goffin in the second round, and hopes to climb back up the ranks to where he was in his breakthrough 2017 season, which was abruptly cut short by a torn ACL in Miami.
However, the players who made the most unexpected runs this week were the lucky losers: Peter Gojowczyk and Norbert Gombos. Gombos failed to beat Tim Smyczek, ranked 289th, in the final round of qualifying, but capitalized on his luck and put together two solid top 60 wins to make the quarterfinals. The German Gojowczyk lost to Donald Young in qualifying but played freely on house money to make a fairytale run by beating Andrey Rublev, Alex De Minaur, Milos Raonic and Kyle Edmund en route to the semifinals.
The headline of the Citi Open was Australian Nick Kyrgios, who arrived in DC with a content mental state, and played superb tennis to win his sixth career ATP title and ensure a seeded position at the US Open. As usual, Kyrgios did not fail to entertain the crowd, displaying his full bag of tricks and antics. He hit tweeners, between the leg shots, underhand serves, leaping forehands and overheads, and returns from the back wall of the stadium as well as from barely behind the service box.
His emotions were also on public display, both positive and negative. Kyrgios got into numerous fights with the umpire, bickered about noise coming from the audience, seemingly tanked the second set versus Stefanos Tsitsipas, and threw rackets and water bottles. On the flip side, Kyrgios also enjoyed himself on the court, high-fiving front row ticket holders, smiling on the court often, and asking fans where he should serve on his match points in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and final. From a tennis perspective, Kyrgios played impeccably, bombing 110 aces in six matches, playing big from the ground while staying consistent, and staying poised in tight situations. He saved a match point to beat top-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals, winning 7-6 (9-7) in the third-set tiebreaker, and won two tight tiebreak sets against Daniil Medvedev in the final to claim the 500 points and $365,390 in prize money. Kyrgios improves to 5-1 on the season against top ten players, and his title may bode well for a deep run at the US Open given a focused mindset.
No credit should be taken away from Tsitsipas or Medvedev, who were both within points of flipping their matches against Kyrgios and played great tennis throughout the week. In the latest rankings, Tstsipas, just 20-years-old, climbed to fifth in the world while Daniil Medvedev, who is just 23-years-old, reached a career-high of ninth in the world. Both players have a bright future and will consistently contend for titles in the coming years.
Ein looks forward to even more improvements on the grounds come next year, and Kyrgios announced in his victory speech that he would play Washington, D.C. for the rest of his career. The Citi Open was as captivating as any tournament on tour this year, and tennis fans are excited to see if Kyrgios can defend his title in 2020.
Robbie Werdiger is a freshman at Georgetown University. A former standout at Horace Mann High School, Werdiger has competed on the national junior stage and has achieved USTA rankings of top 25 in the eastern section in numerous age groups. Additionally, Robbie has represented team USA at the world Maccabiah Games in Israel in 2017, the third largest international sporting event in the world.