The North American Hard Court swing is underway, and this week we’re in Washington D.C. for the 50th edition of the Citi Open. We round up some of the stories to look out for…
Rock Creek’s mouth-watering draw promises a week filled of high-drama, and with Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray, Kei Nishikori and Nick Kyrgios among those headlining a star-studded field.
21-year old Alexander Zverev lifted the Citi Open trophy last August, dropping just one set in the process. The victory acted as a springboard for the young German, who would capture the second ATP Masters 1000 title of his career in Montreal, catapulting him to number 3 in the Race to London.
This year he’s arguably the man to beat in Washington, and with two titles already under his belt in 2018 comes into the tournament full of confidence.
Andy Murray – on the comeback trail following hip surgery earlier this year- arrives in the American capital hoping for a strong showing ahead of wild cards at both Toronto and Cincinnati over the next fortnight. This is Murray’s first hard-court event since last year’s BNP Paribas Open so it will be fascinating to see how his week unfolds. Stan Wawrinka is another multiple Grand Slam winner looking to put fitness issues behind him and will look to use Washington as a springboard for a strong second half of the season.
World No.22 Hyeong Chung may also prove a force to be reckoned with this week in Washington. The South Korean has been sidelined with an ankle injury since May but returns to his favourite surface , with an Australian Open semi-final and successive quarter-final appearances in Indian Wells and Miami under his belt.
Stefanos Tsitsipas also continues to impress. The 19-year-old has soared from 210 to 32 in the ATP rankings in just eighteen months, further bolstering his CV at SW19 with a run to the second week. He’s a natural performer with an exciting brand of tennis and could really excel under the bright lights Stateside.
Russian compatriots Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov may also be worth keeping an eye on this week. Rublev enjoyed a promising start to the season before injury called time on his clay-court swing in April, backing up his run to the quarter-finals of the US Open with a second ATP final in Doha and a third round appearance in Australia. The Next Gen ATP contender, though slight, is a fearless baseliner who packs a powerful punch.
Khachanov, meanwhile, captured his second ATP World Tour title earlier this year in Marseille, and has achieved notable scalps over the likes of David Goffin, Kei Nishikori and Lucas Pouille so far in 2018. Having reached the last 16 at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year, the big-hitting 22-year old will come into the Citi Open optimistic of further success.
…and who can forget Denis Shapovalov, who this time 12 months ago recorded one of the biggest upsets of the year by ousting World No.1 Rafael Nadal from the tournament?
A semi-finalist in Madrid and Delray Beach this year, can the young Canadian make an impact at the 2018 Citi Open?
John Isner is currently sitting at a career-high ranking of eight having reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon earlier in the month and won his first ATP Masters 1000 title earlier in the year in Miami. He also comes into Washington off the back of a fifth BB&T Open title in Atlanta. With a whopping nine of his 14 career singles titles coming in these few weeks between July and August, history would point towards another strong week for the American.
2015 champion Kei Nishikori also joins the field. Fresh off the back of a run to the last eight at Wimbledon, the former US Open finalist finally looks to be rediscovering some match fitness and will be a test of anybody’s mettle.
Times are changing
As Washington celebrates 50 years of men’s tennis, the Citi Open writes another chapter of its history. The tournament will be the first event to use new shot clock innovations instituted by the USTA, ATP and WTA for almost all major events in the North America summer swing, including the US Open.
The changes will bring into force a warm-up clock, whereby players must be at the net within a minute of the second player or pair’s entry onto court and must be ready to play within a minute of the end of the five minute warm-up. There will also be a serve clock enforcing the 25 second break between points; a time violation will be issued if the server has not started their service motion at the end of the countdown. A clock will be visible on court for umpire, players and fans.
Apart from last year’s Next Gen Finals and US Open qualifying, the Citi Open will be the first major tournament to implement these long-debated reforms to increase the pace of play. It will certainly be intriguing to see what kind of effect it has on players’ routines…
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