At Citi Open, men’s seeds tumble as rain wreaks havoc on schedule


Washington never puts its best foot forward in August, yet that’s the perennial spot on the ATP calendar for the Citi Open. And that all but ensures players must battle not only the opponent across the net but also stifling heat, sweltering humidity, and the stoppages of late-summer thunderstorms.

A second consecutive afternoon of rain Friday compressed the tournament’s already backlogged schedule further and inconvenienced ticket holders, closing the grassy expanse just north of Rock Creek Park Tennis Center that doubles as a parking lot because it was too waterlogged for cars.

Until thunderclaps and lighting halted play at 4:32 p.m., just over four hours of matches were contested. In that time, both the men’s and women’s quarterfinal fields were determined as more seeded players tumbled, including American Reilly Opelka and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, and a few upstarts surprised.

The unwelcome stop in play, which lasted nearly three hours, put the proceedings further behind and led tournament officials to explore options for crowning a men’s and women’s victor on Sunday as scheduled.

At Citi Open, it’s grind and survive in the heat of a D.C. summer

That may mean staging both the quarterfinals and semifinals on Saturday and, if need be, starting Saturday’s matches earlier than noon, as announced.

Had Friday’s weather cooperated, a half-dozen players would have been required to compete twice anyway — first to complete rain-halted third-round matches from Thursday and again to contest quarterfinal matches.

Nick Kyrgios, the tournament’s 2019 champion, was scheduled to play three times Friday. First, he had to finish his third-round match against the fourth-seeded Opelka. Assuming he won that match, as he did, Kyrgios was scheduled to contest his quarterfinal against Hyattsville native Frances Tiafoe, who also mopped up a rain-halted match from Wednesday, ousting eighth-seeded Botic van de Zandschulp. Finally, Kyrgios was scheduled to return for a Friday nightcap with doubles partner Jack Sock against the French tandem of Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

For some players, Washington’s heat and hassles proved too much.

In a late-night Twitter post, American Taylor Fritz explained why he retired from his third-round match in the thick of Wednesday’s heat while trailing Britain’s Dan Evans 1-4 in the third set, referencing a previously undisclosed foot injury that he said had limited his training since Wimbledon

“Typically, I pride myself on my fitness and ability to compete in very hot/humid, brutal conditions like today,” Fritz wrote. “… Today I constantly felt like I was going to pass out, my vision was going fuzzy, and the only thing that can really prepare me for playing in these conditions … is playing in these conditions, something I just haven’t been able to do while nursing my foot.”

Other players say that the trials of Washington’s Citi Open are making them stronger — even in defeat. That was the view of Opelka, 24, after his loss to Kyrgios.

The 6-11 Opelka, who boasts the biggest serve in men’s tennis, faced the unenviable task Friday of clawing back from a 6-7 (7-1), 1-2 deficit against Kyrgios, whose own serve is a blast to be feared.

After a night to sleep on their unfinished business, Opelka and Kyrgios strode onto Stadium Court around 2:30 p.m. The first point didn’t go Opelka’s way, and suddenly he was down Love-40 on his serve. Kyrgios broke and didn’t look back, needing just 14 minutes to close the choppy proceedings 7-6 (1), 6-2, finishing with 12 aces to Opelka’s 13.

Nonetheless, Opelka called his two matches at this year’s Citi Open a valuable experience.

“I hadn’t played many [hard court] matches,” Opelka said, “so it is a starting point of the hard court season for me. It’s a critical step. The humidity, the climate, the heat — it’s all great prep for the U.S. Open because that’s what happens in New York.”

Reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, 19, is still alive in her Citi Open debut and was scheduled to face Liudmila Samsonova on Friday night in the quarterfinals. Raducanu said she marches on with greater belief in her toughness and resolve after weathering a near three-hour match against Camila Osorio on Thursday.

Calling her effort “pretty monumental” in fighting back for the 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4) victory over Osorio, Raducanu said: “It just gives you a lot of confidence coming through a match like that. Physically, I’m pretty pleased with how I held up in that match.”

Of the top 10 men’s seeds, only two made it to the quarterfinals: top seed Andrey Rublev, who ousted American Maxime Cressy, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8); and the 10th-seeded Tiafoe.

Among the seeds who joined Opelka in defeat Friday were Dimitrov, who was beaten by American Sebastian Korda, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2; eighth-seeded Van de Zandschulp, who fell to Tiafoe, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; and ninth-seeded Holger Rune of Demark, ushered out by wild card J.J. Wolf, a former Big Ten Player of the Year who compiled a 35-2 record as a junior at Ohio State, in the day’s biggest upset. Wolf advanced, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

Tiafoe and Van de Zandschulp twice attempted to finish their third-round match Thursday before rain suspended play for the night at one set each.

“Yesterday was tougher than today,” Van de Zandschulp said after his loss Friday. “You go on and off court; you’re not sure after the second [delay] if you’re going to finish the match. You have to take care of what you’re eating between delays to keep enough energy and be ready to go on court at any minute. It’s pretty tough, matches like this.”

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