Citi Open's first Italian champion
Tennis Central senior writer Michael Augsberger delivers his notes from our home tournament in DC: What you don't see unless you're there. Read it all at our magazine, The Tennis Curator.
Takeaways from a classic final and tournament
Sinner def. McDonald 7-5, 4-6, 7-5
A three-hour “roller-coaster”, according to the champion, fitting to cap Rafa Nadal’s first visit to DC and Jannik Sinner’s third ATP title. Sinner is the third-youngest ever to win the Citi Open and the youngest ever to win an ATP 500 event since the category was created in 2009. He hadn’t lost a set the entire tournament until the second set last night.
Some electric tennis to get back on serve at 4-5 from McDonald. Serving to stay in the set, he faced six break points and saved them all. Next service game went down 0-40, saved four more. But not the eleventh. Similarly, Sinner stumbled in the third with chances to win the match at 5-2 and later. Had the American won the title, the story would have been the incredible number of missed opportunities for Sinner.
The Italian deflected a lot of praise for his youthful accomplishments. “When you see somebody is the youngest or whatever,” he said, “I don't put much weight on that. You know, there are a lot of players who have done much, much better than me. It's not about who is the youngest or whatever.”
Perhaps a loss at the last stage, but chalk this up as a win for American tennis. We’re finally seeing healthy next-next-generation guys show us their mettle. Two Amis in the semis and four in the quarters matches the best the Citi Open has seen since the early 90s.
On that subject, McDonald really defied belief here—he’d have been the first American champion since Andy Roddick in 2007 at a tournament once known for its American stars, and he’d have been the fifth-lowest ranked ATP 500 champion ever. Astonishing he came so close, and he certainly won’t be ranked so low for the foreseeable future. The big thing now is, will he have to suffer through US Open qualifying, or receive a wild card?
Today opened at 70 degrees and felt cool. At match time it was 90 degrees and felt every bit of it until the shadows crept over the court. So it was a punishing three hours for these guys, both of whom head to Toronto for the Masters event with little rest: McDonald to meet Benoit Paire, whom he defeated here, on Tuesday. Sinner has a bye until Wednesday.
This game really defies attempts at narrative. In the first, McDonald stormed back after being broken, hitting a gorgeous shot down the line to convert a fourth break point. He’s here to play, we think as they walk to the sideline for commercials. Sinner then breaks in four points to stunt all the momentum.
Around the grounds
Some great debates on the radio broadcast today. Placate TV by shortening some grand slam matches? Only play best-of-5 if one of the first two sets goes to 7-5 or 7-6 is the suggestion. Commentary partner is nonplussed. But they agree the majors should get together and agree on one tiebreak format for ending the fifth set. You ask my opinion? Best-of-5 doesn’t need any updating, and the majors already have different surfaces—different tiebreaks adds to their distinct personalities. But I disown the 10-pointer just in general.
Love the Spot Shot so quickly after each point on the stadium Megatron. Just don’t tell me the groan of the crowd seeing McDonald’s first-serve miss by a millimeter didn’t interrupt his concentration and lead somewhat to his finally dropping set point in the first set.
Is that an Italian flag whose color’s faded, or an Irish one? We may never know.
McDonald is a righty who keeps the extra ball when he serves in his right pocket. Odd, no?
Overall, I can't wait to get back next year, which somewhat surprised me given the obvious preference for New York. The fan experience here basically is a little US Open in its food offerings, cocktail lounges, marketing perks. You can tell that's where they drew the inspiration from. The food, drawn as it is from hot DC stops, aside from the restaurants in Ashe stadium, actually outshines most in the US Open food court. The place just can't be on the same scale, clearly. As long as you arrive early, it's much more car-friendly than Queens. And with Nadal here, it's just as electric.