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  • Writer's pictureMichael Augsberger

Rain sets up monster day: Murray v Fritz, Tiafoe v Shang

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.



Headlines

  • The road to a hometown championship for Frances Tiafoe, as well as another ATP title for Taylor Fritz and Andy Murray, just got a lot harder. They will be forced to win two matches today thanks to rain-outs.

  • Rain suspended play in the afternoon for hours. Then as multiple times the players tried to begin evening matches between 8 and 10:30 pm, DC was covered in a light drizzle that kept the courts just damp enough.

  • The women finished mostly unscathed, with just Sakkari and Fernandez pushed to a late slot, but both Eubanks and Monfils had matches halted to resume late.

  • Top seed Jessica Pegula disptached Stearns just before the general dreariness hit. Her quarterfinal with Svitolina kicks off a monster day session here.

  • Murray and Fritz, a dream showdown, will hit the stadium today just after that finishes. The winner will have to play on the second court in the evening!

  • Grigor Dimitrov moved on playing pleasing tennis.

Stadium: Grigor Dimitrov def. Emil Ruusuvuori, 6-4, 6-2

  • From the opening toss the players were locked in---30 strokes went the first rally. Had they scheduled this match for under the lights, this place would have been raucous. Dimitrov is a big name, and the shotmaking was superb from both. A real treat to watch. As it was, at noon, a sparse but appreciative crowd pulled mostly for Grigor.

  • The two have complementary styles that can be irritating for the competitors but produce scintillating rallies from the baseline and creative introductions of drop shots and net play.

  • An hour into the match, they easily could have extended the first set another half hour. But Ruusuvuori tripped up at 4-5, having gotten back a break, by losing the game point and then the deuce. Just like that the rug was pulled out from the first set.

  • The shot of the day received a protracted ovation from the crowd and even a nice look from Emil. He'd pulled Dimtrov out wide to his backhand when the Bulgarian surprised everyone and roped a running strike from near the corner Serve MPH sign.

  • Neither looked sharp in the fashion sense. Nothing against purple, but a gradient sash and baseball-style shoulders didn't really work for Emil. Grigor wore a Barcelona-inspired teal and black cut down the middle. I count five different main colors in the shirt, too much.

Stadium: Marta Kostyuk def. Caroline Garcia 6-2, 6-3

  • The underdog Kostyuk grabbed an early break from the No. 2 seed and added another to win the first set running away.

  • Two statement shots for Kostyuk both involved her tracking down a fine Garcia volley and, on the run, slicing for a winner. The first was on a tight crosscourt angle as she broke Garcia to get to 2-1 in the second set. The second had less import, down the line a few games later.

  • Fashion watch: Garcia dressed for success in a red-pink full dress supplemented by white shoes that featured a slightly opaque version of the same red-pink. A win for Yonex.

  • Excellent instincts from a ballkid when an errant Kostyuk serve hopped into the the no man's land of the photographer's pit. Unable to leave it but unwilling to take the time to hop back over the sponsor board, he simply sat down in place and caused the match no further delay.

Around the grounds

  • Michael Mmoh's run ended despite rabid support on Harris court. J.J. Wolf was able to eek out two tight sets, including one that went to a 7-5 tiebreak.

  • I spotted Mark Ein, chairman of the tournament, around Market Square again. This is a common sight, as he wanders the grounds, giving tours and slipping through the crowds unnoticed. "The tennis almost takes a backseat to the atmosphere," he told two potential investors, proud of the covered structures like Market Square that he says are not often available at European venues to protect spectators from inclement weather. He wore his Technifibre official gear and, as if fresh from a morning hit, Rafa Nike tennis shoes.

  • Check out the players' practice sessions and learn even more than from their matches. Jamie Murray stepped onto the court this morning. His coach, with a cardboard box of balls, stood at the baseline feeding him crushing groundies while Murray reflex-volleyed them back. Every once in a while, the coach hit an unannounced changeup that Murray had to wait on and drop-volley.

  • One of the big perks of a dual men's and women's event is appealing to the families / couples---Svitolina came to DC for the first time, no doubt in order to take advantage of an additional week together with husband Monfils and new daughter, Skai.

  • Speaking of Monfils, I understand conserving energy, but this is a bit much. It is also a good case in point that a likeable player like him gets the benefit of the doubt, and is forgiven quickly, or it is not even perceived as a problem to begin with. A lack of best efforts penalty on Wednesday against Bublik (video).

What to watch: Friday Preview

  • The quarterfinals are almost set. One that is a proper QF: Coco Gauff v Belinda Bencic starts primetime at 7 pm.

  • Tiafoe or Shang would follow that match on the Stadium Court, but they have to get there first. Their Round of 16 is set for 4 pm.

  • Fritz v Murray begins at 2 pm.

  • Kostyuk has been playing strong, workmanlike tennis. She goes up against defending champion Samsonova at 2:30 pm.

  • All the rain havoc means that Dimitrov's quarterfinal will be on Grandstand! 5 pm, against Humbert, who took down FAA.

  • Get right to the drama. Monfils and Griekspoor finish their third set at 2 pm.

What to do when you’re here

  • The Battle of the Ice Creams. Newcomer Van Leeuwen, who last year supplied only ice cream bars to the tournament, is the real deal now that they drove their truck head on against DC local favorite Dolcezza. Going for hand-dipped, their cookies and cream, and an ingenious amalgamation of brown sugar, cookie dough, and brownie cannot be beaten. They also pride themselves on their vegan options. Here it's cookie dough. But overall, Dolcezza still takes the main prize, a creamy gelato rich in flavor. Judging from how packed their Gallery / CityCenter location downtown was late Wednesday night, the town agrees. Van Leeuwen will cost $8-12, Dolcezza similarly.

  • Mubadala, new tournament headline sponsor, commandeered the fan experience tent with aplomb. They took the approach that would have been disastrous for a big bank but perfect for them, educating fans on what exactly the sovereign investment firm does. Head inside to become a tennis reporter, recording "We're serving up global returns!" for the cameras. Then you step up to see how hard you can hit a serve, play a bit of Wheel of Fortune spelling the investment's name, and grab a few pics.

Summer Reading List

  • Prep for the Open: How well does this Washington Post piece giving advice for visiting Rock Creek Park hold up eight years later? Pretty damn well. Now you can only bring in clear bags, and the WTA have added prize money and bumped up the level of prestige. I might also suggest parking, if you don't mind walking three or four blocks, on or to the east of 13th Street.

  • L. Jon Wertheim is a staple of the reading list. I'd say one of the Classics but he's not quite that old. Apropos with Mardy Fish's bettor kerfuffle and the thoughts it recalled seeing another heckler on Monday, here's his recent sports betting take at Sports Illustrated.

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