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  • Writer's pictureMichael Augsberger

Semis are set at Citi Open

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.

Quick takeaways

  • The semis are set: The young Brooksby and Sinner. Former champ Nishikori, fresh from the Olympics, and McDonald.

  • Tennis is such a tenuous game. The feelings can’t always be trusted. Especially in these three-setters. Today the Brooksby-Millman match felt over. Then the American wasted a 40-0 lead and Millman had break point to get back on serve in the second set. It could have totally changed the complexion of the match. But it didn’t.

  • It can make a champion of any personality. Millman revels in the fans without losing focus. Sock played with fire and almost matched Nadal’s electricity conflagration. Nishikori and Brooksby go about their business quietly, while Harris waited until he could really let loose to show emotion last night.

  • Denis Kudla, local boy who used to Metro around town for training, bows out to Mackenzie McDonald in straights.

Can’t miss when you come An art exhibit from Bruce Sulzberg, once featured in Tennis Magazine, in the southwestern corner outside the stadium. He pioneered three-layer design with his “perfect” wine glass pour and attracted the attention of Rafael Nadal, who stars in his new work. Own the original… for just $70k. The Battle of the Ice Creams—as a general rule, always go Italian. The Dolcezzo gelato in Market Square wins, but is it worth double the price? The outdoor vendors Jubilee go for $5, sacrificing some sexiness for value. It’s good, just not gelato good. They tried to tell me they wouldn’t take media vouchers. “You do now,” I said. Kidding. What we’re reading

  • The hysteria was real before Nadal ever played a point in anger in DC. He does play practice points in anger, too, though. Savor the description and Ken Solomon’s admiration for the Rafa work ethic.

Around the grounds

  • Kastles owner and Citi Open chairman Mark Ein gives a walking tour of the players’ tent and grounds to a couple. No one recognizes him until he finishes at the VIP entrance. He points out the facade of the stadium, on which, I’m noticing for the first time, hangs a gallery of pictures. Wise design, such high-quality photography and emphasis on the history of this tournament, and hiding an old structure beneath. The wife compliments it. “It’s a bit bunchy in the corners,” he says. A chairman always looking to improve.

  • I stole a senator’s seat today for this Millman-Brooksby match. Two rows from the court in the blazing heat, and few were around me. Could hear Millman muttering to himself: “Playing the same speed,” he said, early in the second set.

  • The interspersed crowd was by no means hostile to Millman; he simply garnered nowhere near the support he did on the outer courts this week. Everyone wanted the young American. Just in front of me two young men cheered for him. Millman locked eyes with them, repeated their c’mons with a few fun words sprinkled in. He flashed them a smile after failing to convert a break point, smashing an overhead that Brooksby luckily blocked back for a winner. I went down to ask why they rooted for him. The reply was sharp: “I bet on him." The punters turned quickly on Millman as he exited stage left.

  • Want to be a scheduler for the ATP? The weather cooperates and it seems we have a ton to pack in. How will we get three matches in from 2 pm to 7 pm? Then the day session features relative routs—a 25-minute first set of the day—and Vika Azarenka rolls her ankle, pulling out of the third match.

  • That means Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff will play for the ladies’ championship tomorrow evening. But wait. Would a Pegula win give her two wins and the title? Would each have one win, and so the number of sets won would decide it? Maybe easier to give the title to the winner no matter what, but then doesn’t that render Gauff’s first win meaningless?

  • Man, these backstops must be the loudest I’ve ever heard. There’s a shattering every time a forehand hits the ads, a thunderclap for every serve.

  • Watching the hordes leave after the first night match, spurning Mcdonald and Kudla, the thought occurred to me that what it takes to get somewhere and when you expect to return determines when you leave. These were the locals who could come back tomorrow.

  • There goes Nishikori again, warming up outside our media tent. Smart lad—white for the day sessions, throws in some color (all grey) for the night. Will he do some promos at the North Bethesda Uni Qlo, next to which I’m staying? The ladies at the all-you-can-east sushi place a few strip malls away, Hinode, loved him. All they talked about was tennis today.

Notes on Nishikori v Harris night session

It’s windier than it’s been all week here—has it affected the bigger hitting Harris’s accuracy? It’s blown over the Washington Post’s Liz Clarke’s papers, Altoids, and gum, all onto fans below he press section. She offers them some, saying, “I can’t write without my mints and stuff.” There’s the secret formula, folks.

It might be sold out. It’s just not a Nadal-inspiring, punctual crowd this time. By the time it starts to fill, the Japanese has broken twice.

Tough to say Nishikori is a different class than Rafa Nadal. He must just seem healthier and more confident right now to Lloyd Harris. The South African who set up his forehand so brilliantly last night has no answers until a glimmer of hope, saving two break points, finding the serve that earned him 16 aces in the biggest win of his career.

What a man-to-man war the deuce point at 5-6 was. Nishikori just would not relent on Harris’ backhand side. And he earned a match point with it, which he converted by finally going the opposite direction.

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