Tiafoe, Kyrgios avoid 'a graveyard for seeds'
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.
Primetime at Citi Open
DMV native Frances Tiafoe outlasted fellow American Christopher Eubanks in a second-set tiebreak to advance to the Round of 16 under the lights at the Citi Open. “I’ve been coming to this tournament since I was four years old,” he said in his press conference.
Nick Kyrgios followed that with a straight-sets win over Tommy Paul, but then was kept up past his bedtime with a drug test and missed dinner. That’s making small headlines today.
'A Graveyard for Seeds'
It seems to happen early each year here. Much like the Citi Open radio pundits described last year, the big names are going down in a hurry again. Alex de Minaur held match point in the second set tiebreak on Grandstand, but Nishioka roared back and will play Karen Khachanov on Thursday. Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland toppled No. 2 seed Herbert Hurkacz.
Top women’s seeds Jessica Pegula and Simona Halep went out with a whimper. Halep described her reason for retirement as illness. I watched her closely in practice around noon and then during the match and will not question it. But dropping 40-0 leads twice in the first set when her game was clearly superior to the Russian’s signals nerves and not handling frustration to me as the reason she lost.
What a win for Australian Daria Saville. It’s not easy maintaining focus dropping match point against a host-nation player whose name is on the stadium wall as a past champion. And a nice moment between her and Aussie Renee Stubbs, who got to interview her on court post-match.
It wasn’t all a bad day for de Minaur. Top doubles seed Ram and Zeballos hit the graveyard as well thanks to Tiafoe and de Minaur, a new pairing that eeked out the first set 6-4, before the seedings started making sense. But with the (sacrilegious) 10-point tiebreak to decide it, Tiafoe and de Minaur cruised, 10-2, with a raucous DMV crowd behind them.
DC native Tiafoe v Van de Zandschulp on John Harris. The local crowd will be wild.
Kyrgios v Opelka, on Stadium, 4 pm. This one looks juicy. And we’ll see if 4 pm is enough time for Kyrgios to rest.
Raducanu v Osorio, on Stadium, 2 pm. Emma is one of the most interesting personalities on tour and playing her best. This is the ladies’ match I’m most looking forward to today.
Dimitrov v Korda, Grandstand, 4 pm. Wednesday you could have seen this Slam finalist on Court 4! So close.
Around the Grounds
A funny moment on Practice Court 6: Czech player Lucie Hradecká slammed one of her coaches with an errant forehand, to everyone’s amusement.
I’m surprised at the number of players who love the ping pong tables to relax and kill some time in the shade. These are outdoor under a tent but are no outdoor-quality tables. They are top-drawer Prince indoor tables. They play with each other; they play with their entourage of young hitting partners and staff. Switching from ping pong to tennis one after another always troubled me, but these are pros.
Small versions of tennis for 400, Alex. Net Generation has set up a mini court that’s half the size of a pickle ball court. Ball kids and other youngsters take to it often in the morning and evening, outside the heat of the day. The tactics are intriguing—you cannot hit the spongy ball past anyone. It makes for fascinating viewing, surprisingly.
Small tennis is right next to Pepe, the famed food truck with its outstanding Futbol Club sandwich.
The Biergarten is back! But it’s sponsored solely by Corona, so no German brews. Typically Heineken takes the tennis sponsorships; this is a major departure from last year and from New York. If you want anything else, head to Market Square where there’s a good Dogfish.
Russian players here are competing without any reference to their country. RUS is omitted next to names on scoreboards and rankings lists, and among my chorus line of flags fluttering above the stadium, there is no Russian flag.
There is also no Italian or Irish flag. The Spanish flag they commandeered for Nadal last year remains. But there is Monaco... or Indonesia, depending how you look at it.
Stay tuned for the Battle of the Ice Creams II.
Summer Reading List
Rest in peace, the greatest live storyteller ever to grace sport. Here is Sports Illustrated’s cover story profile on Vin Scully when he retired six years ago. How many commentators have appeared on a cover? At Sports Illustrated.
Kyrgios doesn’t care so much about seeding, but he’s hangry. At Tennis Up to Date.
Credit Ons Jabeur for wanting to practice her ability to sort through tough situations alone, as tennis players have done for a century. This self-reliance is invaluable for players and one of the great beauties of the game, in my opinion. At Tennis Up to Date.