Storms wreak havoc on Citi Open schedule

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Washington is never at its best in August, but that’s the perennial favorite on the ATP calendar for the Citi Open. And that ensures that players not only have to battle the opposition over the net, but also sweltering heat, sweltering humidity and the disruptions of late summer thunderstorms.

A second straight afternoon of rain on Friday further compressed the tournament’s already saturated schedule and harassed ticket holders by closing the grassy area north of Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, which doubles as a parking lot, because it was too wet for cars.

A little over four hours of matches were played before thunder and lightning stopped the game at 4:32 p.m. During this period, both the men’s and women’s quarterfinal spots were determined as more seeded players, including American Reilly Opelka and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, surprised some newcomers.

Still, the unwelcome stoppage in play, which lasted nearly three hours, further delayed proceedings and prompted tournament officials to explore options for crowning a winner for both men and women on Sunday as planned.

The Citi Open is about grinding and surviving in the heat of a DC summer

This may mean that both the quarter-finals and the semi-finals will be played on Saturday and the games on Saturday may start before midday as announced.

Had the weather cooperated on Friday, half a dozen players would have had to play twice anyway – first to play the rain-stopped third-round games starting Thursday, and again to play the quarter-finals.

Nick Kyrgios, the 2019 tournament winner, was due to play three times on Friday. First, Kyrgios had to end his third round match against Opelka, who was fourth. Assuming he won this match like he did, Kyrgios was set to play his quarterfinals against Hyattsville’s Frances Tiafoe, who also wiped out Wednesday’s rain-stopped match and edged out eighth-seeded Botic van de Zandschulp. Finally, Kyrgios was expected to return with his doubles partner Jack Sock for a nightcap against the French tandem of Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin on Friday.

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

On a late night Twitter postAmerican Taylor Fritz explained why he pulled out of his third-round match in Wednesday’s heat while trailing 4-1 behind Britain’s Dan Evans in the decider, citing a previously undisclosed foot injury that had restricted his training since Wimbledon

“I usually take pride in my fitness and my ability to compete in very hot/humid, brutal conditions like today,” wrote Fritz. “…Today I constantly felt like I was going to pass out, my vision was blurring, and the only thing that can really prepare me to play in these conditions…is to play in these conditions, which I just couldn’t do do while caring for my foot.”

Other players say the trials of the Citi Open in Washington make them stronger – even if they lose. 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 of hitting back a 6-7 (7-1), 1-2 deficit against Kyrgios, whose own serve is a blast, on Friday to be afraid of.

After a night of sleeping over their unfinished business, Opelka and Kyrgios entered the stadium court around 2:30 p.m. The first point didn’t go in Opelka’s direction and suddenly he was down on his love-40 serve. Kyrgios broke off and didn’t look back. It took him just 14 minutes to wrap up the choppy proceedings 7-6(1), 6-2, finishing with 12 aces to Opelka’s 13.

Nevertheless, Opelka described his two games at this year’s Citi Open as valuable experience.

“I hadn’t played many [hard court] Matches,” said Opelka, “that’s why it’s the start of the hard court season for me. It’s a crucial step. The humidity, the climate, the heat – it’s all great preparation for the US Open because that’s what’s happening in New York.”

Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu, 19, is still alive on her Citi Open debut and was due to face Liudmila Samsonova in Friday night’s quarterfinals. Raducanu said she marches on with greater belief in her tenacity and determination after enduring a nearly three-hour match against Camila Osorio on Thursday.

Raducanu called her performance in the fight for the 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4) win over Osorio “quite monumental” and said: “It just gives you a lot of confidence when you go through a match like that Come on. Physically, I’m pretty happy with how I held up in this match.”

Of the 10 best seeded men, only two made it into the quarter-finals: top seed Andrey Rublev, who edged out American Maxime Cressy 6-4, 7-6 (10-8); and the 10th seed Tiafoe.

Among the seedlings who joined Opelka in Friday’s defeat were Dimitrov, who was beaten 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 by American Sebastian Korda; the eighth seed Van de Zandschulp, who fell against Tiafoe 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; and ninth-seeded Holger Rune of Denmark, who was joined by wild card JJ Wolf, a former Big Ten player of the year who posted a 35-2 record as a junior at Ohio State, in the day’s biggest upset from the tournament was thrown. Wolf advanced, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

Tiafoe and Van de Zandschulp twice attempted to end their game in the third round on Thursday before rain halted play for the night with a set each.

“Yesterday was tougher than today,” said Van de Zandschulp after his defeat on Friday. “They walk on and off the pitch; Not sure after the second [delay] when you want to end the game. You need to watch what you eat between lags to have enough energy and be ready to hit the court at any time. It’s pretty tough, matches like this.”

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