When the gates open on Monday at the 2017 Citi Open, fans will be treated to one of the best player fields the event has seen in its 49-year history. Forget looking ahead to potential quarterfinal pairings – there are plenty of noteworthy first-round matches to keep an eye on.
On the men’s side, some of the ATP’s Next Gen will be going head-to-head with 20-year-old American Tommy Paul taking on 18-year-old Norwegian Casper Ruud. Paul is coming off a quarterfinal run in Atlanta, where he tallied his first two ATP World Tour victories since winning a round in Houston last year. Meanwhile, Ruud is sitting just three spots off his career-high rank of No. 108.
Daniil Medvedev and Reilly Opelka headline another intriguing Next Gen contest. Medvedev, 21, recently broke into the top 50 after a season that saw the Russian reach his first ATP World Tour final in Chennai and the semifinals at Eastbourne in addition to upsetting Stan Wawrinka in the first round at Wimbledon. The 6-foot-11 Opelka has risen steadily over the past year, reaching a career-high rank of No. 125 after being ranked No. 832 in the world this time last year.
In an all-American matchup, Donald Young and Tim Smyczek will face off for the 18th time. You read that right. Young leads their head-to-head 10-7, but it will no doubt be a battle worth watching when they take the courts at Rock Creek Park. The winner will be rewarded with No. 2 seed Kei Nishikori as a second-round opponent.
For those who do want a peek at what the future may hold, the third round will have several high-powered matchups if the seeds hold:
(2) Kei Nishikori vs. (13) Juan Martin del Potro
(4) Grigor Dimitrov vs. (14) Steve Johnson
(5) Alexander Zverev vs. (10) Nick Kyrgios
(8) Jack Sock vs. (9) John Isner
On the women’s side, all eyes will be on the blockbuster first-round matchup between world No. 2 Simona Halep and 2015 Citi Open champion Sloane Stephens. Both wild cards into this year’s event, Halep is No. 1 in the WTA Race to Singapore while Stephens is playing just her second tournament back after sitting out nearly a year due to a foot injury. Halep leads their head-to-head series 3-2, though both of Stephens’ wins came in 2013 when she reached her career-high rank of No. 11 in the world.
Sabine Lisicki will also be a name to watch. The former Wimbledon finalist is just finding her rhythm after a shoulder injury led to a prolonged layoff from the tour. Known for her big serve and groundstrokes, she faces a qualifier in the first round.
Elsewhere, former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, 32, will face rising French star Oceane Dodin in a match pairing experience with firepower. Finally, Ekaterina Makarova, a 2015 semifinalist at the Citi Open, is fresh off her Women’s Doubles title at Wimbledon so she will surely look to build on that momentum and make another deep run in the tournament.
Looking ahead, a few possible quarterfinal matchups stand out:
(1) Simona Halep vs. (7) Ekaterina Makarova
(2) Kristina Mladenovic vs. (8) Christina McHale