By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
The 2019 Citi Open concluded in a cloud of confetti Sunday, which was a fitting end for the first edition of the Washington summer tennis classic under the management of MDE Chairman Mark Ein.
The combined ATP/WTA event shattered every box office and attendance record in the tournament's 51-year history. Seven of the 11 sessions sold out, including one of the qualifying rounds.
The triumph of Australian tennis rebel Nick Kyrgios also may have served as a harbinger for the tournament's future.
The new Citi Open champ glided through the week under perfect weather conditions, dazzling the sold-out crowds that crammed into Rock Creek Park to get a glimpse of the Aussie sensation's extraordinary game.
After saving a match point in Saturday night’s epic semifinal win over No.1 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kyrgios beat No.3 seed Daniil Medvedev 7-6(6), 7-6(4) in Sunday’s final.
“This has been one of the best weeks of my life, not just on the court but in general,” said Kyrgios, who earned his second title of the year and the sixth of his career.
“I feel like I’ve made major strides.”
Kyrgios became the first unseeded player to win Washington’s ATP draw since Radek Stepanek in 2011. Including his maiden doubles appearance with Tsitsipas last Monday, Kyrgios had a match on seven consecutive days.
The volume of match play appeared to take a toll on Kyrgios in the opening set of the final as he battled through back spasms. The Aussie’s incredible serving helped him get through it.
Neither Kyrgios or Medvedev were broken Sunday, but Kyrgios continued his run of perfection in the tiebreakers. In the first set tiebreak, Kyrgios rallied from a 4-1 deficit and saved a set point against at 5-6 with one of his seven aces in the opening set.
After a visit from the doctor between the first and second sets, Kyrgios looked more like himself in the second.
“I dug deep,” he said. “That match was super close and getting through that first set was massive.”
The second set was another back-and-forth affair as neither player offered up as much as a break point to his opponent. Again, Kyrgios would earn a mini-break in the tiebreak before closing it out with his 18th and final ace of the day.
“I went into [the final] and I just wanted to go out there and serve my way and see how match filled out,” he said. “I got it done in two tiebreaks. But as I said, it could have been him sitting here. It was a couple of points here and there. He probably should have won the first set and then it would have been a different story.”
Overall for the tournament, Kyrgios fired 110 aces in six matches. He also won all six of his tiebreakers.
“Clutch,” he simply said after the win.
With the win, Kyrgios will see a rapid rise in the ATP World Tour rankings as he’ll move from No.52 to No.27. That also puts him in position to be seeded at the U.S. Open.
“This is only the beginning,” he said.
KLAASEN/VENUS COME OUT ON TOP IN LOADED MEN’S DOUBLES DRAW:
Among the highlights at the reimagined Citi Open was the loaded men's doubles draw. In addition to the Kyrgios/Tsitsipas pairing, the doubles field’s unseeded teams included Andy and Jamie Murray as well as Bob and Mike Bryan.
When the dust settled, doubles specialists Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus were ultimately the last tandem standing. The No.2 seeds rallied to beat 2014 Citi Open champions Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau 3-6, 6-3, 10-2 in Sunday's final.
With the win, Klaasen and Venus secured their third title of the year. The doubles crown was special for Klaasen and Venus given the strength of this year's field.
"When the draw first came out," Klassen said, "everyone was looking at it like, 'Man, there's no easy way out through this thing.' You had to be ready from Day One. And for us, every day felt like a final, pretty much.
"If you had asked me what are the chance of us sitting here today at the beginning of the week, it would have been a stretch to imagine given the field. But we played well enough to give ourselves a chance and we capitalized on those."