By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
A loaded Men’s Doubles field has been among the attractions at this year’s Citi Open, and Wednesday was no exception.
On a milestone day for Jamie Murray and a meaningful one for brother Andy, the Brits beat Frenchmen Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-4, 6-7, 10-5 in a late-afternoon match on Stadium Court. Down 5-2 in the super tiebreak, the Murray brothers won the final eight points of the match.
The win was the 400th in Jamie’s doubles career. It was also significant for Andy, who is back in D.C. a year after he broke down in tears on Stadium Court due to the mental and physical toll his aching hip caused last summer.
Healthy again after a second hip surgery, Andy Murray looked comfortable on court.
“I had a lot of emotions, really,” he said after the win. “I feel so much better. I have no pain. It’s not restricting me in any of the shots that I’m hitting… I didn’t know how much more I was going to be playing after here last year. Yeah, to come back and be competing and be pain-free is brilliant.”
While Andy is progressing towards a return to singles – a best-case scenario, he said, would be mid-August – the Citi Open has provided him a rare opportunity to partner with his brother in the doubles draw. This marks the first time the Murrays played together since September 2016.
“To get the opportunity to come out and play tennis again together was really special,” Jamie said. “Really excited to get another match. Hopefully get out and get to play on center court again. It’s a great showcase for doubles.”
That’s what the Reimagined Citi Open had in mind when it assembled a tremendously talented and deep doubles field: A great showcase for doubles.
From the Murray brothers, to the Bryan brothers, to Wimbledon champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah to the first-time tandem of Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kyrgios, this year’s men’s doubles field has been chockfull of crowd-pleasing duos.
“It’s good promotion for the tournament to have players like us playing doubles,” Tsitsipas said early this week. “People love it, seeing something they’re not used to and I think we can provide a lot of things for the event and also have a bit more interest going on around the tournament.”
Added Andy Murray: “The draw here is brilliant. People just enjoy seeing people that are usually on the opposite side of the net competing together as well. That’s fun... We don’t see it often in what we do. People like it, they seem to enjoy it.”
With their win Wednesday, the Murray brothers advanced to the quarterfinals where they will next face the third-seeded tandem of Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus. That quarterfinal will be played Friday.
Bob and Mike Bryan, competing in Washington for the 15th time as a team, also advanced to the quarterfinals as they held on to beat local wild cards Treat Huey and Denis Kudla 6-4, 2-6, 10-5.
An intriguing storyline is also developing in the women’s doubles field where teenage wild cards Coco Gauff and Catherine McNally advanced to the semifinals with a straight-sets win Wednesday night.
“We have a pretty good track record,” Gauff said of the partnership that produced a U.S. Open Girls’ Doubles title last fall. “I love playing with Caty. She’s so much fun on and off the court. I think our games match pretty well.”
While Gauff and McNally advanced in doubles, fellow teen and D.C. native Hailey Baptiste saw her run in the singles draw come to an end despite a tremendous late-night effort on Stadium Court.
In a match that took north of two hours to complete, Kristina Mladenovic outlasted Baptiste 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
“It was really special,” the 17-year-old said of playing at a tournament she grew up attending. “It felt really good playing on that court. I’ve watched so many matches there, so many people I looked up to have played on that court. It was really cool to be able to play on the same court.”
Baptiste, who is a product of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, will next play at the National Hardcourts in San Diego and vie for a wild card berth at the U.S. Open.
Mladenovic advanced to the quarterfinals of the singles where she will next face Anna Kalinskaya. The Russian qualifier rallied to beat No.8 seed Monica Puig 2-6, 7-6, 6-4.
Americans Lauren Davis and Jessica Pegula also advanced to the women’s quarterfinals. Davis beat No.3 seed Sofia Kenin in three sets.
“I love playing here every year,” said Davis, a 2016 Citi Open finalist, who is competing here for the seventh time. “It feels somewhat like home, for sure, after being in Europe for two months. So, I definitely love being here. The crowd’s amazing. The stadiums are really nice to play on.”