THURSDAY PREVIEW: MEN DOWN TO SWEET 16

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By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)

Another star-studded lineup awaits tennis fans Thursday at the Reimagined Citi Open as top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, DMV native Frances Tiafoe, rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime and fan favorites Nick Kyrgios and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will all be in action.

On the women’s side, an All-American matchup leads off on Stadium Court as teenage wild card Catherine McNally and Christina McHale meet at 2 p.m.

That match will be followed by a marquee showdown between rising Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and Tour veteran Marin Cilic. Auger-Aliassime, 18, won his opening match Wednesday as he held off the hard-serving Reilly Opelka in three sets in his D.C. debut.

Auger-Aliassime is among the headliners for an incredibly talented crop of Next-Gen ATP stars who remain in the hunt in D.C.

One year after the Citi Open became the first ATP event since 1995 to feature four semifinalists all aged 21-and-under, the game’s brightest phenoms are again making a push in Rock Creek Park.

TsitsipasFor the second straight night, the top-seeded Tsitsipas, 20, will be featured in primetime on Stadium Court as he takes on Australian Jordan Thompson at 7 p.m. Tsitsipas beat American wild card Tommy Paul in straight sets Wednesday night.

The always-entertaining Nick Kyrgios also returns to Stadium Court as he takes on Yoshihito Nishioka in a D.C. battle between a pair of Washington Kastles stars.

Kyrgios has been dialed in this week, winning each of his first two matches without dropping a set. Naturally, he’s brought Citi Open fans to their feet with dazzling shot making throughout the week. Nishioka, outlasted No.7 David Goffin Wednesday night, winning in a third-set tiebreak.

Washington area native Frances Tiafoe, meanwhile, continues his quest for an elusive Citi Open crown as he takes on No.3 seed Daniil Medvedev on John Harris Court. Given Tiafoe’s hometown following, a lively atmosphere surely awaits.

Tiafoe is competing in the Round-of-16 for the second straight year and is now looking to advance to his first D.C. quarterfinal.

Medvedev, who reached the Washington quarters in 2017 and is the highest seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw, poses a tremendous challenge. The 6-foot-6 Russian has enjoyed an incredible ascent in the last 12 months, moving from No.68 in the world at this time last year into the Top 10.

Only three players – Djokovic, Federer and Tsitsipas - have won more matches than Medvedev (57-24) in the past 52 weeks. The 23-year-old says he’s now fully immersed in his craft.

“I changed my life and really dedicated myself to this sport and the results have shown,” Medvedev recently told ATPTour.com. “I’ve become much more professional in everything I do.”

While several of the ATP’s rising stars have shown they’re equipped for deep runs in D.C., a number of ATP veterans may have something to say about that. Top American John Isner, 2014 Citi Open champion Milos Raonic and former world No.5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will all be featured Thursday on John Harris Court.

Tsonga, who beat No.2 Karen Khachanov on Tuesday, faces Britain’s Kyle Edmond at 2 p.m. Raonic then meet Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk with a berth in the quarterfinals at stake. Isner, a three-time Citi Open finalist (2007, 2013, 2015), faces Benoit Paire of France.

“I think tennis is a unique spot right now,” Isner said Wednesday afternoon. “You have definitely the older generation, but then you’ve got all these young guys who are very, very good. They’ve emerged in the last two years, trying to dethrone all the older guys ranked ahead of them. It’s very good mix of players right now on the ATP Tour.”

And that blend will be on full display Thursday in Rock Creek Park.

 

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