Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why you need to visit DC's Citi Open (Sept 26 - Aug 3)

Washington DC's Citi Open - 2014 US Open Series

by: Nik Subramanian (guest blogger and ATP consultant/expert)

It’s hard to believe we are halfway through the summer already and just 6 weeks away from the US Open in NYC. The good news is that the last week of July in Washington, D.C. means great professional tennis action at the Citi Open in Rock Creek Park.

The players’ list is packed with young and upcoming talent like Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Vasek Pospisil, Genie Bouchard, and others. So let’s dive right into the players you'll want to watch this year.

The Citi Open promises a lot of great matches with the top ATP players competing for the prize. If you haven't done so, grab your tickets, we'll see you there.

TIP: Use Promo Code: TENNISBARGAIN and get 25% OFF (valid for most sessions)

The Next Generation of Stars: 3 ATP Young Guns to Watch

The three guys who most agree represent the next generation of top 5 tennis players are all in the Citi Open this year. Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, and Grigor Dimitrov have each had breakthroughs in 2014.

Kei Nishikori (Japan)
Kei Nishikori reached a career high ranking of 9 at the end of last year. Despite some injury worries, I expect he'll finish the year in the top 10 if he stays healthy. Kei is speedy, has amazing groundstrokes, a great return, and is fun to watch. He's as no-nonsense on the court as they come and Coach Michael Chang has been trying to pass on his killer instinct and set higher goals for Kei this year. If he ends up playing on one of the side courts, be sure to watch Kei’s nimble footwork together with his amazing balance and core strength. It’s not as easy as he makes it look!

Milos Raonic (Canada)
Despite an ankle injury early in the year, Milos reached a career high ranking of number 6 in the world and is currently ranked 7. He's put up solid results in the Slams and Masters 1000's - his first Grand Slam QF at Roland Garros (l. to Djokovic), a first Grand Slam semi at Wimbledon, (l. to Federer), QFs in Indian Wells, Rome, and SFs in Monte Carlo. The consensus in the locker room is that Milos has the best serve on tour right now. While I doubt we'll see Milos attempt his 155mph serve, watch him with a seat behind the player's baseline to admire the variety of his serves (slice, kicker, flat) with pretty much the same ball toss. The weakest part of his game right now is his return, so look for that shot to improve as he works out the kinks with Coach Ivan Ljubicic.

Grigor Dimitrov (Bulgaria)
If you hear a bunch of screaming, hysteric teenage girls around the practice courts, you've probably stumbled onto one of Grigor Dimitrov's practice sessions. Grigor was already somewhat of a celebrity in 2013, but after teaming up with his super coach, Roger Rasheed, last year, Grigor is fitter, stronger, and extremely motivated to get to the top of men's tennis. Grigor's always had the talent to burn, but he's found a way to channel it and I expect he's going to have a great 2014. He's just broken into the top 10 this month, following an SF showing at Wimbledon (l. to Djokovic in 4 close sets), QFs at the Australian (l. to Nadal in 4 close sets) and has a won a title on all three surfaces in 2014. I'd be shocked if Grigor does not make it to the year-end finals this year and be part of or finish near the top 5. Watch Dimitrov from any seat in the stadium, look out for his precise first serve and his use of speed offensively to win points. You’ll find Grigor is an all-around crowd charmer and will throw in a trick shot and a tweener every now and then.

Early Predictions and Dark Horses

Wimbledon doubles champ and young American, Jack Sock, can probably hit a serve and forehand as hard as anyone but has struggled with finding consistency with his singles game this year. Vasek Pospisil, on the other hand, is playing great tennis but has had an injury-ridden year so far. The two combined had a fairy tale doubles debut at Wimbledon, beating the Bryan brothers in the final. If Vasek is healthy he could make a decent QF run, but if he isn't—I expect he'll try to save himself to compete at the following week's Canadian Open on his home turf. Bernard Tomic also returns to the Citi Open this year - what we'll get from Bernie is anyone's guess at this point, since his surgery earlier in the year.

The Veterans

It’s unfair to slot top-seeded Tomas Berdych as a "veteran" just yet, but he's been the consummate pro and a perennial top 10 fixture in the last few years. Over the years, he's cut down on risks, plays ‘meat-and–potatoes’ tennis, and seems as motivated as ever to win that elusive first Grand Slam. Tomas has the most effortless baseline strokes you'll ever see (other than Dennis Istomin, also in the draw this year), so make sure you catch at least one main draw match with Tomas. I think he's a shoe-in for the semis, but one of the young guns could upset him. If Ester Satorova is supporting him, it’s hard to root against Tomas!

Lleyton Hewitt and Radek Stepanek, both in their 30's, probably do qualify as veterans, but if you watch their competitive hunger while they play, it’s hard to believe they've both spent over 15 years on the pro tour. Also look out for Feli Lopez and his nasty left serve.

Qualifying Rounds, Opening Weekend

Citi Open qualifying and practice weekend starts this Saturday and its one of the best days to attend. Qualifying usually features hard-fought tennis with the smallest of margins; this year look for Thiemo De Bakker, Michael Llodra, Alex Kuznetsov and Ilya Marchenko to see some entertaining matches.

Also on the practice courts, if you spot a player belting the cover off the ball and wonder who he is and why he isn't in the top 20, you're probably looking at Evgeny Donskoy. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 26 - National Parks Day
- First 3000 to register will get a free ticket, plus first 1500 get free lunch vouchers too!

The Citi Open promises a lot of great matches with the top ATP players competing for the prize. If you haven't done so, grab your tickets, we'll see you there.

Use Promo Code: USTA25 and get 25% OFF (valid for most sessions)


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