Who to watch at the Citi Openby Nikhil Subramanian (Consultant and Tennis Blogger)
+ JC Post-match comments
The Citi Open is my favorite tournament of the year - when else can you drive 30 minutes to Rock Creek Park and watch word class athletes strut their stuff? With the Olympics being held concurrently this year, Citi still has a great turnout, with some exciting European, South American and young American contenders fighting it out. If you've been out of touch with the latest on the ATP tour, here's a few players to watch out for this year, that will take the court today on Tuesday 7/31.
Alexandr Dolgopolov"The Dolg", as he is known on the tour, has tennis in his veins. As a young kid, he traveled the tour with his dad (coach to former pro Andrei Medvedev) and hit with the likes of Boris Becker.
What to look out for: Alex has one of the lowest serve ball tosses you'll ever see with a whippy service motion. Watch as he almost hits the ball right out of his hands! His low first serve percentage can be his achilles heel. Also watch for the hacker's slice backhand that floats up but hit with a lot of side spin, something you'll rarely see on the pro tour.
JC: I first spotted Alex and his Aussie coach Jack Reader at the US Open 2009. Amazing Talent and terrific young man! He has a great personality and demeanor on and off-court.
*Doubles Bonus* - He is also back again with his good friend and Doubles Partner Xavier ("X-man") Malisse. Hopefully his terrific coach Jack Reader and him will grant us an on-court interview after the match!
Well it looked like he and his coach were very hungry, grabbing some local grub to chow down and watching a few more matches while waiting for his partner to finish of the frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Benoit PaireFor this up and coming Frenchman, tennis is an art and the court is his canvas. Watch him to see beautiful all court tennis - Paire is adept from all parts of the court and can vary the depth and speed of his game depending on who he is playing.
What to look out for: Paire seems to, at times, focus in and out of his matches. He looks to play smart percentage tennis for most part but sometimes can lose focus for a few games and appear lackasdaical.
JC: I agree, this guy looks like he's tanking it one point and then cranking it up the next. He made it back on serve in the 2nd set but proceeded to break down again, serving at 5-6. Watching him at the Farmer's Classic Tournament in LA on TV, he looked like he was reaching for his abdomen and wincing in pain one point against Mike Russell. Then the very next point manages to hit 3 overheads in a row. Not sure I appreciate under performance AND mystery illnesses - save it for the football field, hero.
Tommy HaasThe consummate tennis pro, Haas seems like he's been around forever. The upside of his many injuries has been that he hasn't accumulated as many miles on the meter, and he appears as fit and motivated as he has ever been recently taking a grass title in Halle (beating old foe Roger Federer) and making the finals on clay in Hamburg.
What to look out for: Haas' single backhand is the sweetest you'll ever see. Also look for Tommy making a high percentage of first serves, usually hitting them at 70% of his max with topspin. Haas hits a top spin second serve and not a kick serve, which is somewhat unusual on the tour these days. While Tommy has been much calmer on court, watch for his body language and temper, if he loses it, he gets behind in the match.
JC: Tommy's the perpetual entertainer - probably one of the most likable fan-favorites out on the practice court. He seems to be really hungry again for success. I would expect him to make it to the finals, especially how strong he spared against Fish on Sunday and his commitment to drill another couple hours in the hottest part of the day, on Court 6 just minutes later.
Bjorn PhauAndre Agassi and Tommy Haas rate Phau as the one of the quickest players on tour. What Phau lacks in size, he makes up in speed.
What to look out for: Watch Phau stay zoned in throughout the course of the match, his focus rarely seems to waver and he's giving it 100% out there.
JC: Bjorn always gives himself a chance because of his feet. Although the crowd was an overwhelming pro-Fish crowd, Bjorn won the 1st set and some of the fans over with his tenacity tonight. Fish woke up in the 2nd and 3rd set with some clutch serving to seal it relatively easily.
Igor AndreevIt would be a stretch to call him a right-handed version of Rafael Nadal, but Igor has plied his trade on the clay courts in Spain for many years now. The guy can hit vicious RPMs on his serve and forehand and you have to see it to believe it. Find a seat at court level have to watch the pace and spin he puts on the ball. For the ladies, Igor is ripped the core so you may catch a glimpse of his 8-pack on the practice courts.
What to look out for: Look to Igor to try and hit forehands from everywhere on the court to control the baseline and jerk his opponent around.
Ricardas BerankisAs a former junior world no. 1 and junior grand slam winner, the 5' 9" 22 year old from Lithuania has had expectations placed on his young shoulders since he turned pro. Last year however he underwent surgery and barely played on the ATP level. Since his return from his pelvic/adductor injury, hes put together great results at the Challenger and recently made the finals at the Farmer's Classic in LA.
What to look out for: Berankis has strong ground strokes, and is equally adept from both wings. If he puts over 70% first serves in, watch him control the points, make plenty of serve returns and try to wear his opponent down from the baseline.
Tobias KamkeA poor man's Davedenko if you will, Kamke is a late bloomer at age 26. He moves like a flash and takes quick swings trying to hurt his opponent with attacking ground strokes. Kamke was voted as ATP's "Newcomer of the Year" in 2010. The German is looking to get back up into the top 100 (current rank 107) and pass his career best rank of 64.
What to look out for: Kamke will stay focused and give it a 100% every point. Watch him try to make inroads against opponents who may outsize him, but rarely outmatch.
JC: Kamke put the Frenchman Paire in a bind during the backhand cross-court rallies. It looked like Kamke was the most dominant striker tonight.
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"Nik" is an web manager, with expertise in web site design, development, hosting and infrastructure. He specializes in deploying easy-to-edit web sites using Content Management Systems. He is also an avid writer and tennis enthusiast; researching and covering the ATP tour.