dc tennis

Alexandr Dolgopolov overcomes Tommy Haas challenge to win Citi Open title

By Romi Cvitkovic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a three-set marathon match that included two rain delays, young Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov pulled out the win over former world No. 2 Tommy Haas, 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-1.

Dolgopolov has struggled with injuries since January and is just now returning to his good form of last year when he broke through into the top 15. With the title in Washington, Dolgopolov moves solidly back into the top 20 and is guaranteed a seeding at the U.S. Open.

Dolgopolov’s road to the win tonight, however, looked uncertain as he lost the first set, even when playing much cleaner tennis than his opponent. He served eight aces and no double faults, while Haas struggled to find his rhythm, double-faulting three times alone in the seventh game to get broken.

An extended rain delay occurred at 6-5 with Dolgopolov serving to stay in the set. After nearly two hours, both men returned highly emotional, with the self-talk and frustrations beginning to surface. Dolgopolov stuck to his game plan of hitting to the weaker Haas backhand, but it backfired as Haas was able to strike some smart plays and convert on his second set point due to a Dolgopolov error.

The second set started much like the first but the frustrations escalated as the often composed Dolgopolov began slapping his thigh while Haas kept yelling at himself. Neither player made a move until the very last game of the set when Dolgopolov broke a visibly irritated Haas.
“Whether I won or lost the second set there, I cracked a little bit mentally,” Haas admitted, and it was the beginning of the end for the German.

Sensing that Haas was “giving away more free points than in the first set,” Dolgopolov started the third set with an ace and never looked back, reeling off three games instantly to take command. Haas succumbed to his emotional outbursts, and after sending a ball long, went into full self-destruction mode, yelling in German, scolding the chair umpire for not getting the ball kids to clean a wet spot, and eve threw his racquet repeatedly.

Although he was able to recollect himself somewhat, Haas was down 1-4 and double-faulted for his last time, giving Dolgopolov the chance to serve out the match. Facing his first match point, Dolgopolov won on an unreturnable second serve that Haas shanked wide.

It had been almost exactly a year since Dolgopolov’s sole title in Umag last year, so there was a sense of urgency to do well this week giving the upcoming U.S. Open.

“I think a small part of me [knew that] I had to play better when I needed. I dropped some points from Umag and I understood that I needed to get some points to get back into the top 20. Because once you are there, you don’t really want to get out of there. That was additional motivation for me.”

After the match, the two players put aside their emotions and enjoyed each other’s company at the podium with their glass trophies. Haas, followed by Dolgopolov, stopped to sign endless autographs for the diehard fans that had stuck out through the rain delays. Dolgopolov even took the shirt off his back and gave it to a young fan who requested it. Now, that’s a player who loves what he does and gives respect to his fans.

Former UVA players Huey and Inglot win the Citi Open doubles title over favorites Querrey and Anderson

In doubles action, two unseeded teams battled for the Citi Open title as Sam Querrey and Kevin Anderson took on Treat Huey and Dominic Inglot. While Querrey and Anderson may be household names, it was Huey and Inglot that brought out the cheering crowds. Both are former University of Virginia tennis players, with Huey graduating high school locally in the District.

The young upstart team of Huey and Inglot didn’t succumb to pressure as they got out to an early start, breaking to go up 3-0. A little tightness set in and the first set was forced into a tiebreaker. With Inglot’s deft hands at net and Huey’s ability to stand ground at the baseline against his much more experienced opponents, the duo took the tiebreak 9-7 when Anderson double-faulted.

The second set was a battle for both teams as neither gave up serve. In the fifth game of the set, Inglot served four aces in a row against Querrey and Anderson, who are notably two of the tallest and most difficult guys to pass on tour. When asked to comment on this serving dominance, Inglot replied that he “actually know that until you just told me, but, it feels fantastic. Serve has always been the strongest part of my game. I know there were some games that got a little sticky, so to be able to come with a game like that is really helpful.”

Querrey and Anderson came back strong, not allowing the former Cavaliers much wiggle room, and forced a second set tiebreak when Huey hit the final approach volley into the net.

The deciding ten point match tiebreak saw both teams fight mightily, but Huey and Inglot broke through at 5-4 and never looked back. They reeled off the next five-of-six points, winning on a Querrey error.

This is the pair’s second ATP doubles final and first title together. They previously met Querrey when they lost to him and Blake in Houston, and Treat acknowledged that “we didn’t want to lose to [Querrey] again in the finals of another tournament. So it was good we got the win in the end.”

Huey continued: “I didn’t think I’d really win a title [so soon after college]. Last year was my first final where Somdev Devvarman and I lost, but I was thinking, “I just got to an ATP final, how cool is that?!” But winning one is obviously cooler, and it’s a lot more fun to be on the winning end of the match.”

Citi Open tournament director doesn’t mind competing with the Olympics

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the Olympics in London this week, all eyes are focused on the overseas action. But tennis fans in the U.S. have a home-grown tournament right in their nation’s capital, the Citi Open run by Lagardere Unlimited which runs all week.

In view of tough competition from the Olympics for tennis, I spoke with long-time Citi open Tournament Director Jeff Newman about the impact of having a top-tier tournament during the same week as the Olympics and whether there was a choice to move the tournament.

“Traditionally, we are positioned in one of the best weeks of the ATP and now WTA calendars,” Newman stated. “We are right before the 1000 Master events in Cincinnati and Canada. So, every four years, in order to have that date, sure, we are up against the Olympics. But we always try to focus on who is here and not on who is not. And we feel that we have great fields this year.”

With speculation that world No.  13 and top seed Mardy Fish might pull out of the Citi Open due to an ankle injury sustained in Atlanta two weeks ago, the men’s typically American-heavy draw could have been hardest hit. Luckily, Fish was seen on the courts today playing an intense practice set with Tommy Haas, a former semifinalist here in 2008. Fish, although ranked high enough to make the U.S. Men’s Olympic team, elected to skip the Olympics this year.

Newman goes on to solidify his statement about the strength of both the men’s and women’s field. “We have Mardy Fish, who clearly is a great story; Brian Baker, the comeback kid of the year; Sam Querrey who is in the L.A. finals today; Tommy Haas, who was a former world No. 2, and James Blake. And on our women’s side with Sloane Stephens, making the great run she did at the French Open; Melanie Oudin, who won her first tournament recently.”

The women’s field also includes world No. 28 and top seeded Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and South African Chanelle Scheepers who also bypassed the Olympics for a spot in D.C.

With the ticket prices not altering from last year, attending the Citi Open gives fans even “more value for your money than any previous years,” admits Newman.

“Sure, are there stars overseas for the Olympics? Of course. But at the same time, we have a very entertaining field in store for fans.”

The Citi Open runs through Sunday, August 5 with the women’s doubles final scheduled for Friday, August 3, the women’s singles final on Saturday, Aug 4, and the men’s doubles and singles final on Sunday, August 5. The television schedule is as follows on ESPN2 and The Tennis Channel.

ESPN2

Fri, Aug 3, 5-9pm

Sat, Aug 4, 3-5pm

Sun, Aug 5, 4-6pm

Tennis Channel

Thurs, Aug 2, 4-8pm

Fri, Aug 3, 2-4pm & 9-11pm

Sat, Aug 4, 7-9pm

For live updates from the Citi Open, follow me on twitter @TennisRomi!

 

 

Summer heats up in D.C. with the Washington Kastles tennis team: a win in photos

By Romi Cvitkovic

From a grandmother doing “The Dougie,” to 2011 Washington Kastles’ tennis players receiving commemorative championship rings, to familiar D.C. faces in the crowd like Kastles’ owner Mark Ein, former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty and current Tennis Channel commentator Brett Haber, there is something in store for every tennis fan during the Washington Kastles’ season at The Wharf in downtown D.C.

Thursday night’s home opener against the New York Sportimes marked the Kastles’ 19th straight win that stretched from last year’s perfect 16-0 season. Returning players Leander Paes,  Bobby Reynolds and Arina Rodionova, along with newcomer Anastasia Rodionova, entertained the crowd with five tight matches and energetic play, that culminated in a 20-18 win.

The evening festivities began with mixed doubles as Anastasia Rodionova and Leander Paes took on the duo of Martina Hingis and Robert Kendrick. Paes, a thirteen time men’s and mixed doubles Slam champion, carried his partner with his deft hands at net to even the score at 4-4. Tennis wouldn’t be tennis without a disputed call, and after a brief discussion with the official by the Sportimes coach, play continued — but the Sportimes had lost their momentum. Paes quickly knocked off four clean winners, including a backhand volley to seal the set, 5-4(1).

Next up was women’s doubles featuring the Rodionova sisters (the “Hot Rods”) taking on Martina Hingis and Ashley Harkleroad (the “Models”). With Hingis, a former World No. 1, and Harkleroad, a former World No. 39, the Rodionova sisters had an uphill battle. But with competitive rallies, good looks, and giggling players, it was difficult not to get energized. Arina’s serve was broken at love with a couple of unforced errors and the “Hot Rods” quickly went down 1-3. They re-grouped and broke back on Hingis’ serve but two games later, the “Hot Rods” were again broken by the “Models”, losing 3-5.

With the Sportimes leading with a score of 9-8, the men’s doubles team of Leander Paes and Bobby Reynolds kicked it into high gear over the tandem of Robert Kendrick and Jesse Witten. Reynolds, a former World No. 46 in doubles, blasted serves while Paes fed off his lead to put away easy volleys. In the blink of an eye, the Kastles’ were up 4-0 on a Sportimes team that was struggling to find their balance. Reynolds, nicknamed “The Closer” for his ability to seal the team win on the final men’s singles matches, did much the same as he served out a 5-0 win in doubles, giving the Kastles’ a 13-9 edge.

Halftime was full of spectator giveaways, quickstart tennis with Paes and Coach Murphy Jensen with two lucky young fans, as well a ring presentation for Rennae Stubbs, who was part of the 2011 Washington Kastles Championship team. The short ceremony had Coach Jensen and Paes praising Stubbs, Paes receiving a kiss from both Stubbs and Jensen(!), and Stubbs commenting on her love of the city of Washington D.C.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Iuvk0jNRQc&hd=1&w=585

After crowd applause and appreciation, the tennis action was quickly underway as Anastasia Rodionova took on Martina Hingis in the women’s singles. As Hingis hit deep into the court, Rodionova responded with wicked backhand winners to even the set out at 2-2. After failing to convert on three break points, Rodionova self-destructed hitting error after error, giving Hingis the set, 5-2.

With the score tightly standing at 15-14 for the Kastles, the concluding men’s singles match between Bobby Reynolds and Jesse Witten had a whole season riding on the outcome. Always the most intense match of the night, it didn’t disappoint as it went the distance with a tiebreaker at 4-4 and a Reynolds fistpump to the crowd. Witten, although deceptively agile and hard-hitting, couldn’t do much to hold back an energized Reynolds who reeled off three winners to go up 3-0 in the tiebreaker. After a Witten error and an unreturnable serve by Reynolds,  the Kastles “Closer” sealed the win, 20-18.

After celebratory handshakes, and exchanges of of hugs and laughs, the Kastles team huddled together on court as any team proud of winning and keeping the steak alive would.

Catch the Washington Kastles this month as they battle for another perfect season! Full schedule and for tickets, click here.

Full gallery below; credit to author.

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