By Jane Voigt, Tennis With An Accent
Washington D.C. – Summer weather in “The District” is predictable. Hot, humid weather always is followed by thunderstorms and deluges. That’s what happened here late Thursday afternoon, with three matches halted and moved to Friday. The problem: Those third-round matches plus some quarterfinal matches should also finish Friday. On top of that another round of severe thunderstorms is brewing in the Blueridge Mountains west of here. The National Weather Service posted a “Hazardous Weather Outlook” earlier on Friday. Days like these put extra pressure on schedulers and leave players wondering when and if they’ll get on court, given that the tournament ends Sunday.
Top-seeded Andrey Rublev fell into that category early Friday afternoon. He and Maxime Cressy (No. 13) were cancelled Thursday night. Being first up on Friday was a player’s dream, given the circumstances. In their first meeting, the Russian ended the serve-and-volley offense of Cressy, 6-4 7-6(8). The victory moved Rublev to the quarterfinals.
“After suitable rest,” as the ATP Order of Play frames it, Rublev is scheduled to play wildcard J.J. Wolf, who upset Holger Rune (No. 9) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. But suitable rest was trumped by high rates of lightning and downpours in and around the Rock Creek Park site around 4:30 p.m. That means if things don’t clear up, which is highly possible given the weather predictions, Rublev or Wolf will have to play two matches Saturday. Only time will tell. Oh, and we’ll see about an accurate weather prediction, which we all know is dodgy.
Luckily for other third-round carry-over matches, the outlook wasn’t grim.
Nick Kyrgios, the 2019 Citi Open champion, defeated Reilly Opelka 7-6(1), 6-2. Kyrgios didn’t come to press after his victory because, like all the players scheduled for a second match, they wait until they are done for the day.
Sebastian Korda, who was dragging his body around the court on Thursday against third-round opponent Grigor Dimitrov (No. 5), found new resolve Friday, easily closing out the match, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. Korda is expected to play Mikael Ymer later on Friday.
Hyattville, Maryland, native and fan-favorite Frances “Big Foe” Tiafoe rallied against Botic Van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Tiafoe is seeded tenth at the Citi Open this year, his highest seeding to date at his hometown tournament. He is intent on winning a second ATP career title – his first and only one came in 2018 at Delray — and would love to hoist the trophy Sunday on Stadium Court.
Nonetheless, confronting the pressure to win in his hometown hasn’t been easy. Earlier in the week Tiafoe told the press that he “wanted to be locked in this week.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely a lot,” Tiafoe said, Wednesday, after defeating Chris Eubanks. “I had like 56 tickets coming today. I keep telling my agent, yeah, this is the last one, last one. It’s good. I had 56 reasons why I wanted to win today.”
With his win today over Van de Zandschulp, Tiafoe moves into his first quarterfinal at the Citi Open.
“Playing here in D.C., honestly, I mean, it could be if it was a 250 or whatever, it’s here in D.C., 500, I mean. To win this tournament would mean the world to me,” he said Wednesday. Tiafoe has been coming to this tournament since he was four years old.
Tiafoe has a big task ahead of him in the quarterfinals. He’ll play Nick Kyrgios. The match will no doubt be played on Stadium Court. Fans are assured of seeing a rousing match with lots of chatter from both sides of the net.
In the last of the third-round matches Friday, American wild card J.J. Wolf successfully stopped 9th seeded Holger Rune, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
J.J., short for Jeffrey John, is 23 and ranked at a career-high of No. 99. His nickname is “Wolfie” and some have called him “Mullet Boy” because he sported a mullet until recently, making him a standout in the style category for fans who still love the 1980s. At Citi, though, his hair is cropped short and sweet, which has its advantages as far as heat and humidity are concerned.
J.J.’s hometown tournament is the Cincinnati Masters 1000. In 2018, he hit with Roger Federer there.
“He was giving me some advice and telling funny stories. It was a surreal experience that meant the world to me. I got to have a normal conversation with an extraordinary human being,” he said, as reported by the ATP. “It just made me look up to him more. He’s a regular guy who has unbelievable accomplishments. He’s so down to earth. It made me want to keep working hard and be someone with influence like him.”
Wolf will get another whiff at high-level competition when he meets top-seeded Rublev, possibly later on Friday. A series of notifications about when play would resume started to crop up late in the afternoon. At first they said that play would resume at 5:30, then 6:00, and finally at 6:26 p.m., this notification came from the tournament: “Courts are being dried. Matches to resume shortly.” We can only hope.