WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Citi Open tennis tournament boasting a wide open field in the women’s draw this week, it wouldn’t surprise many if rising Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard, the youngest and lowest-ranked in the draw, grabbed at the opportunity to do well here. (Photo gallery at bottom.)
At just 18-years-old, Bouchard has already hit a ranking of No. 300 – and that’s not even playing the WTA Tour full-time. She splits her time between the junior circuit, the ITF and occasional WTA Tour events, but is looking to fully transition into the pros soon.
On this quest, Bouchard is one of three wildcards in the main draw of the Citi Open, and finds herself in the second round after routing world No. 123 Karin Knapp, 6-2, 7-6(4). After her win, she conducted a candid interview with a small group of reporters, indulging us on her trip to the White House, her joy at bonding with Roger Federer over his twins during the Wimbledon ball last month, and her thoughts on her on-court progress.
Having played the inaugural Citi Open tournament last year in College Park, MD, Bouchard is no stranger to this city. She took advantage of the tournament site change and enjoyed the city upon her arrival.
“Last year, we weren’t downtown like we are now, and think it’s really cool to be here,” gushed Bouchard. “Last night we went to the White House and took pictures in front of it.” She went on to admit that she loves American politics and was hoping for a President Obama sighting when a traffic blockade went up on her way to the hotel Saturday. Unfortunately, the President was overseas, but there’s always next year.
On July 7, 2012, Bouchard made history by becoming the first Canadian Grand Slam winner when she won the girls’ singles title at Junior Wimbledon, and she admitted that it was a “great feeling.”
“I worked really hard. I won the warm-up tournament in Roehampton, and I was feeling really good on the grass. To win my first Grand Slam title, even though it was juniors, and also to make history, was really cool to [do] at the same time. It gave me a lot of confidence being one of the best juniors in the world, and now, trying to transition that into the pros. I did well after that as I won the $25,000 in Granby, Canada.”
When asked about how important it was for her to stick with the junior circuit as an 18-year-old, Bouchard spoke honestly about the pressures.
“It’s the question people always ask me. I think it’s really good, because it’s a different kind of pressure. In the pros, you’re the underdog all the time. In the juniors – being the oldest one and one of the top ones – everyone is out to get you from the first round. It’s tough and it’s harder than people think…. I think it’s good for me to deal with that and play with that pressure, and I think it will help me for me career as well because hopefully, I want to be in that position in the pros. …There’s nothing wrong with saying you won Wimbledon Juniors even if you’re 18.”
Bouchard had already tasted Wimbledon gold last year when she won the girls’ doubles title, and was able to defend it this year, but the ensuing Wimbledon Ball for all the winners brought it own surprise. When asked if she attended, she replied excitedly.
“Of course, that’s the best part of Wimbledon! I did it the year before because I won the doubles, but this year, it was unbelievable. I talked to Roger [Federer] — actually talked to him for 5 minutes!”
When asked what the two conversed about, Bouchard was quick to paint the picture. Bouchard, along with the boys’ singles winner and fellow Canadian Filip Peliwo, were greeted by a friendly Federer who was more than willing to take a photo with them, congratulate them and talk about their future endeavors.
“Filip [Peliwo], who won the boy’s singles title, and I got a picture with Roger. He came up and we expected him to take a picture and leave. But we took the picture, and he [starting talking to us]. ‘Congrats, you guys. What’s next? What’s your pro ranking?’ He was asking about what we’re doing. And I told him I’m playing all these tournaments, and I’m No. 300. And he’s said, ‘When I won Junior Wimbledon, I was No. 300 as well.’ And I was like, ‘That’s a sign – it’s meant to be!’’
Not one to cut the story short, Bouchard went on to say how excited she was talking to him about his twin girls, as she is a twin herself.
“And then we talked about his twins because I’m a twin. I told him ‘I love your twins, they’re so cute. They’re always dressed the same!’ And he said, ‘If you don’t dress them the same, they’re going to fight!’ … We totally bonded over twins. It was amazing. He was the nicest guy. Serena left right after the ceremony on the stage, but Roger stuck around and took pictures with everyone.”
With so man great opportunities to meet your idols, it’s easy to forget how much hard work goes into each athlete’s training. Tracing back to Bouchard’s roots in Montreal, Canada, she spoke about how Tennis Canada has assisted in her tennis progress and development since she began training at their National Center in 2008.
“Before , I was in Florida, then I went to train at the National Center in Montreal when I was 15. I think the biggest thing that they are able to provide is so much funding, so we can travel all around the world and play all these top tournaments. That really gives us the chance to win them – to go to Wimbledon and win the title. Obviously, because tennis is an international sport, you really need to get out of Canada, and they helped the most with that.”
In a few short weeks, Bouchard will be making her way to the Rogers Cup in Montreal, a tournament she considers as a homecoming. She grew up playing 10&under tennis there, will have plenty of family and friends present for support, and with a team that strong, she will be looking to make another deep dent in her rankings.
Only time will tell, but with Bouchard’s strong baseline game, efficient serve, and optimistic demeanor, she is sure to go far in her young flourishing tennis career.
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.
Fri, Aug 3, 5-9pm
Sat, Aug 4, 3-5pm
Sun, Aug 5, 4-6pm
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!
Change is coming to the nation’s capital and it might take tennis fans some time to adjust.
The Legg Mason Tennis Classic is now the Citi Open, after Legg Mason, the title sponsor of the ATP tournament in Washington, D.C. for the past 18 years, has decided not to renew its contract.
No reason was given for the why the Baltimore-based Legg Mason will no longer be the title sponsor, but Donald Dell, the chairman and co-founder of the tournament, emphasized that both sides parted on good terms.
“I want to thank Legg Mason for their tremendous sponsorship,” he said. “They have been with us 18 years – they were the longest running title sponsor in tennis in North America. We owe the Legg Mason a great bit. They decided not to come back – their contract expired in November. It was a very amicable transition.”
Stepping in to replace Legg Mason is Citigroup Inc., the sponsor of the inaugural professional women’s tournament in College Park, MD last summer, for a five-year deal. The Citi Open will combine the ATP tournament with the women’s event in efforts to attract an even more diverse fan base.
“We are very excited about [having a joint tournament], because over the years we’ve had lots of requests and lots of pressure to have both events – men and women – and the demographics of tennis is 52 percent men and 48 percent women,” said Dell.
The men’s tournament will remain an ATP 500 event, one of only two in the United States (the other is in Memphis), and the women’s will be a $250,000 International Level tournament. Last year’s winner on the men’s side was Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, while Russia’s Nadia Petrova claimed the women’s trophy.
Along with the name change and the inclusion of the women’s tournament will be stadium upgrades to accommodate the increase of players. The renovations, which will begin in May and finish before the start of the summer tournament, will include a new show court that seats 2,500 people and five new practice courts. The Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF), a charitable foundation that provides tennis instruction and education to DC-area youth, privately funded the expansion. The tournament is owned by the organization.
“We built [the stadium] with [WTEF] in 1989, and we just think it’s time to upgrade in a lot of different ways,” said Dell. “We are competing on the world tour. It is very competitive that we have a facility and proper usage of the court site for the players.”
The Citi Open will continue to be held at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park and will run from July 28 to Aug. 5.
Because the tournament coincides with the London Olympics, the draw size will decrease from the usual 48 players to 32. While several marquee players will be competing for Olympic medals, current world No. 9 Mardy Fish has already confirmed to play at the Citi Open in preparations for the U.S. Open. Also expected is former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.
Despite the tournament expansion, Dell said that there are no plans on increasing parking, but that General Admission ticket prices will most likely not rise.
The name may take some getting used to, but the changes should give tennis fans in the metropolitan area much to be excited about.