Saturday was not a good day for American tennis: All the U.S. players remaining in the Citi Open were knocked out.
The Citi Open is an ATP 500 tennis tournament held in Washington, D.C. Some of the best players in the world come here every year to strut their stuff. Saturday featured the semifinals for men’s singles, women’s singles, and men’s doubles.
Women’s doubles finished up with the finals. Jack Sock, Sloane Stephens, and Bob and Mike Bryan were all knocked out. They were the only Americans left in the tournament. Sock was upset by a player seeded seven spots below him. Stephens and her doubles partner, Eugenie Bouchard, were taken down in the championship by Shuko Aoyama and Renata Voracova. The Bryan brothers lost in a tightly contested match against Lukasz Kubot and the world’s No. 1 doubles player, Marcelo Melo.
But who beat the Americans to move on to the finals? Here’s a preview of what’s to come on Sunday.
South African Kevin Anderson beat Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 to move on to the finals. Anderson will be facing Alexander Zverev of Russia, who is ranked No. 8 in the world. Zverev beat Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 6-4.
The key to winning the finals is returning serves. Both specialize in serving. On Saturday Anderson averaged 122 miles per hour on his first serve, and Zverev averaged 125. Zverev is at a disadvantage; his match ended at 8 p.m., while Anderson’s match ended at 4 p.m. Said Anderson, “It’s great to get done early today and have more time before tomorrow. Being mentally ready is important. Tennis at this level is 90% mental. There are few things you can work on, but most of the time it comes down to the way you see things.”
He also said that Saturday was “about recovery. I don’t have to do too many things differently. I want to feel refreshed and healthy for tomorrow. It will be a big match but I’m feeling ready for it. It’s a great opportunity for me. I’m looking forward to it.”
Zverev has a different routine to help him prepare for the finals: “I’m probably going to have dinner, work with my physio, and I’ll probably play some FIFA with Marcelo Melo, who is in the final of the doubles tomorrow. That’s about it. Then go to sleep,” said Zverev.
Anderson is ready. “Zverev is going to be a very tough match. Alex’s serve is a little bit bigger and plays further behind the baseline. I played Alex on clay not that long ago. I had a decent position with Alex. For me, it’s about focusing and playing the kind of tennis I’ve been playing,” he said.
Zverev has respect for his opponent. “A lot has changed since we played last,” he said.
“I don’t think he played very well that match. I played amazing for that time. It’s going to be a very tough match. He’s been playing unbelievable tennis. He won against Dominic Thiem in a great match. He beat Jack Sock today. It’s going to be a tough final. If I can play as well as I did today, hopefully I can get out with a win.”
In this final, 58th ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia and Julia Goerges of Germany, the world’s 40th ranked player, fresh off a three-set semifinal scare against unseeded Andrea Petkovic, who is also from Germany. Makarova, the underdog, did not think she would make it to the finals. “No! I never expect anything. I just have to work for it. You never know how the matches will go. I just go fight and see what happens.”
Markova is determined. “It’s just important to go out and fight every point,” she said. Goerges has a similar philosophy. “My team is doing such great work with me. I really appreciate every moment I have on court. The crowd is amazing. That is why I play.”
Goerges is at a disadvantage, not unlike Zverev. Makarova's match finished at 6 p.m. Goerges’ match, on the other hand, finished at almost midnight, giving her only 17 hours to prepare for the final. Her strategy is the same as many: “I have my private physio with me who is going to give me some good treatment, as she has done every other night. Just getting ready for tomorrow and putting everything I have left in tomorrow.”
Marcelo Melo and Lukasz Kubat are fresh off beating the Bryan Brothers and are ranked No. 1 in the world this year. “We’re going to recover as fast as we can. We’ll do some stretching now, and do everything we can to prepare for tomorrow, so it can be another great match,” said Melo.
They are facing Henri Kontinen and John Peers, ranked second in the world. Their strategy is just to “serve well and take advantage of our chances on the return side.” Featuring the top two doubles teams in the world, this match is sure to be a nail-biter.
Watch the conclusion to the Citi Open Sunday on the Tennis Channel.
Photographs by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images (2)