A three-time winner on the ATP Tour this year and two-time Grand Slam champion both advanced in straight sets in afternoon action at the Citi Open on Tuesday.
In the men’s draw, top seed and No. 8-ranked Andrey Rublev cruised past Britain’s Jack Draper, 6-4, 6-2. Rublev is looking for his fourth ATP title of the season in the District after winning earlier this year in Marseille, Dubai and Belgrade. He’s a fan of Washington and the Citi Open, having reached his first ATP 500-level semifinal here in 2018.
“I was really, really like afraid that it’s going to be super-tough match today, because it’s hard court, and the way he serves, the way he hits the ball, it’s even tougher to bring the balls back,” Rublev said. “But I’m really happy that I was able to win in straight sets.”
On the WTA side, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka made quick work of Dayana Yastremska, 6-4, 6-0, winning the last eight games of the match to reach the round of 16. It’s her first action since June’s French Open, as Belarusian players like Azarenka were banned along with Russians from participating in Wimbledon.
It’s something the Russian Rublev has been keenly aware of this season as his home country’s war in Ukraine enters its sixth month. Even though politics and sport have been intertwined, Rublev said he sees the global nature of tennis as something that should be used to unite people and rise above that division.
“I do believe that by being united and doing good things for the peace, tennis can be, in general, if tennis will be example of it, maybe other sports will follow,” Rublev said. “In general, maybe one day sport can be without politics.”
“I think then it depends already of the persons who works in ATP, WTA, also the players, because in the end you have to start from yourself.”
He’s into the round of 16 and next faces the winner of an All-American matchup between Jack Sock and 13-seed Maxime Cressy.
As Rublev and others have advanced through the draw, so has the heat index. Tuesday’s afternoon session felt considerably hotter than Monday’s opening matches thanks to less breeze and cloud cover over Rock Creek Park.
“You cannot control the conditions,” Rublev said. “I think this is fun that it’s a part of our sport, that we have to take it as it is, and that’s it. Everyone is in the same conditions.”
A classic hot D.C. summer week isn’t keeping fans away — far from it. Sessions have been Wednesday, the fifth consecutive day of full attendance at the Fitzgerald Tennis Center, and the weekend is expected to be no different.
D.C. native Frances Tiafoe is one of those marquee attractions fans are coming to see, opening his Citi Open in the men’s doubles draw in front of a standing-room-only crowd on Grandstand Court.
He paired with Australia’s Alex de Minaur to knock off the top-seeded team of American Rajeev Ram and Argentinan Horatio Zeballos 6-4, 1-6, 10-2. They’ll next face American Mackenzie McDonald and Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
Other ATP singles action included former Washington Kastle Yoshihito Nishioka bouncing American Jenson Brooksby in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. Brooksby had reached the semifinals here last year in his first Citi Open appearance.
American Sebastian Korda was also a straight-set winner in his first-round match, defeating Ilya Ivashka 6-4, 7-6 (5). Korda is looking to match the feat of his father, Petr, who won this tournament in 1992.
In the day’s first match, former U.S. Open and Citi Open champion Sloane Stephens was defeated by Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, 6-1, 6-4. After reaching the French Open quarterfinal, the South Florida native has lost the first match in her last three tournaments, including at Wimbledon.
• George Gerbo can be reached at email@example.com.
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