Reach­ing break point at Citi Open

D.C.’s tennis tour­na­ment is fun, but nu­mer­ous rain de­lays are enough to test any­one’s san­ity

The Washington Post Sunday - - WASHINGTONPOST.COM/SPORTS - BY DAN STEINBERG dan.steinberg@wash­post.com Ex­cerpted from wash­ing­ton­post.com/ dc­sports­bog

The Citi Open is an an­nual tennis tour­na­ment in Wash­ing­ton that makes me feel happy and at home, fea­tures some of the best ath­letes in the world, in­cludes an Asian food con­ces­sion stand called Thai Breaker and also is mak­ing me lose my mind.

One night ear­lier this week, af­ter about three hours of rain de­lays, I tried to stay at the tour­na­ment for the con­clu­sion of the Don­ald Young-Kei Nishikori match on Sta­dium Court. Young had fin­ished his Mon­day night match at 1:38 a.m. Tues­day, and you’d have felt sorry for him play­ing twice in the same day, ex­cept his Tues­day night match wound up fin­ish­ing on Wed­nes­day. Some­where be­tween mid­night and 1 a.m. Wed­nes­day, I be­gan sort of nod­ding off, de­spite the en­thu­si­as­tic Ja­panese fans sit­ting on a tarp in front of me. I didn’t make it un­til the con­clu­sion, which came at 1:52 a.m., or about four hours be­fore my in­fant daugh­ter wakes up.

Turns out that was an early night for Nishikori, who played un­til 2 a.m. on Thurs­day, which was re­ally Fri­day. Be­cause Thurs­day there were about three more hours of rain de­lays.

Wed­nes­day night’s sta­dium ac­tion fea­tured the 200th-ranked player in the world, Yuki Bham­bri — a for­mer world ju­nior No. 1 from In­dia, who had to qual­ify his way into this event — who scored the big­gest win of his pro­fes­sional ca­reer by shock­ing de­fend­ing cham­pion Gael Mon­fils.

It was a thrilling, ex­hil­a­rat­ing up­set, which led to many tennis fans ask­ing Yuki for self­ies as he wan­dered around aim­lessly dur­ing Thurs­day night’s rain de­lay.

Af­ter Bham­bri’s win came the main event: Nick Kyr­gios — the mer­cu­rial, won­drously tal­ented ris­ing star who also seems to hate tennis — against Ten­nys Sand­gren — a tennis player named Ten­nys who loves Me­tal­lica, is very charm­ing while talk­ing about his first name, and tweets fre­quently with alt-right me­dia per­son­al­i­ties.

I was ex­cited for this match. Kyr­gios was not. He looked as if he’d rather be any­where in the world other than play­ing tennis against Ten­nys. (He wound up re­tir­ing and was booed off the court.)

(This is not a tennis col­umn, by the way. I am not writ­ing this as a sub­sti­tute for writ­ing a tennis col­umn, which I can never do any­how, be­cause the night matches end at 2 a.m., which is sort of past our news­pa­per dead­lines, and any­how the rain does not al­low easy plan­ning for things like news­pa­per col­umns, in the sense that the dou­bles match I was try­ing to write about on Thurs­day — fea­tur­ing Andy Murray’s older brother against a 35-year old international re­la­tions Brown Univer­sity grad­u­ate — just got flat-out can­celed and resched­uled for Fri­day late af­ter­noon, when I sup­pose I could still cover it, ex­cept for this nag­ging ache in my kid­neys telling me that post­ing a lovely fea­ture story off a men’s dou­bles match at 6:47 p.m. on a Fri­day in August is about as ef­fec­tive as just post­ing still shots of my­self sit­ting in the me­dia tent with my head in my hands.)

(So why, you’re won­der­ing, am I even writ­ing this? It’s just, like, ther­apy.)

(And ac­tu­ally, you’re not won­der­ing that, be­cause you don’t ex­ist. No one is read­ing this. Lit­er­ally, no one. There’s no chance an ed­i­tor has even made it this far. “Sweaty Writer Com­plains About Dead­lines and Weather and Sea Sick­ness at Land-Based Tennis Tour­na­ment.” I’m sure that’s just what Be­zos had in mind.)

Here’s one thing rain can’t ruin: the food cart that sells smoothie bowls, which are like smooth­ies, ex­cept in bowls, and you eat them with spoons. They’re amaz­ing. This is how good the smoothie bowls are: They would make Kyr­gios smile. I want to bathe in a smoothie bowl. It’s not like I could be any stick­ier.

Also, there is a spe­cial tent for Citi card­hold­ers, of which I am one. It has free fla­vored wa­ter, with cu­cum­bers and all that. So crisp. And peo­ple are ev­ery­where pass­ing out free Kind bars. You can just walk one loop af­ter another, col­lect­ing a free Kind bar each time. And you get these free ear­pieces that al­low you to lis­ten to free (and com­pelling) tennis play-by-play from sta­dium court, with up­dates from the sur­round­ing courts pro­vided by Marc Sterne and Scott Jack­son, as­sum­ing any­one is play­ing tennis. The play-by­play is so good that you might even ig­nore your wife in fa­vor of the Kevin Anderson-Do­minic Thiem play-by-play. The­o­ret­i­cally. And there are also free Skippy P.B. Bites, which I never knew ex­isted, but which are round lit­tle doses of heaven — ba­si­cally like eat­ing peanut but­ter right out of the jar, ex­cept in spher­i­cal form.

(If you are a cor­po­rate spon­sor at the Citi Open, rain de­lays are ac­tu­ally good, be­cause then par­tially in­sane writ­ers will men­tion your prod­ucts.)

The guy you should root for is prob­a­bly Alexander Zverev — a ris­ing star, the youngest man in the top 20, and a Ger­man kid who just wants to be loved. Some­time late Wed­nes­day night or maybe Thurs­day morn­ing, he lob­bied tour­na­ment or­ga­niz­ers not to move his next match out of the sta­dium court in fa­vor of a bet­ter-known Amer­i­can, be­cause he likes play­ing for a crowd.

He won that ar­gu­ment, only to have his next match moved out of the sta­dium court be­cause it had rained too much.

KATHER­INE FREY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Crews dry the sur­face at Sta­dium Court af­ter a rain de­lay at the Citi Open tour­na­ment, one of sev­eral de­lays this week.

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