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