WASHINGTON — Less than a month after Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, two of the ATP Tour’s most promising young players return to competition next week at D.C.’s Citi Open.
The Citi Open takes place July 26 – August 3 from the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park and will once again include both ATP and WTA tournaments.
Raonic and Dimitrov headline an impressive men’s field at this year’s event, which also includes fifth-ranked Tomas Berdych, No.11 Kei Nishikori and No.12 John Isner.
“Obviously having an established veteran like Tomas Berdych to be the anchor is great,” said tournament director Jeffrey Newman, “and then he’s followed by what many are touting as the next grand slam champions in Raonic and Dimitrov.”
Raonic is currently ranked seventh on the ATP Tour, while Dimitrov is No.9. The trio of Berdych, Raonic and Dimitrov provide the Citi Open with three top-10 players in the men’s draw for the first time since 2010.
“It’s exciting for us to have [Raonic and Dimitrov] play in D.C. because hopefully they get accustomed to wanting to play here and they come back each year. The ATP has touted these players, including Nishikori, as the three players [most likely] to take the torch from what has really been the game’s big four,” Newman said, referencing the dominant quartet of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
Among the headliners on the women’s side are Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys and two-time grand slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova. World No.7 and Wimbledon Finalist Eugenie Bouchard was slated to be the tournament’s top seed before withdrawing on Thursday.
Below are five players worth watching at the Citi Open:
FRANCIS TIAFOE: Tiafoe may not be a household name just yet, but the College Park native is already being discussed as U.S. tennis’ next great star.
The 16-year-old has been as high as No.2 in the world in the ITF Junior rankings and earned a wild card draw for the Citi Open. The tournament marks his first career ATP main draw.
“It couldn’t be a better scenario if that would be the case,” said tournament director Jeffrey Newman prior to Tiafoe being selected for the main draw Friday. “If he can put a few matches together and actually qualify for the main draw, it would just be a tremendous story for everybody in the area.”
Tiafoe is a product of College Park’s Junior Tennis Champions Center and won the prestigious 18-and-under Orange Bowl tournament in Florida last December, while still only 15. He was also the No.1 seed in the Boys’ French Open draw in Paris.
“Of course we’re all hoping that Francis plays to expectations and obviously we all hope that from an American tennis standpoint that he could really pull through and be the next American that carries the torch after John Isner and others,” Newman said.
MILOS RAONIC: Fresh off his first career Grand Slam semifinal, Raonic will be playing at the Citi Open for the second time in as many years. The Canadian fell in the Round-of-16 at last year’s Citi Open before reaching his first career Masters 1000 final one week later in Montreal.
Raonic has one of the strongest serves on tour and considers hard court his best surface. In 2013, Raonic became the first Canadian to crack the top-10 in the ATP’s rankings, and earlier this month he reached a career-high of No.6 in the world.
JOHN ISNER: The highest ranked American on the ATP Tour, Isner is a two- time finalist in D.C. (2007, 2013) who has traditionally played his best tennis during the late summer hard court season.
“It’s been a stretch of the season where in the past I’ve done extremely well, and it’s helped my season out quite a bit,” Isner said on a recent conference call.
“Obviously, the main goal is you want to play a lot of matches, you want to win a lot of matches, but you want to be 100 percent ready for the big one [the U.S. Open] in New York.”
Before arriving in D.C., Isner will look to defend his title at the BB&T Open in Atlanta. The 29-year-old is the only player scheduled to participate in all five U.S. Open Series events that lead up to the final grand slam of the year.
GRIGOR DIMITROV: The first Bulgarian to ever win a singles’ title on the ATP Tour, Dimitrov is also coming off his first career Grand Slam semifinal and has a career-high ranking of ninth in the world.
The 23-year-old has been compared to a young Roger Federer – even earning the nickname