- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Citi Open began with a spotlight on teenage sensations like Coco Gauff, Caty McNally and Hailey Baptiste. It ended Sunday with a pair of veterans lifting trophies.

Nick Kyrgios, the 24-year-old Australian known as “the bad boy of tennis,” won his sixth ATP title by beating No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev in the men’s singles final, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4). And 25-year-old Jessica Pegula defeated Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-2, in the women’s final to claim her first WTA title.

“I’ve just been working really hard, on and off the court, to try and be better as a person and as a tennis player,” Kyrgios said. “As I said, I wasn’t exaggerating — this has been one of the best weeks of my life, not just on the court but in general. I feel like I’ve made major strides.”

Kyrgios flashed trick shots like an under-the-leg lob and an underhand serve that’s become one of his signatures. He finished with 18 aces, with their speed often in the 130s.

Neither Kyrgios nor Medvedev reached break point a single time, so two tiebreaks determined the champion.

Kyrgios only managed to score a total of one point in Medvedev’s six service games in the first set, and a trainer appeared to work on his back between games. But after falling behind 5-2 in the tiebreak, Kyrgios charged back to tie it five-all and used an ace of his own to set himself up for the 8-6 victory.

“I think at 2-all, I started having some back spasms in the right part of my back, but the doctor came on,” he said. “Took some painkillers. And the physio has been a great help all week managing some of the (discomfort) I’ve had.”

The second set followed the same script, though Kyrgios’ return game got better. He posted three aces in the tiebreak, including the final two points of the tournament. Kyrgios apparently asked a spectator where he should aim his last serve before smashing the winning ace.

Earlier in the afternoon, Pegula finished off her Italian opponent in a tidy 59 minutes and hardly ever misstepped. She broke Giorgi’s serve four times while never allowing her own serve to be broken.

Pegula is the daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Kim and Terry Pegula. Through a professional career constantly delayed by injuries and surgeries, Pegula said she wondered at times if she would ever break through and win a singles title.

“It’s definitely always been in the back of my mind, for sure,” said Pegula, her miniature Australian shepherd Maddie in her lap behind the podium. “But I don’t know, this week it felt different. This final, I felt like I was just ready. I was like, ‘You know what, you’re gonna go out there and you’re gonna win.’ I felt confident in that.”

Pegula opened the match by scoring back-to-back return winners off Giorgi’s offerings. The American wowed the crowd later with another blistering return winner on her way to securing a break point. After earning a 3-2 lead, Pegula breezed through the last three games to clinch the first set.

The second set had an almost identical start, and Giorgi, down 3-1, pushed Pegula to deuce. The game ended up hitting deuce three times, with each player grabbing advantage, then relinquishing it. On the third deuce, Pegula finally pushed through to take the game, all but ending Giorgi’s hopes of a comeback.

Pegula served up an ace for her championship point and dropped to her knees.

“The journey makes it all that much sweeter,” she said. “I worked really hard. To kind of push through this week and really push myself to the limit to be stronger than I thought I was at times really makes it — it’s amazing.”

Sunday’s finals marked the end of the first year that the Citi Open was managed by Mark Ein, a native Washingtonian businessman who also owns the Washington Kastles tennis team.

“We set lofty goals and it exceeded even our wildest dreams. It’s a real tribute to this tennis community,” Ein said. “I’ve always believed we have one of the best tennis communities in America, and this had the foundation of one of the great tennis events in America, but that it just needed to be elevated in every respect.

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