- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2021

Jannik Sinner cruised this week past the Citi Open field to the final, where he ran into Mackenzie McDonald and it wasn’t so easy.

Sinner, who hadn’t lost a set through his first four matches, dropped the second set on Sunday, and narrowly won the final frame as he beat McDonald 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 to win his third tournament of his career. 

The 19-year-old Italian, who turns 20 on Aug. 16, became the first teenager to win an ATP 500 level event in the tour’s history and is the third youngest to claim the Citi Open title. Teenagers were 0-5 in ATP 500 events since 2009, when the category was created. 

The Citi Open is Sinner’s second win of the season, as he won the Great Ocean Road Open in Melbourne, Australia in February. 

In the first set on Sunday, the fifth-seeded Sinner jumped out to a 5-3 lead. McDonald, who was unseeded, was able to defend six set points to tie the frame at five a piece. The pair had an 18-point game that McDonald was able to take to tie the set. 

“I had a lot of chances. I couldn’t use it, because first he was playing better in the crucial moments,” Sinner said. “But I tried to work for one more chance and for one more chance and trying to break him like this.”

Sinner rebounded with back-to-back games to take the opening set. 

McDonald found a way to close in the second set, as he won the four of the final five games in the frame to even the match and force a deciding set. 

In the final set, Sinner took a commanding 3-0 lead to start, but McDonald didn’t give up. He avoided two championship points to claw back and even the set at five a piece. Sinner closed the door, winning the next two games.

Sinner said he didn’t think he was hitting the ball in the final the same way he was in the earlier rounds that he dominated.

“I tried to somehow stay calm and work for my chances,” Sinner said. “When I had to close it out, I should have played some different kind of serves, you know, maybe body or something, but, you know, after the match it’s always easy to talk.”

McDonald’s loss extends the American drought at the Citi Open, as the last U.S. man to win was Andy Roddick in 2007. 

The Citi Open final was McDonald’s first appearance in an ATP title match in his career. It was also his sixth match in six days, as he didn’t receive a first-round bye like Sinner did.  

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work and, honestly, it’s been a great week for me,” McDonald said after the match. “I’m super happy with my performance and I’m just going to keep going and keep grinding and maybe win a title one day.”

In doubles, Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan knocked off the No. 2-seeded duo of Neal Skupski and Michael Venus 7-6, 6-4 on Sunday. 

Klaasen and McLachlan trailed 5-3 early in the first set, but were able to turn it around just after.

“We made a couple of key returns at the right moment to keep us alive,” Klaasen said. “That’s the mental challenge, trying to stay alive mentally when things aren’t going your way. Fortunately today it worked out for us.”

Klaasen and Venus were the defending champions, having won the Citi Open final in 2019.

This year, Klaasen and McLachlan didn’t drop a set the entire tournament en route to the title. It’s their second victory together as they won in Cologne, Germany in October 2020. 

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