- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 29, 2021

When Rafael Nadal takes the court at the Citi Open next week, he’ll be searching for his 100th career-ATP tour win.

Nadal will kick off his D.C. debut in the second round on Tuesday night at 7 p.m., after receiving a first-round bye. The full tournament draw and matchups will be released on Friday. 

The Spaniard, ranked No. 3 in the world, is the first of the “Big Three” tennis players — the other two are Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic — to compete in the Citi Open. 

Though he isn’t scheduled to play competitively until next week, there are opportunities for fans to see the 20-time Grand Slam winner on the court before his first match.

Nadal is set to hold four open training sessions on the Citi Open’s Stadium Court, two on Saturday (10 a.m. and 5 p.m.) and two on Sunday (11 a.m. and 5 p.m.). 

“The interest from our community and fans to see Rafa in person has been overwhelming, so we are thrilled to provide a rare opportunity to witness his legendary preparation in a series of open practices on our Stadium Court this weekend,” Citi Open Chairman Mark Ein said in a statement. “This will provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a large number of additional fans that bought tickets to the qualifying rounds to see one of tennis’ all-time greats up close.” 

Fans with tickets to the tournament’s qualifying weekend are able to watch Nadal’s open practices from their seats in the stadium. 

The Citi Open marks Nadal’s first ATP tournament since his semifinal loss to Djokovic at the French Open in June. The tournament is also the beginning of Nadal’s U.S. Open tune-up, as he looks to win a record 21st grand slam title. 

The Citi Open will be at full capacity for the duration of the tournament, which allowed Ein to reinstate the full prize money pool. 

 “A lot of players have had a tough year and a half with a lot of tournaments not running and the ones that did significantly reduced prize money,” Ein told the Washington Times earlier this month. “So, I do think that this is going to make a meaningful difference to a lot of players.”

Nadal headlines a star-studded field at the tournament, which also includes U.S. Olympian Frances Tiafoe and defending Citi Open champion Nick Kyrgios. 

Tiafoe, who beat world No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round of Wimbledon, won his opening match at the Olympics before falling to Tsitsipas in the second round. 

The Hyattsville, Maryland, native won his first two matches at last year’s Citi Open before falling in the round of 16. 

Kyrgios also found success at Wimbledon this year, advancing to the round of 32 before withdrawing after the first set against world No. 19 Felix Auger-Alisasime with an injury. 

Auger-Alisasime is also slated to play in the Citi Open next week. 

The women’s invitational is set to have three of the U.S. Olympians play, including Coco Gauff, Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula. 

Pegula dropped her first-round match in Tokyo to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic in straight sets. Brady also lost her opening match in the Olympics, falling in straight sets to Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

Gauff missed the Olympics due to testing positive for COVID-19, but is still in the field at the Citi Open.

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