- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 10, 2021

In the grand scheme of things, Mark Ein knew the cancelation of a tennis tournament was nothing compared to the issues the coronavirus pandemic posed around the world last summer. But there was still a hint of disappointment, knowing the Citi Open — a classic Washington summer event each year — wouldn’t take place in 2020.

Ein, the CEO of MDE Tennis, also knew the country would eventually gain a better grip on the pandemic at some point. And that time has come.

The Citi Open is set to return this summer, with the qualifying round beginning July 31 before the main draw competes Aug. 2 through Aug. 8 at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. With the tournament comes some normalcy, a return of a Washington tradition that’s occurred each summer — barring 2020 — for five decades.

“We’ve been waiting two years to bring the tournament back to our community, and the team’s been working around the clock to make it happen,” Ein said. “Everything fell into place so that it’s going to be another memorable week of tennis in D.C. this summer.”

Rock Creek Park Tennis Center will be limited to 50% capacity for fans, and those tickets are expected to sell out quickly. Ein said “virtually all” of those tickets will go to fans who buy full-tournament packages, but there will be a small number of daily tickets available, too. Full-tournament ticket packages will go on sale Friday.

For those attending, Ein expects similar amenities as were available in 2019, including Market Square — an area with a wide selection of food and beverage vendors.

“We’re going to have a fantastic place for people to eat and drink and hang out, that will be covered,” Ein said. “We’re trying to figure out if it will be enclosed or not. So we’re still working through that. But we’re totally committed to having this be a world-class event, which means you have to great facilities for people to come hang out in.”

The Citi Open, an ATP 500 event, often serves as a preparatory tournament for players gearing up for the U.S. Open in New York that follows in four weeks. In 2019, Nick Kyrgios beat Daniil Medvedev in the men’s singles championship.

Ein expects another strong men’s field, although the group hasn’t been finalized. The Citi Open is the only ATP event taking place Aug. 2-8, occurring right after the Tokyo Olympics tennis tournament — which runs from July 24 to Aug. 1.

“Anyone who wants to play a tournament that week has to play D.C.,” Ein said. “Based on that and the calls we’re already getting, I think we’re going to have an amazing field.”

But unlike past years, the Citi Open won’t host an official WTA event. Ein said the WTA moved that sanction to Poland, “much to our disappointment.”

“But we are going to have a showcase of some of the best women’s players that we’re finalizing the details on this year,” Ein said. “And we hope over the long-term to bring an official WTA tournament back.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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