The comfortable Citi Open limits bring fans and players together

The comfortable Citi Open limits bring fans and players together

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Opinion

“She is a fan of style tennis,” says Shobitha Nandy with a laugh.

Seven years ago, Nandy, 59, moved from New York City to Rockville, where she was a regular at the US Open in Queens. One year, she waited outside her door until 2 a.m. to catch a glimpse of — and hopefully — a presentation from Rafael Nadal. But once she moved to Maryland, she realized that the City Open’s unparalleled access to players made the tournament for her.

She loved it so much that she chose to spend her 59th birthday at City Open this year.

“[The players] It’s really cool going from the player’s lounge to the court, and then you can take them back and forth and see them on the practice courts,” Nandy said. “It’s a lot to do with the players, you can go to their games and chat with them and take pictures with them. But it’s not the same at the big tournaments,” he said.

For top players in tennis, it’s a dual opportunity for practice and recreation.

Despite the low standard of the event, one of the City Open’s main selling points is the high level of player and fan interaction. Part of that comes down to the smaller footprint of the Rock Creek Tennis Center. The venue’s various match pitches and practice pitches are scattered around the site so when the players arrive in the morning, they have to walk through fan areas to get anywhere, even to the player’s lounge itself. For fans, that means brushing elbows with everyone from Nick Kyrgios to Emma Raducanu.

But City Ops, led by chairman Mark Eye, prefers to lean towards that stricture.

The tournament publishes daily practice schedules so fans can see the practice courts inside the fence and watch their favorite stars train and work on their games. The tournament has started hosting daily “tennis talks” in front of the market square food court where former professional tennis player Prakash Amritraj has a silly mock news conference with a rival player. There are also daily autograph sessions at the same venue – all part of the tournament’s mission, Iain says.

“It’s a big part of what makes this race special,” Iain said Thursday. “The competition is so big that you have a lot of the best players in the world, but the fans are so close that they can be close when they play. You can see them walking around the campus. And we get a lot of positive feedback from players and fans that accessibility is a big part of why they love the tournament so much.

For their part, the players in DC have shown their desire to communicate with their fans. Ajla Tomljanovic had some back-and-forth banter with her fans after her “tennis speech” on Wednesday. On the point of the game where he defeated Marcos Giron in the first round Kyrgios turned to a fan in the crowd and asked her where he should serve.who might have been expecting emotional angst from the Australian brand is both shocking and delightful.

Ain pointed out the myriads Local tennis stars who enjoyed the tournament as children – Francis Tiafoe, Dennis Kudla and Hayley Baptiste Among them. After defeating Christopher Eubanks on Wednesday, Tiafoe recalled how much he valued his experience as a young tennis player, rubbing elbows with the likes of Andre Agassi and Leighton Hewitt.

In the same breath, though, the Hyattsville native, who is ranked 27th in the world, also said the challenges he faces in player demand are “good and bad” with fan interaction.

Nick Kyrgios always draws a crowd. At 27, is he ready to deliver?

“I tried to come here tonight so much from around the locker room,” Tiafoe said in the interview room after walking through the fans after Wednesday’s win. “It’s different for me. I am a man of my country. . . . But maybe soon they will make it a little easier for the players because [the tournament is] There are better and better players coming here because they have reputations and they want to feel like they can come and go as they please.

Ain scoffed when asked about player security, praising the quality of the event’s security team and saying that a player can request a security detail at any time if he doesn’t bring his own security team in advance.

Thursday was the sold-out session of the City Open series since 2019, Ein said, and the high fan-player interaction kept fans like Nandy coming back to Rock Creek.

“Honestly, it’s a great tournament, a little tournament, but you have big, big-name players coming here,” she said. “…I like this race.”



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