Freaky Friday at Citi Open as Top Seeds Lose
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
Fridays can be a little sad at a tennis tournament. You notice the almost-bare practice courts, fewer players passing by, and mostly, less fans zigging and zagging their way through the grounds en route to a match on a far-flung court. Everyone, it seems, is now inside the Stadium and Grandstand watching a limited number of matches of paramount importance.
Well, this Friday had a few surprises on the court. Freaky Friday, as it were.
The women were relegated and cursed to spend all match eternity away from Stadium Court, and so they battled it out on Grandstand 1. Top men’s seed John Isner fizzled on Stadium, and you could feel the hot winds of change blowing through the Washington tournament.
Top Seed Sam Stosur felt the freak the hardest, as she was stunned by Jessica Pegula in straight sets. Pegula survived a first set tiebreak before going into Beast Mode in the second, and the former US Open champion was reduced to rubble, 7-6(4), 6-3, by the #173-ranked Pegula, who moves on to face….
That’s right. The #122, who told me yesterday that she wanted to be in the top 50 at year’s end, sure sounds prescient now after a 6-4, 6-4 win over Camila Giorgi. She’s on a mission.
Yanina Wickmayer was the first on to the semis today, with a turnaround 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kiki Mladenovic in 2:11 under sunny skies in 91-degree heat. Wickmayer went on to play doubles after the win. And she won again, telling me that the conditions weren’t the worst she’d seen. “We have”, she replied. “A lot of times it is humid and hot conditions and that’s just how it is. I guess it’s for both of us. Your opponent has to deal with the same conditions. We just have to hang in there and stay positive.”
Wickmayer (Photo: @Tennis_Shots, Christopher Levy)
Awaiting Wickmayer will be Yulia Putintseva, a winner over Risa Ozaki in straights, 6-4, 6-2 in 86 torturous minutes. Putintseva, who hit a career high ranking of 35 in June, is playing excellent stateside tennis in 2016. Wickmayer has a 1-0 head to head with Putintseva.
As far as I am concerned, this will be the real final. Although Poots has never won a WTA tour title and Wickmayer has four, these are solid top 50 players, unlike the participants in the other semifinal, the all-American one, who hope to break the top 100.
Everyone in the business of making money on this tournament wanted Sloane against Sam for the final. The television ratings, the re-tweets! It would’ve been great. I would call what they have on their hands a small marketing disaster, except for the fact that tournament organizers here have never really cared nearly as much about the women’s event for it to count as a disaster. Some hopes are raised as an all-American semifinal between Pegula and Davis tomorrow night will guarantee an American a spot in Sunday’s final.
With just 4 WTA titles combined among the semifinalists all belonging to Wickmayer, this ‘disaster’ also represents an opportunity for three young women to come away with a maiden title. Where were you when Jessica Pegula won her first WTA title? And where will you be when Poots or Davis nabs hers?
You might be in Washington.