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Ricky’s Tennis Previews and picks for the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.: Nadal Makes Tournament Debut

Rafael Nadal makes his Washington, DC debut this week. Photo credit: Mike Lawrence/Citi Open

The 2021 Citi Open is already being dominated by one headline and one headline only: Rafael Nadal is making his debut appearance in the district.

Having skipped the grass-court swing, Nadal could use some match practice with the U.S. Open just four weeks away. Thus the 35-year old has made the trip to Washington, D.C. for this 500-point tournament. He is joined by a strong field that also includes Felix Auger-Aliassime, Alex de Minaur, Grigor Dimitrov, Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda, and Nick Kyrgios.

Citi Open

Where: Washington, D.C.
Points: 500
Top seed: Rafael Nadal
Defending champion: Nick Kyrgios

Nadal will play his first-ever match in Washington, D.C. against either Jack Sock or Yoshihito Nishioka. The 20-time Grand Slam champion should not have much trouble in that opener, nor should he against either Lloyd Harris, Tennys Sandgren, and James Duckworth in the round of 16. A red-hot Cameron Norrie could offer more problems in the quarterfinals, although Norrie may have some trouble of his own against either Alexander Bublik, Kei Nishikori, or Sam Querrey in his second match. Also in the top half of the bracket are Dimitrov, Kyrgios, Los Cabos and Atlanta finalist Brandon Nakashima, and Los Cabos and Atlanta semifinalist Taylor Fritz.

Fewer players on the other side of the draw are in great form. Sinner has struggled since the French Open, de Minaur missed the Olympics because of a positive Covid-19 test, and both Auger-Aliassime and Frances Tiafoe are hoping to bounce back from first-round exits in Tokyo. Korda is in the midst of a stellar 2021 campaign, but the 20-year-old has played a ton of tennis and clearly wore down physically during an infamous Wimbledon fourth-round match in which he was broken seven times in the fifth set alone by Karen Khachanov (the Russian won 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 10-8). Emil Ruusuvuori, Jordan Thompson, and Kevin Anderson are unseeded floaters who could take advantage of opportunities.

Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada. EPA-EFE/WU HONG

Quarterfinal picks: Rafael Nadal over Cameron Norrie, Taylor Fritz over Ilya Ivashka, Emil Ruusuvuori over Alex de Minaur, and Felix Auger-Aliassime over Reilly Opelka

Semifinals: Fritz over Nadal and Auger-Aliassime over Ruusuvuori

Final: Fritz over Auger-Aliassime

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.