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Rising tennis star Frances Tiafoe is coming home this summer, not just to play for the Washington Kastles during the three-week long World Team Tennis season, but also to compete in the Citi Open tennis tournament at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, which runs July 28 to August 5.
The 20-year-old Hyattsville native is part of the men’s field that was announced by the tournament on Tuesday.
“I think it’s great for our D.C. community just to see him out on the court and cheer for him,” says tournament director Keely O’Brien. “He’s one of our hometown heroes. I’m excited for him to be here again and compete on the big stage.”
Tiafoe joins other young standouts such as defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany, Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, Hyeong Chung of South Korea, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alex de Minaur of Australia, and Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov, both of Russia.
All are under the age of 23 and considered part of the next generation of tennis champions.
On the women’s side, 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, who was born in Florida but plays for Japan, is committed to competing for the first time in D.C. She is also scheduled to make an appearance for the Kastles in July. GQ magazine recently called her the “coolest thing in tennis.”
(World Team Tennis chairman and Washington Kastles owner Mark D. Ein is the owner of Washington City Paper.)
These names may not register as much to the casual fan as other Citi Open commitments, like former world No. 1’s Andy Murray and Caroline Wozniacki, or U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, but they’re an important part of the tournament’s mission, O’Brien says.
“You want to make sure you have these type of players coming in,” she adds. “They’re creatures of habit. Getting them on stadium court, having them check out our facilities—hopefully this becomes a habit for them every summer.”
It’s why O’Brien and her team reached out to Tiafoe as soon as she read a Washington Post article from February in which Tiafoe declared that “home is the answer” after he won his first ATP title. She convinced him to come back to his hometown tournament.
Tiafoe lost in the first round in his two previous appearances at the Citi Open in 2014 and 2016, but recently told Tennis magazine, “There isn’t a better feeling than playing in front of friends and family—best thing you can ask for. The hometown support I receive is amazing. The Citi Open was the first pro tournament that I ever watched, so to win it would be amazing.”
On Monday at the Citi Open Wild Card Challenge, 16-year-old Natasha Subhash of Fairfax, one of the top-ranked junior players in the country, defeated 17-year-old Nicole Hammond of Centreville, 6-4, 6-4, in the women’s final. Hunter Koonz of Glen Allen, Virginia, who played at Virginia Tech, was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over 16-year-old Trinity Grear of Adelphi, in the men’s final. Both champions will receive a wild card into the Citi Open qualifying tournament.
Top image by Flickr user Keith Allison.