The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

D.C. native Hailey Baptiste falls, Lauren Davis advances to Citi Open quarterfinals

Lauren Davis showcases her powerful backhand in action against Sofia Kenin during their Citi Open match on Wednesday afternoon at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center. (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX)

Washington native Hailey Baptiste’s short, sweet time at the Citi Open ended Wednesday with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 loss to Kristina Mladenovic in the second round. Mladenovic, an experienced tour pro with one career title, advances to face qualifier Anna Kalinskaya, who defeated 2016 Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 earlier Wednesday.

Baptiste’s run ended under the bright lights of Stadium Court in front of a sparse yet passionate crowd that tried to spark her throughout a tiring third set in which her level dropped considerably. The 17-year-old had won the first WTA match of her career the night before over 2017 U.S. Open finalist Madison Keys and showed the same controlled power the second time around.

Baptiste’s serve hovered around 110 mph all night, and she also deployed a fabulous kick serve to much effect. The teenager is quick, with good spin on a powerful forehand, but Mladenovic, who had 11 double faults and was off her normally crafty game, has more experience closing out matches. She honed in as Baptiste wilted.

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Still, getting to play at the tournament’s largest venue was a special moment in Baptiste’s young career. The Washingtonian grew up near Rock Creek Park Tennis Center and participated in the Washington Tennis and Education Foundation’s programming. As a part of the WTEF, which owns the ATP sanction and is the beneficiary of the Citi Open, Baptiste would sneak into the tournament as a child just to get a peek at the tennis.

“It felt really good playing on that court. I’ve watched so many matches there, and so many people that I’ve looked up to played on that court,” Baptiste said. “It was really cool to be able to play on the same court.”

Next up, Baptiste plans on heading to USTA nationals in San Diego to compete for a wild card into the main draw of the U.S. Open.

Davis outlasts Kenin

The grandstand crowd waited nearly three hours for release, and as Lauren Davis closed in on a spot in the Citi Open quarterfinals, the crowd was ready for the moment. “Come on, Lauren!” came a yell. “Here we go, LD!” came another.

When Davis finally sealed the match, completing a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win over fellow American Sofia Kenin, the crowd went to its feet and roared.

Davis, a 25-year-old American and former finalist in Washington, knocked out the highest remaining seed in the women’s draw. Kenin, a 20-year-old Russian native with American citizenship, is enjoying her finest year as a professional, including a third-round win over Serena Williams in June at the French Open.

But she became the third top seed to fall, only a day after No. 1 seed Sloane Stephens and second-seeded Keys — and 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff — exited the WTA draw.

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Despite winning the first set, Kenin was not sharp Wednesday against Davis, a player who reached a career-high rank of 26th (May 2017) and currently checks in at 75th in the world. Throughout the match Davis remained calm while Kenin kicked a ball, hit one toward the side and shook her head after unforced errors.

“I played well. I’m happy to be doing it and enjoying the tennis,” Davis said. “I just had a game plan and I executed it. At times it wasn’t the prettiest, but I competed really well. Just happy with the way I fought.”

Davis said she and Kenin have trained together in Delray Beach, Fla., and she knew precisely how Kenin wants to play. Davis dismantled the speedster by staying aggressive with her backhand and showing quickness in the midafternoon humidity.

Neither player is imposing. Davis stands 5-foot-2, Kenin 5-7. But each struck the ball well and played with power.

Davis knows Kenin likes to dictate the point and countered her opponent’s approach with a simple mind-set: “I just tried to not hit it right at her,” Davis said.

Davis advances to Thursday’s quarterfinal against American Jessica Pegula, whom Davis lost to earlier this season.

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