The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Last week, they were in Tokyo. Now, some Olympians are playing in the Citi Open.

Ilya Ivashka an Olympian from Belarus, wanted to get to Washington here as soon as possible to adjust to what he called “the biggest time difference I’ve had in my life.” (Michael Blackshire/The Washington Post)
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As the fireworks exploded above him in Tokyo, U.S. tennis player Marcos Giron walked through the entrance of National Stadium in awe.

It was the 28-year-old’s first visit to Tokyo and his first appearance in the Olympic Games. And Giron, who beat Slovakia’s Norbert Gombos in the first round before falling to Kei Nishikori of Japan, soaked in the experience of competing in the Games.

A few days later, Giron hopped on a plane and headed back to the United States, balancing a busy schedule that saw him jet across the Pacific Ocean, skip over time zones and move from the global Tokyo stage to 16th Street in Northwest Washington for the Citi Open.

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The schedule is not unique; he is one of 10 Olympians playing singles at the Citi Open this week, although Giron did make one stop in California along the way.

“It’s been a crazy week, going from Tokyo to L.A. I had to go to my friend’s wedding on Friday,” Giron said Monday. “Then flew over here Saturday and now this, and so it’s [kind of] been a whirlwind, but I’m stoked to be here and want to really do my best.”

Giron won his opening match Monday against Illya Marchenko before falling to No. 7 seed Cameron Norrie on Tuesday. Giron and other Olympians in the tournament said the transition hasn’t been easy.

Travel comes with the territory for pro tennis players, but Giron and others said adjusting to the time change had an impact on sleep schedules. Giron said he woke up at 2 a.m. the first couple of nights he was back in the United States and had trouble falling back asleep.

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Tommy Paul, another U.S. tennis player who competed in his first Olympics in Tokyo, lost his first-round match July 24 and was back in the United States the following Monday. His body hadn’t adjusted to the new location.

“I would fall asleep at like 9:30 [p.m.] the first day and wake up at 2 [a.m.], be up until 7 and then fall asleep from 7 to 8, and then get up and go practice,” Paul said. “It was like a couple of days like that. . . . We’re pretty used to it as tennis players — we travel through time zones a bunch — but that’s definitely one of the more gnarly time changes.”

Paul faced Daniel Elahi Galán in the first round at Citi Open on Monday. Galán also competed in Tokyo, where he represented Colombia. And like Paul, he also struggled to adjust to sleeping in the United States. He said he kept waking up before dawn. If he was still suffering, it didn’t show against Paul — Galán won in straight sets.

Ilya Ivashka, an Olympian from Belarus, lost his third-round match in Japan just six days ago and jumped on a plane the next day. He wanted to get to Washington as soon as possible to adjust to what he called “the biggest time difference I’ve had in my life.”

Ivashka defeated an Olympic teammate, Egor Gerasimov, in straight sets Monday in a match he said was difficult, given that they were on the same side a few days ago.

German Alexander Zverev won gold in Tokyo on Sunday, beating Russian Karen Khachanov. Neither player was set to be in the Citi Open draw.

Paul and Giron both said it was an honor to represent the United States, one they had dreamed of for a long time. Galán said he remembers watching the Olympics on television, so to be able to compete in the Games was special. When the next Summer Olympics roll around in Paris in 2024, all three hope to be there.

“Hopefully, I can be back to Paris and L.A. [in 2028], ending my career,” Paul said. “Would be awesome.”