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Citi Open women’s field will feature 2021 U.S. Open finalists

Leylah Fernandez (left) and Emma Raducanu played in the 2021 U.S. Open final. (Elsa/Getty Images)

The teens whose march to last year’s U.S. Open women’s final captivated tennis fans will use Washington’s Citi Open as a key step in their preparations for the season’s final Grand Slam.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu and runner-up Leylah Fernandez are among the early commitments for the Citi Open’s women’s tournament, which returns this summer after a three-year absence. It will be staged at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center alongside Citi’s long-running men’s tournament July 30-Aug. 7.

Raducanu, of Britain, and Canada’s Fernandez, both 19 and ranked 11th and 15th respectively, will be joined in the 32-player women’s field by 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and fellow American Sofia Kenin, who won the 2020 Australian Open.

Early commitments for Washington’s 48-player men’s tournament include eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev of Russia; Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, the 2019 Citi Open champion; top-ranked American Taylor Fritz; 18th-ranked Reilly Opelka; and Hyattsville native Frances Tiafoe, ranked 27th.

The fields for both tournaments are still taking shape, said Citi Open Chairman Mark Ein, as players sort out their post-Wimbledon hard-court schedules for the run-up to the U.S. Open, which gets underway Aug. 29.

Washington’s Citi Open to bring back companion women’s tournament

“This is a great group, and there is more to come,” said Ein, a Washington-based venture capitalist who in April 2019 acquired the Citi Open’s management rights from the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation, which provides free tennis and educational programs for children in underserved communities and is the event’s beneficiary.

“The Citi Open is the first major hard-court event leading up to the U.S. Open,” Ein noted, “and it’s going to have additional significance particularly this year as players look to build their ranking points.”

Ein was referencing the joint decision of the ATP and WTA to not award ranking points for Wimbledon this year in retaliation for the All England Club’s ban of Russian and Belarusian players in protest of the invasion of Ukraine.

The Citi Open’s men’s event, classified as an ATP 500, is one rung higher than the women’s event (a WTA 250) in terms of the size of its field, the ranking points and prize money at stake.

But over the decade in which Citi hosted a companion women’s event, before its sanction-holder moved the event elsewhere, it drew strong fan support and attracted a prominent field.

The Citi Open last hosted a women’s tour-level event in 2019. It was won by American Jessica Pegula, who this week reached a career-high No. 8 on the heels of her quarterfinal performance at the French Open.

Raducanu, who will be making her Citi Open debut, was the first player to confirm her participation this month.

She became a British sensation in reaching Wimbledon’s fourth round last summer, just weeks after she took her high school exams, as a 338th-ranked wild-card entry. At the U.S. Open in September, she became a global brand upon becoming the first qualifier in the Open era to win a Grand Slam title. Raducanu was also the first woman to win the U.S. Open without conceding a set since Serena Williams in 2014.

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The war in Ukraine: As the tournament gets underway, Wimbledon’s Russia and Belarus ban leaves 16 of the top 100 on the outside. Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine spoke at length about the upended state of her mind, and said the absence of Russian and Belarusian players here had lent that mind some calm. Tsurenko beat fellow Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina in the second round.

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