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Venus Williams will play in the Citi Open for the first time

Venus Williams, who played mixed doubles at Wimbledon this month, will compete in the Citi Open. (Alastair Grant/AP)
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Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams chose Washington’s Citi Open to launch her return to singles competition after nearly a year’s hiatus, tournament organizers announced Thursday.

Williams, 42, who made her debut at No. 1 in the world in February 2002 at 21, will be making her debut in the Citi Open women’s event, which returns this summer after a three-year absence. It will be staged at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center alongside the Citi Open’s long-running men’s tournament July 30 to Aug. 7.

“I love Washington, D.C., and returning to the nation’s capital to play in front of a community that has supported me so strongly feels like a homecoming,” Williams, who competed for the Washington Kastles in World Team Tennis for nine seasons, said in a statement released by tournament officials. “I am looking forward to being back on the courts and competing in D.C. soon.”

Citi Open chairman Mark Ein said it was “a huge thrill” to welcome Williams to the tournament one year after Rafael Nadal made his Citi Open debut.

“Venus is obviously a tremendous champion who transcends tennis and even sports and a role model who touches a lot of people, especially in Washington,” Ein said. “Giving our fans a chance to see her live and in person in a tournament for the first time in Washington is a great thrill.”

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After taking nearly a year off following a first-round defeat at a WTA event in Chicago last August, Williams returned to competition this month in mixed doubles, pairing with Jamie Murray at Wimbledon. Williams joins an impressive field for the Citi Open women’s event that includes reigning U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu, American Jessica Pegula, 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens and former top-ranked players Simona Halep and Victoria Azarenka.

Because the draw for the 32-player women’s field is closed, Williams was granted a wild-card entry. The following week, she plans to join sister Serena in the singles draw of the National Bank Open in Toronto (Aug. 6-14), the WTA announced Wednesday.

The Citi Open is the first ATP 500-level hard-court event contested in North America after Wimbledon, making it a popular event for top touring pros as they transition from grass to hard courts in advance of the U.S. Open, the season’s final Grand Slam event.

This year’s combined men’s and women’s Citi Open tournaments will include four former top-ranked players, seven Grand Slam champions and 10 players ranked in the world’s top 20.

Citi Open adds former No. 1 players Andy Murray, Simona Halep to field

The 48-player men’s field is headlined by former No. 1 Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist; recent Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios; eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev of Russia; the top-ranked American, No. 13 Taylor Fritz; No. 17 Reilly Opelka; and Hyattsville native Frances Tiafoe, who is ranked 29th.

The Citi Open women’s tournament will be held in conjunction with the men’s, with first-round matches getting underway Aug. 1 and both finals held Aug. 7.

The men’s tournament is a rung higher than the women’s event (a WTA 250) in terms of the size of its field and the ranking points and prize money at stake. But over the decade in which the Citi Open hosted a companion women’s event, before it was relocated, it drew strong fan support and attracted prominent fields.

Elena Rybakina, Wimbledon’s reigning champion, withdrew from the Citi Open, as have Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard and Kei Nishikori of Japan.

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