Rafael Nadal is trading Tokyo for … Washington, D.C. this year.
The world No. 3, who like many players is passing on this year’s Summer Olympics, will headline the field at the Citi Open.
The 500-level ATP Tour event is scheduled for Aug. 2-8.
That’s the week after the Olympics.
Nadal, like his fellow “Big 3” players, has never played the D.C. tournament.
With back-to-back Masters 1000s in Canada and Cincinnati immediately afterwards, and then the US Open, the summer schedule is packed as is.
Roger Federer played it once, back in 1999 when he was just outside the top 100. He lost to No. 407 Bjorn Phau 6-2, 6-3. It was called the Legg-Mason Tennis Classic then.
Here’s quote from Nadal on his participation (It’s actually slightly more believable than most “I’m coming to your tournament” player quotes you see).
“I am very excited to come to Washington for the first time. I have never been there and it’s one more place I wanted to come and play. So I am looking forward to playing again and Washington shall be the best start for the US Summer Swing for me. Looking forward to seeing again my US fans that I haven’t seen since I won the 2019 US Open in NYC!. Vamos!”
Impressive field in D.C.
With a lot of players skipping Tokyo – the top Americans are, improbably, supporting the ATP 250 tournament in Atlanta that week – and the challenges in Canada for the National Bank Open, the field is strong.
In addition to Nadal, defending champion Nick Kyrgios will be there. Canadians Milos Raonic (who won the tournament in 2014 over countryman Vasek Pospisil in the final) also is signed on. Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime are expected to join him.
Of them, only Auger-Aliassime will be in Tokyo.
D.C. at 50 per cent capacity
It won’t be a full house. But the stands are to be at 50 per cent capacity. And the tournament reports those seats already are 85 per cent sold.
With the announcement of Nadal being in the house, the rest should go like hotcakes.
There are still five wild cards remaining to be announced. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see some additional names.
As well, the event is having a women’s exhibition event that features American Olympians Coco Gauff, Jennifer Brady and Jessica Pegula. The three will be coming straight from Tokyo.
The WTA Tour has a 500-level tournament in San Jose that week – also in the U.S. So they’ll be due some reparations for those players opting for an exhibition the week of an actual Tour event.
And what about Canada?
It’s been 3 1/2 weeks since Tennis Canada announced that it had the go-ahead from the Quebec provincial government to host the National Bank Open in Montreal, featuring the women this year.
No word yet, though, on the federal government’s signoff (which is necessary). There’s also no official word about what will happen in Toronto for the men.
Prior to that, there was serious consideration given to relocating the event to Cincinnati for 2021.
The federation has kicked off a publicity campaign for the events, renamed from the Rogers Cup this year.
But tickets have yet to go on sale, a month before the tournament. It is still expected that it will be a closed bubble, with no fans (and no media).
With the players already having dealt with this for nearly a year, it’s not exactly the most savory prospect.
Especially considering some will be coming from a similar environment at the Olympics. There are also the logistics involved in crossing the border.
It’s hard to imagine that Nadal will play D.C., then back-to-back Masters 1000s, then the US Open with his 35-year-old knees.
He might. But more likely it’s a sign that he will stay in the U.S., once he gets there, and skip Canada and its bubble.
Nadal might not be alone.