Monday, August 7, 2017

As told by Adam Cooper: Ups and Downs at a Local ATP 500 Tourney

Adam Cooper has been playing in since June 2011 racking up a 162-83 record while playing in the top division. This is his comments about the Citi Open.

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Citi Open in DC this past week.  The tournament has been around for decades: when I was in High School I saw the likes of Michael Chang and Andre Agassi (with long hair) duel it out here.  The facility, like many used for professional events, is open to the public the rest of the year, and I've played on these courts from time to time.  The rest of the year the place looks a bit rusty and worn-down, but it gets all dolled up for this smallish tournament every late July when the ATP comes to town.  DC is always oppressively hot then, with daytime highs in the 90s and plenty of humidity.  I remember one muggy match between Stefan Edberg and Patrick Rafter where both players keeled over in heat exhaustion after the last point (Edberg won).  For the last few years the facility has also hosted a smaller WTA International Event simultaneously, so there's plenty of men's and women's matches to see.  This year some of the key players in the men's draw were Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raonic, and Gael Monfils; for the women we had Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard, and Kristina Mladenovic.  

It's always fun to stroll through the pleasant bustle of fans, each slurping $10 beer, $8 hot dogs, or $5 popsicles.  It's crowded but not overwhelming: DC is not a sports-crazy town.  Politics is the big game here.  I make sure to visit the serve speed booth, where you can wait in line to give your own serve a whack and see what you register on the radar gun (I managed an underwhelming 83MPH, and later noticed a scrawny teenager had hit 114MPH... always good for my confidence).  You can often catch a few pros out on the practice courts if you get there early.  Seeing them up close you're struck by just how consistent the strokes they produce are, getting the same basic solid shot from any kind of ball fed to them (slice, topspin, short, deep, etc.).  You also notice just how TALL all the players are now.  Six feet is just a starting point for these bronzed, lanky athletes.

I stayed for the evening matches, eager to catch a glimpse of Dominic Thiem's backhand, but the weather had other plans as a massive summer thunderstorm broke right over Rock Creek Park.  Fans were sent scurrying like rats for the few flimsy tents that were set up, or else huddled under the bleachers.  I was hoping it would be a passing storm that would just delay things but the sheets of rain kept falling for over an hour.  After the clouds finally moved on, the ground crews leapt into action, drying the courts with rollers, blowers, and even on their hands and knees with towels.  I watched this excruciating 40-minute low-tech process for a while wondering if there wasn't a better way... roof, anyone?  The match was set to finally get going, but then, dishearteningly, a few more drops started to fall.  Tennis, especially on hard courts, is kind of unique as a sport in just being completely intolerant of rain.  It messes with strings, balls, and--most importantly--brings the risk of slipping and falling hard on concrete.  By this time it was almost 9PM and I gave up and headed home.  They were able to get the matches in after the second shower: the final ball was struck around 1:45AM, but I was in bed long before then.

No comments: