Citi Open Commences


I arrive around 3. Hewitt is hitting with Istomin. Paire and Matosevic are with players I can’t identify.

The Citi Open layout has changed a lot since I was last here about five years ago with Dan. More courts, newer courts. Kuznetsova is on stadium but most of the fans are walking around watching practices.

The wildcard sixteen year old Francis Tiafoe arrives with coach Mischa around 5. He looks really relaxed and confident. Allison Riske goes over to greet him and wish him well.

The seventeen year old Jared Donaldson of Rhode Island is walking around with coach Taylor Dent about an hour before he takes the court against Rajeev Ram. JD actually wins the first set tiebreak. I’m surprised at the whip in his forehand and the velocity it produces. He’s on the slight side at l60 but he has some major pop.

Ram’s experience takes over though and he wins 64 75. Donaldson is quite feisty and emotional, berating himself over mistakes and firing himself up for good play. At the end, JD serves an ace wide at 30-all and 56 but loses the next two points with misses. On match point JD goes down the tee but it’s just long. He argues the call but it was clearly out from our view. After the slight delay, he makes the second serve and pulls Ram wide to the forehand but Ram’s counter is too fast to control and despite the court being open, the kid’s mishit shot sails long.

After the match in the mixed zone – Greg Sharko said he waited about ten minutes to let JD compose himself after the frustrating defeat, his debut ATP match which he really could have won, and then he fields questions from three reporters.

Basically, Donaldson said it was lack of experience which did him in and this match is just a part of the process. When asked how he hooked up with Dent, JD said he was very unhappy with his serve at US Open last year and realized he needed to improve it. So JD’s dad found Phil “The Serve Doctor” Dent’s academy online and sent an email to Taylor about working together for about a month in November. JD liked and gelled so well with Dent that they have stayed together ever since. A thoughtful and well spoken young man, Donaldson said he really likes Dent as a person and enjoys their time together.

Francis Tiafoe started his match with a love hold vs. Donskoy on stadium but was broken in his second service game with two sloppy errors at 30-all. But after that Tiafoe looked very impressive for just a sixteen year old, very comfortable on the court. I like his handspeed, he can really blast the forehand, and his movement is stellar.

Tim Smyczek routed Alex Kuznetsov 63 60. They warmed up next to each other, about ten yards apart, in the player area. I remember Smyczek served for the match vs. Kuz in Sarasota last year but Kuz broke and then won the second set and third set and proceeded to win the title, which rejuvenated his career and helped earn the French Open WC. But today, Tim was too much for Kuznetsov.

Robby Ginepri, sporting yellow socks, dominated Falla. I know most have given up on Gineps but he had match points on Isner in ATL last week and has quietly been stringing together some wins.

I spoke with Ljubicic about his Facing Rafa memories. Ivan is one of the best interviews in the tennis business. He had some fascinating insights about Nadal, which I had never heard before. Loobie was hitting with Raonic on a practice court for a good hour, working on serving and having Raonic practice returns. Then the #2 seed played sets with comebacking Blaz Kavcic.

I spoke with Kavcic before the hit and he said he’s just coming back from a freak foot surgery where some nerves were damaged in the middle of his foot where as now he has no feeling in two of his fingers. He had to start all over with walking and running. But he’s back now ranked in the 80s. And he was giving Raonic all he could handle.

I remember Kavcic at the US Open last year, he lost in qualies and was leaving Ashe by the media exit. I wanted to talk with him about Facing Hewitt – he has two wins over Hewitt, including one at the French Open, but I was talking with a colleague and said to myself, Ah, Kavcic will be back tomorrow, I’ll talk with him then. But I never saw him again.

Kavcic will play the resurgent Benjamin Becker who made the semis in ATL.

I watched some of Taylor Townsend, she lost the first set to Julia Goerges but rebounded and was up 52 in the second when I left. Big crowds watching Miss TT.

It was great to see our own friend Coach Skelly on the grounds, sharing his anecdotes. Coach Skelly insists Spadea is coming back and that DY has to fix his forehand prep. He says DY doesn’t bring it back early enough and a big forehand can cause him to miss. DY was able to beat Sugita in three sets though. The points I saw, DY was very fiery. DY needed this win after bombing out in Newport (to Groth) and ATL (to Sela).

Also spoke with the NY Times writer Ben Rothenberg about how he broke the Neil Harman plagiarism story. He said the initial tip off came from someone at Wimbledon. Rothenberg’s research found 50 examples of Harman’s plagiarism in only three years of writing the Wimbledon Annual. That’s right…FIFTY.

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  • Dan Markowitz · July 29, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Thanks, Scoop, for the excellent reporting from D.C. Wish I was there with you. Dent is one of my all time favorites in tennis. Just never blew me off as a reporter and always had something interesting to say. Glad he’s involved in the development of the promising Donaldson. It is amazing that 3 of the biggest American prospects are from New York, Maryland and Rhode Island currently.

    What’s Skell’s doing in D.C? Is he coaching anyone there? Spadea comeback!? How come I know nothing about this. I like the notion, but really doubt that Vince at 40 is seriously making a comeback big since when he last played at 35 he couldn’t get past the first round of the Open qualis.

    Ginepri is very impressive, almost beating Izzie and now taking out Groth and Falla. The guy has some chest. Strongest man in American tennis. If he can get back into Top 100 it would be quite impressive.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 29, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Dan, thanks, but Florida is on the map too with young Kozlov in the mix. He’s playing doubles here on Weds. Kozlov told me yesterday when he hit with Rafa in Miami, on the first day he was stuck at the gate for “two hours” because security didn’t believe him that he was going to hit with Rafa. After two hours, Uncle Toni had to come down and get him. Kozlov hit good enough with Rafa to be asked a second go round too. Don’t short this Mr. Kozlov. Another reporter told me a funny quip he made when asked if he was going to go to college. He resplied, “Did Federer and Nadal go to college?” You gotta like that confidence. Ginepri is looking good, looking like the old Ginepri, still wears the cap backwards, the dark shirt and shorts, yellow socks and red Babolats, he’s quite flashy out there. He told me about his experience playing Rafa at the French Open, at the net handshake he told Rafa, “I always wanted to play you on clay, thanks for showing me how it’s done.” Good dude. Coach Skelly lives now just about 8 miles from the tourney. He’s here as a guest with his good friends the Bryans, who he told me were quite disappointed with losing that Wimbledon final, which would have been their fourth Wimbletitle. He said the Bs are a little off right now but they’re working hard.

  • Dan Markowitz · July 29, 2014 at 8:22 am

    I know Florida is in the mix of states developing top young talent, but you’d expect that from Florida. I was told that all the great junior players in that state are almost all home schooled. I mean Florida is the mecca of American junior tennis and yet there’s never been a native Floridian ever do well on the men’s tour.

    Pat Mac is saying now that 98 per cent of American juniors should go play college tennis before turning pro. I guess Kozlov considers himself part of the other 2 per cent.

    Ginepri is the lone wolf standing of Roddick, Blake, Fish, Ginepri and Dent. Kind of weird that of those 5, only one is still playing. I mean they’re all still in their early-30’s. When you think of how long Connors, Mac, Gilbert and others played, you wonder why the longevity is not as great anymore in American tennis. France, for example, still has Mahut, Benneteau, Llorda and even Gicquel playing.

    Skells moved to the DC area. What’s he doing down there? How are the crowds at the event? Tiafoe goes from playing first round of tour event now to Kalamazoo. I would think it’s almost a must-win for him.



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