For the men, the draw this year is not quite as strong as last year (when it was known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic) because of the scheduling conflict with the Olympic Games in London. Still, there is a lot of money at stake ($252,600 for the winner, and $7,300 for first round losers), as well as a lot of ranking points. So, the last direct acceptance into the main draw of 32 players was Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, ranked inside the top 100 in the world. 13th ranked American Mardy Fish is the top seed and Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov (#17) is the 2 seed.
For the women, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a top 30 player, is the top seed. Notable Americans in the tournament are the #3 seed Sloane Stephens, #4 seed Vania King, #7 seed Coco Vandeweghe, and Melanie Oudin. The lowest ranked direct acceptance into the main draw was world #134 Erika Sema of Japan. 13 of the 28 direct acceptances – nearly half of the draw – are from what we used to call “Eastern Bloc” countries like Russia, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. That is, there are a lot of “ova” names in the women’s draw.
Being in the stringing room you get to see some of the rigors of professional tennis. For example, American Michael Russell is a Top 100 player on the tour. He made it to the quarterfinals of the ATP tournament in Los Angeles the week prior to the CitiOpen. Walking the grounds in DC I came across a TV showing his match on Friday night against Marinko Matosevic. He lost that match, but as the top seed in the qualifiers in DC he needed to play here on Saturday afternoon. CitiOpen tournament organizers gave him the latest time slot on Saturday – “not before 3:00pm” – but he still had to take a red eye flight from LA to DC and was turning in rackets to us for stringing by 1pm. He won Saturday and again on Sunday to claim one of the 4 qualifying slots in the main draw only to draw #4 seed Tommy Haas. Sometimes the “luck of the draw” is good and sometimes it is bad. Two of the other qualifiers drew a wild card into the tournament (someone not ranked high enough to get in directly) and the lowest ranked man directly accepted into the tournament. Still, by winning his match on Sunday Russell earned first round money of $7,300 rather than qualifying finalist money of $820.
Not everyone was so lucky. Marius Copil of Romania – ranked 217 in the world – arrive in DC 3 slots out of getting into the qualifying draw. Often individuals will sign up for a tournament and have to withdraw before officially signing in on site. So, Copil had some rackets strung and practiced while trying to see if he would get into the qualifying. As it came to seem like he would not get into the tournament, he had to decide whether or not to fly across the continent to Vancouver, Canada to play the lower level tournament there. In the end, he decided to take his chances on DC and when he did not get into the qualifying he packed up and headed off to the next place – without having played a match and taking with him no prize money or ranking points.