With the sports world on pause due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the Citi Open could signal the start of a welcomed new day if it goes on as currently still scheduled later this year.
This week the ITF, ATP and WTA announced the suspension of all tournaments worldwide through July 13. The suspension includes the iconic Wimbledon Championships in England for the first time since World War II. Without it, players will go at minimum four months in-between competitive tournaments.
That is where the Citi Open could have more of a mark on the tennis world than usual, assuming the suspension is not extended. The tournament in Washington D.C. would be the first combined event on the tour since play resumed. It would the second ATP 500-level event and the fifth International-level tournament for the WTA.
“It just became an incredible set of circumstances for us to have an unprecedented player field and media, global media attention on us,” managing owner of the Citi Open Mark Ein told NBC Sports Washington. “Our top priority is always going to be protecting people’s health and that is going to be the first objective, but if we can do that and have the event it will be extraordinary.”
Players across the world would be vying for a spot in the tournament to get back in action. It would be one of the prime tournaments for preparation in the Rogers Cup and subsequent U.S. Open.
“The eyes of the tennis world and the sports world, more broadly, would be on Washington and the Citi Open," Ein said. "Virtually every single player is going to want to and need to play. They will have been out of competition for five months, made no prize money, got no ranking points. And I think the entire world would flock here for our event because it would be the first big event.”
Unlike Wimbledon and the other majors, the week-long Citi Open does not require as much long-term event planning. Major decisions on the event won’t have to be made until the beginning of June. Ein notes that they could even push back some of those deadlines later given the circumstances.
Obviously, the uncertainly makes planning a large event a difficult task. The tournament organizing team though is still hard at work, operating as if the tournament will still be held.
Players are in the same boat. Since the announcement of the suspension of the tours, players have been in contact with the Citi Open on entry into the field. Already the tournament is known for boasting an incredible crop of players, especially on the men’s side. Last year six top-15 players entered the men’s singles event. On the women’s side, former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens is a regular, while Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff have also played at Rock Creek Park.
“Everyone is waiting a little bit longer to see,” Ein said. “But it is very clear that everyone’s going to come here if we’re on.”
But as has been clear in recent weeks, so much can change from now until July 13 and before the start of the tournament on August 1. Ein and the Citi Open, as of now, are optimistic at the opportunity that has presented themselves for the event but reaffirmed that the health and safety of the players and fans are their top priority.
The ultimate decision on whether to have the event would be in conjunction with the ATP, WTA and the city.
“We’ve talked about different ways of modifying the event to account for the extraordinary times we’re living in and we would be flexible to accommodate certain objectives if needed," Ein said. "But, it’s too early to have to think about what those options may be.”