Citi Open WCs add to stellar field

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The fields – especially on the men’s side as a 500-level tournament – were already very good at the Citi Open.

But on Wednesday, the tournament announced even more players for the joint ATP/WTA event, which will take place the first week of August.

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On the men’s side, Canadian Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the No. 9 and No. 10 players in the current ATP Tour rankings, have accepted wild cards.

On the women’s side, No. 2 Simona Halep also has taken a wild card. The other women’s wild card is American Sloane Stephens, who is returning from foot surgery and only debuted her season at Wimbledon.

The Citi Open already gave one to Kei Nishikori. So with these additions, as well as the entry of Dominic Thiem, that’s a total of four current top-10 players.

Add to that No. 11 Alexander Zverev, Gaël Monfils and Juan Martin del Potro, and that’s a stellar cast.

Halep boosts women’s field

On the women’s side, the addition of Halep is a much-needed boost. Prior to that, the only top-40 players were Kristina Mladenovic and Lauren Davis. Canadian Genie Bouchard is also in the field. The tournament competes with the Premier-level event in Stanford, California, held the same week.

That event not only has Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, it also has new Wimbledon champion Garbiñe Muguruza as well as top Americans Madison Keys and Coco Vandeweghe.

The addition of Raonic, who defeated countryman and Davis Cup teammate Vasek Pospisil to win the tournament in 2014,  is an interesting case.

After his quarter-final loss to Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Raonic said that he would likely ask for a wild card into the D.C. event.

Players ranked in the top 30 have certain minimum requirements in terms of tournaments played. If they don’t play them, they get what’s called a “zero-pointer” that counts in their rankings calculation. 

For example, if they skip Indian Wells, they can’t substitute a smaller event’s ranking points under any circumstances.

ATP rules mean tough commitments

The players (unless they are exempt) have to play four 500-level tournaments every season. And one of those has to be after the US Open.

Raonic had some interesting things to say about those commitments during that Wimbledon press conference. The thoughts came in response to a question about Federer’s six-month sabbatical, and the possibility that No. 1 Andy Murray and No. 4 Novak Djokovic might also be considering a break.

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Raonic has played one 500 level so far this season, a first-round loss at Queen’s Club. He needs to play three more, or risk getting zero points in his rankings calculation.

I guess that’s the one thing, the tour, everything is about sort of equality week in and week out. Everybody has the same standards they have to play against. Over the last few years, there’s been this standard that if you’re above a certain age, have played a certain amount of matches, or certain years of service, you can start missing out on Masters, these kind of things, without any penalties,” Raonic said.

“I find myself in that sort of situation right now, where I do have to find a 500 to squeeze into my schedule so I don’t sit with a zero (points) for 52 weeks. Sitting with a zero for 52 weeks is something else. I sat with a zero because of Indian Wells for 52 weeks.

“I think it should be the same rule for everybody. As long as you’re playing on tour, for obvious equality, everybody should be expected to show up at each and every tournament if that’s the standard. Or nobody should have to have it as a mandatory event. I don’t think there should be any differential, which there is at this moment,” he added.

Raonic needs three more 500s

Raonic has played just one 500-level tournament so far (Queen’s Club) along with four 250-level tournaments. Players like him can get nice guarantees for showing up at that tier of event. So the rules can certainly affect their livelihood, along with their ranking.

The result of those parameters is that the Citi Open is getting another top-10 player. So perhaps the question answers itself.

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