WASHINGTON: Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios ended a three-year title drought by claiming the trophy at the site of his last triumph, saving the only break point he faced in the Citi Open final Sunday along the way to a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Yoshihito Nishioka.
Kyrgios’ seventh career tour-level championship came where his sixth did in 2019 — on the hard courts of the US Open tuneup in the American capital.
Earlier Sunday, Liudmila Samsonova won her second career WTA title by coming back to beat sixth-seeded Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the Citi Open women’s final.
As usual when Kyrgios is on his game, the serve led the way for the 27-year-old Australian: He hit 12 aces and won 22 of 25 first-serve points. He won all nine of his service games against Nishioka, making him 64 for 64 in the tournament, wrapping up the week by saving all 10 of his opponents’ break points. The only one Kyrgios had to deal with Sunday came at 3-2 in the first set, and Kyrgios dismissed it via a volley winner.
At the other end, Kyrgios managed to break Japan’s Nishioka, who is ranked 96th and eliminated top-seeded Andrey Rublev in the semifinals, three times — in the opening game of each set and again in the match’s final game.
This marks quite a bit of unusual consistency for Kyrgios, who was coming off a run to his first Grand Slam final at the All England Club, where he lost to Novak Djokovic last month. Kyrgios did not get any rankings points for that showing — there were no points awarded to anyone at Wimbledon — but the title in Washington will push him from 63rd to 37th, within shouting range of a possible seeding at the US Open.
Play begins at Flushing Meadows on Aug. 29. That is less than a week after a court hearing in Australia is scheduled for a common assault allegation against Kyrgios.
Samsonova is a 23-year-old Russian who reached a career-best ranking of 25th in May but is currently 60th after needing to sit out part of the season, including Wimbledon, because of her country’s attack on Ukraine. She used a powerful serve that reached 119 mph against Kanepi to make her way through the bracket at the hard-court tournament, including a victory over reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
Samsonova’s other championship came last year at a grass-court tournament in Berlin. Kanepi, a 37-year-old from Estonia, was seeking her first trophy since 2013. She left the court for a medical timeout in the third set Sunday because of what she said was an abdominal muscle problem.
“I guess a lot of matches and a lot of serving this week,” Kanepi said.
Kyrgios’ victory was shown on Tennis Channel, which shunted the women’s final off its main station and instead aired pickleball — because, tournament chairman Mark Ein said, of a prior commitment.
Both women are quite capable of terrific serving and showed so right away: Kanepi closed out her first service game with a 96 mph ace; Samsonova finished off hers with a 112 mph service winner.
“She served better than me today,” Kanepi said, “and maybe that was the key.”
Samsonova’s take? The vital factor was her ability to eventually attack Kanepi’s serve.
This was big-serve, quick-strike tennis between a pair of women with similar playing styles on a humid, 90-degree Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) afternoon. Some spectators held umbrellas to provide shade; portable electric fans were placed next to sideline seats to offer a bit of respite to the players during changeovers; Samsonova held a plastic bag filled with ice atop her head.
Samsonova earned her first break opportunity of the match an hour in, when Kanepi dumped a forehand into the net. Samsonova converted it and went ahead 4-3 when Kanepi sailed a backhand long.
Kanepi’s mistakes kept mounting and, suddenly, the second set belonged to Samsonova as part of a five-game run.
Helped by a double-fault, Samsonova broke to lead 5-3 in the third, then served it out.