World No. 3 Rafael Nadal has landed in a tricky section of the Citi Open draw as he begins his quest for an 89th tour-level title. The top-seeded Spaniard is set to make his debut in Washington D.C., and he could meet one of the most in-form players of the season in an early hard-court test.
The Spaniard will be contesting his first hard-court tournament since the Australian Open in February, where he reached the quarter-finals before falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set battle. Nadal has amassed a 22-4 record on the season after lifting trophies in Barcelona and Rome, but has not competed since reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals (l. to Djokovic) after withdrawing from Wimbledon citing physical and mental fatigue.
Should he reach the quarter-finals, top seed Nadal could get a big test in the form of seventh seed Cameron Norrie, who lifted his first ATP Tour trophy a fortnight ago in Los Cabos. Norrie is one of the winningest players on Tour, and he trails only Tsitsipas (40) and Andrey Rublev (36) with 35 matches won in 2021.
Nadal Set For Washington Debut; When Is The Draw & More
But that’s not the only challenge Nadal could face as he seeks his first hard-court title since Acapulco last year. He has landed in the same half as fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov, whom he could meet in the semi-finals. But plenty of unseeded threats also loom large, including big-hitting Nick Kyrgios and #NextGenATP Brandon Nakashima. Nadal will start his campaign against the winner of Jack Sock and Yoshihito Nishioka.
Second seed Felix Auger-Aliassime anchors the bottom half of the Washington D.C. draw, where youth rules as #NextGenATP Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda and wild card Jenson Brooksby are also in the mix. Fifth seed Sinner and 12th seed Korda could meet in the third round after landing in the same section, which also features third seed Alex de Minaur. De Minaur qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but had to withdraw due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Auger-Aliassime will face the winner between Andreas Seppi and a qualifier, with a potential third-round clash against 16th seed Frances Tiafoe. Should he advance, big-hitting Reilly Opelka, the eighth seed, could be his opponent in the quarter-finals.
Did You Know?
Nadal is seeking to become the second Spanish champion to win in Washington D.C., and the first since Alex Corretja in 2000.