WASHINGTON – Even with the Olympics stealing the spotlight, Citi Open officials said large crowds are still expected at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center for the remainder of the tournament.
“It’s certainly tough,” said tournament manager Keely O’Brien. “But we’re pretty much on par with where we were last year, which is great.”
O’Brien said last week that ticket sales indicate that the tournament, which started over the weekend, is on pace to draw close to the 67,000 fans that turned out last year.
“I think people were hesitant when we first announced our ticket sales, but things have definitely picked up,” O’Brien said.
She said one reason why the numbers won’t take a significant dip is because women are competing in the tournament for the first time since it began in 1969.
“People are so excited to have them here,” O’Brien said. “We don’t have the names like Serena and Venus (Williams), but we do have all the rising stars that are going to be household names in a few years.”
One of those rising stars is 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, who won her first round match on Monday.
“She is a darling girl who is so charismatic and tough that you want her to win,” O’Brien said.
On the men’s side, O’Brien said American Mardy Fish’s decision to pass up on the Olympics provided a big boost at the box office. The 2004 Olympic Silver medalist and fifteenth ranked player in the world said playing on the hard courts in Washington, as opposed to the grass courts at Wimbledon, would better prepare him for the U.S. Open.
O’Brien also said walkups might increase after fans familiarize themselves with the lesser-known athletes.
“There’s a lot of names here that are huge in Europe,” O’Brien said. “So it’ll be a good chance for D.C. fans to see them here.”