We headed up to the Citi Open in Washington D.C. to watch Sasha Zverev battle Alex De Minaur in the men’s final, as well as capture the pulse and vibe of D.C. tennis. What I unexpectedly took home was a renewed outlook on my tennis game, and some important life lessons from a 19 year old that we can all benefit from.
(Before you ask who Alex De Minaur is, just know that at a young age of 19 he’s already defeated a heavy book of names like Milos Raonic, Steve Johnson, Chung, Paire, and Tiafoe)
It’s early August and many of us are in a summer slump with our tennis. I haven’t been able to play as much - the heat, work getting in the way, it’s been raining every day for 3 weeks straight. Sometimes I’m just looking for Cincy and the US Open to pull me through the summer. A trip to D.C. was definitely in order.
Instead of dealing with the D.C. traffic we hit the train and headed out from Richmond, Main Street Station - a once bustling train hub that was closed from floods and fires and has recently been renovated. Just look at this place - it’s like a work of art inside.
Train is the new way to get to D.C. No lines, no driving, you can get up and walk around, grab a coffee, do some work, and catch up on the talk around the final. Arriving at Union Station you start to feel the energy of D.C.
After a short metro ride we checked into the hotel St. Gregory in Dupont Circle, which for way less than the price of a Holiday Inn was pretty sick.
We headed to Rock Creek Tennis Center. You could feel tennis in the air. It’s a beautiful, natural setting situated deep the woods. It felt more like I was going to a summer camp than a tennis stadium.
When I think of D.C. I think of hustle and bustle but here at the tournament was a relaxed, fun, Sunday vibe. Fans were seen carrying large pitchers of sangria, there was a circle of food trucks behind the stadium- it had a classy yet friendly neighborhood feel. There was a buzz in the crowd, people talking about their picks for the US Open, people knew their stuff. D.C. is a real tennis town.
As the match went underway the sound of Zverev’s ball was cleary heavier, landing deeper, and he visibly had more energy in his step. It was brutally hot for everyone in the crowd with their refreshments and fans, imagine what it was like on court for the players after a week long battle.
Despite the heat and Zverev’s unstoppable game, you could tell De Minaur wasn’t ready for it to be over as he slowly walked to shake hands at the end of the match.
I was expecting him to be disappointed and frustrated with the scoreboard but was moved by what the 19 year old said after the match.
“I’m really proud of myself,” he said. “I played some very high-level matches. It’s a new experience for me, It’s been a huge week for me. It’s a huge step.”
Then he goes to talk about his opponent:
“He was too good for me today, It’s great to see someone like him do as well as he has". "It just gives you the fire to try to replicate the success he’s had. That’s something that, looking forward, I want to do. I’m looking forward to getting better and replicating what he’s been able to do at such a young age"
These words of wisdom all coming from a 19 year old.
So why do we get so frustrated with our own games, us regular people? I overhear a lot of tennis players that have a negative outlook on their strokes or their current performance. Think of some of the things we say about ourselves or our opponents when the scoreboard doesn’t look so hot.
Alex’s words and attitude shows how our perspective on our game, on our life, can truly be a game changer. Simply having a positive mindset and being grateful of where we’re at is the only answer and can make a huge impact in our lives going forward.
On the train ride home I spent some time reflecting on the match, his words, and the trip itself. I felt a renewed, refreshed energy. The deep hot summer suddenly became an opportunity to text some hitting buddies to get out this week. The old way of traveling by train became the new way to travel and inspired me to book a next trip to the US Open in NYC later this month. Even my outlook on DC changed - a city easy to only associate with old politicians became young and cosmopolitan - and was a perfect host for these young players of our future.
So if you’re lost in the summer slump then go ahead and text some friends to hit. Go to a new place. Take that trip to the US Open. And be grateful that you even get to play tennis at all. You never know what good things you may discover.