In spite of the sweltering DC heat and arduous competition, Usue Arconada and Francis Tiafoe, two Junior Tennis Champions Center players, prevailed in the inaugural Citi Open Wildcard Challenge on Tuesday afternoon.
Usue, the No. 2 seed, defeated the No. 3 (Malika Rose) and No. 4 (Morton) seeds en route to the Wildcard Challenge crown. She lost a mere five games in her three matches leading up the final.
In a tight championship match, Usue defeated JTCC alum Skylar Morton in straight sets, 7-6, 7-5. The heat played a significant factor as Morton became sick late in the second frame. After a brief medical timeout, Morton continued to battle but Usue closed the match out in convincing fashion.
“Skylar is a tough matchup given her strength and speed combo,” said Arconada. “She won the US Open Regional Qualifying tournament here a couple of weeks back and I have hit with her on several occasions so I knew it would be a battle.”
For the men’s final, Usue’s brother and severe underdog Jordi Arconada was pitted against media darling and Prince George’s County resident Francis Tiafoe. Tiafoe’s fireball forehands and terrorizing first-serves propelled him to victory, 6-2, 7-6(3). Arconada made a furious comeback attempt in the second set. Down 2-4, he held serve then finally broke Tiafoe. The ninth game featured six deuces and ended with Arconada capturing his first lead of the match, 5-4. Eventually Tiafoe rallied back and nailed down the win in a tiebreaker.
“I am very familiar with Jordi as we practice everyday together,” said Tiafoe. “He is a grind-you-out gritty competitor so I knew I had to be mentally and physically focused to take home the title. Vijay (Paul) pushed him in the semifinals yesterday but he looked fresh and ready to compete.”
Seeded No. 1 overall, Tiafoe held to form and did not drop a set in his six matches. Before the finale, his stiffest competition was Andrew Adams. Adams, a Laurel, Maryland native, trained at JTCC before earning a scholarship to play for the University of South Carolina. The rising senior fell to Tiafoe in the semifinals in straight sets, 4-6, 3-6.
Tiafoe and Arconada (Usue) receive wild card entries into the Citi Open Qualifying draw. The Citi Open is scheduled from July 26 to August 3 at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in DC. Main draw headliners include John Isner, the Bryan Brothers, Sloane Stephens, Lleyton Hewitt and Richard Gasquet. The full field will be announced later this week.