MATCH POINT: Nakashima stars in win over Fognini.


SAN DIEGO—Six Top 15 players. A wild-card match-up between Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori. A paltry No. 8 seed for Dan Evans despite being ranked No. 23 when the draw was made.

Normal is the furthest word to describe what the San Diego Open is serving up as an inaugural ATP 250 event. A crop of talent that includes hometown favorites Taylor Fritz and Brandon Nakashima (who both won their opening-round matches) before the arrivals of Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud is a testament to the quality of competition taking over the Barnes Tennis Center this week.

Grigor Dimitrov, unseeded but No. 29 in the world, describes the vibe of this tournament as “all or nothing” going into his opening-round match Tuesday with Wimbledon quarterfinalist Marton Fucsovics.

“I think it's long overdue, to be honest. That's what I'm going to say,” he tells “Always, when they ask me about tournaments in California, I think it's great.

“I like the ideas of having tough matches before Indian Wells. Everybody's here to play. And I think that's what makes it even more special. It's probably one of the toughest 250s I've played in a really long time. I've had quite a few of those ones, but it's been a while since I've seen such a field.”

Dimitrov has lost both of his prior meetings to Fucsovics.

Dimitrov has lost both of his prior meetings to Fucsovics.

The draw sheet is hardly the lone anomaly with this event, as it was only in mid-August when organizers received the green light to move forward. While the shift of the BNP Paribas Open to October played its part in making this possible, San Diego Open tournament director Ryan Redondo has been raring for an opportunity to turn the nonprofit youth center he oversees into an experiential source of motivation.

“I've been saying for a while, this is a perfect spot for a professional tennis tournament. We have mostly junior programs here, but the big thing for us was, let's get pros here to inspire and have these kids dream about what they could be,” he shared. “When it did pretty much just fall in our lap when the calendar changed, we took advantage of it.

“Just really grateful to have this opportunity.”

A steep learning curve was immediately required to begin meeting tour standards. Countless early morning calls with the ATP became the norm. Sourcing volunteers, especially ballkids with school back in session, was one of many challenges to consider. But with a strong tennis community to tap into, Redondo and his crew filled all necessary positions. Dimitrov—formerly coached by Daniel Vallverdu, managing director of the event—was impressed by the city's spirit.

“I heard a lot of volunteers and everybody wanting to put it together. So I think all credit goes to them,” he said. “The only thing we can do is come out here, perform and play good tennis. And get ready for Indian Wells.”


Korda has played just five matches since Wimbledon (2-3).

Korda has played just five matches since Wimbledon (2-3).

One player hoping to do just that is Sebastian Korda, who practiced with Dimitrov on Sunday and Murray on Monday.

Visiting San Diego for the first time, Korda is coming off a rough summer hard-court swing that ended with a bout of food poisoning, which forced the 21-year-old to retire in the second set of his first-round match at the US Open.

“Lost 10 pounds. Was recovering at home, and now I'm finally feeling healthy and ready to go,” said the American, who was announced two weeks ago as one of four players punching the first set of tickets to Milan’s Next Gen ATP Finals.

“At the beginning of year, it was one of my goals to make the Next Gen Finals. To qualify was really special. It means that I've had a great year and the results are showing for it. And I'm just having a lot of fun.”

For Redondo, the reality of bringing the ATP Tour to his backyard sunk in when the bleachers were installed. They were put to good use in qualifying when shouts of “Holmgren!” could be heard across the grounds—as University of San Diego standout August Holmgren was a point away from qualifying into his first tour-level main draw. On Monday night, locals rallied behind Nakashima and Fritz inside the same stadium court. With this tournament being awarded a single-year license, Redondo's ambition is to make a lasting impression on everyone stepping foot inside his domain.

“We want to put on the best experience for the players, for the ATP and the fans, so that after this tournament is over, they recognize San Diego should be the place.”