“Are you ready for some night tennis in D.C.?” the announcer asked the crowd in the main stadium at the Citi Open on Tuesday night. Rather than wait for an answer, he plowed ahead, wrestling-style:

“Let’s get it on!”

It was 7:15 and the arena wasn’t packed yet, but everyone understood why the man sounded so excited. It had been two years since the Citi Open had been played, and the defending men’s champion, Nick Kyrgios, was back for his first-round match against American Mackenzie McDonald. As with every Kyrgios match, this gave the crowd two reasons to watch: (1) To see who won, and (2) To see what would set Kyrgios off.

As far as the second question went, the crowd waited in vain. Kyrgios shook his head and talked to himself a few times. He bashed a ball out of the stadium. He shared a few jokes with the people in the front rows. But in general Kyrgios, perhaps to the disappointment of the audience, kept himself in check.

The same went for the match itself. McDonald kept Kyrgios in check from start to finish. He broke serve twice, and was never broken. He played cleaner from the baseline and won the lion’s share of the rallies. He was the faster player, and took more balls inside the baseline. And when he served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and went down 15-40, he saved those break points with a service winner and a confident drop-shot winner. McDonald’s 6-4, 6-4 win was straightforward and professional.


McDonald has experienced success on all surfaces, but after a lifetime spent on hard court, it's surely his most comfortable.

McDonald has experienced success on all surfaces, but after a lifetime spent on hard court, it's surely his most comfortable. 

As for Kyrgios, he was done in by two bad service games. The first came at 4-4 in the opening set, which he began by sending two easy backhands long. The second came at 2-2 in the second set, when he finished with two straight double faults. Otherwise, Kyrgios’s forehand looked a little different, a little less flicky. And he tried to drive his backhand rather than slap it at times. But overall he was mostly content to rally from behind the baseline, and he ended up defending rather than dictating a lot of the time.

Kyrgios began the match with his knee taped, and he’s still rusty after five months away. But he tried in this match, and when it was over, he looked down, put his fingers to his forehead, and took a deep breath before he got up to leave the court—this loss stung.

McDonald walked off knowing that he had kept his head down for two sets, and taken out one of the game’s more challenging opponents without any drama. Now he’ll try to do it again when he faces Benoit Paire in the second round.