The Citi Open is the annual late-summer men's tennis tournament that has been held in the nation's capital since 1969. While it has been known by many names over the years, such as the Sovran Bank Classic and the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the event changed its name in early 2012 and has grown into a highly popular 500-level event on the ATP World Tour. The original tournament was the brainchild of tennis stars Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith and Donald Dell, who were looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of men's tennis after the United States' victory over Australia in the 1968 Davis Cup. After securing funding and making the tournament an "open" event, both amateurs and professionals rounded out the field.
When it was first held, the event was called the Washington Star International and was held on clay courts surrounded by temporary bleachers on federal parkland. The event was held in the heart of Washington, D.C. and was meant to be open to anyone who wanted to attend. For many years, the substandard accommodations of the tournament did little to spread its popularity. Thankfully, in 1989, event planners received funding to build a stadium with hard courts in the heart of the city called William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center. It is a unique venue in the tennis world, as it was the first urban park center in the world that was designed for both public and professional use.
Although it grew from humble beginnings, the Citi Open is now a pivotal stop on the ATP World Tour and always draws massive crowds from the D.C. area. The event is typically held in late summer, which offers ideal weather conditions for the athletes. Historically, the event has attracted tennis greats like Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and many more. Radek Stepanek will return to defend his 2011 title, and he will be opposed by a tough field of competitors vying for a jump in the world rankings.
Though it has changed names many times over its history, the Citi Open has become a Washington, D.C., institution and has become a huge boost for the local economy and the growth of professional tennis.