Olympics put crimp in Pilot Pen's plans
Connecticut Post Online
NEW HAVEN — She's worried. But she's not terribly worried. She's concerned. But she's not overly concerned. Anne Worcester understands. She sees the big picture and what she's looking at is one giant Olympic flag.
To be honest, it's not a pretty sight.
The upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing, China threaten to leave the Pilot Pen tennis tournament with nothing but leftovers and could leave Worcester stuck with her weakest men's and women's fields ever. Right now, it's been a struggle for the long-time tournament director to get early commitments from even her favorites, like Fairfield's James Blake and others like Lindsay Davenport and Amelie Mauresmo. But that hasn't stopped Worcester from attending tournaments, setting up meetings and making phone calls in the hopes that someone might say the word and come to New Haven.
"I'm always ultra-vigilant about the player field in general and in an Olympic year, that only makes me more vigilant and clearly there are concerns," Worcester said from her cell phone as she headed to work Monday to try and land more players for her event. "Not only is it the Olympics, but it's the Olympics so far away."
Tennis in Beijing is scheduled for Aug. 10-17. The main draw for the Pilot Pen begins on Aug. 17. A flight of nearly 6,800 miles would be required for any player (and don't forget about the jet lag) to get to New Haven and compete.
"I'm not at all expecting a lot of players to do that, but I think some will," Worcester said. "If you look at the timing, the women's (Olympic) final is Saturday the 16th, which is Friday (the 15th) in America and the latest a seeded player could start at the Pilot Pen is Wednesday (the 20th), so it's not crazy that a player could do both. The men's singles final is Sunday the 17th, which is Saturday (the 16th) here and a men's seeded player could start at the Pilot Pen is Tuesday (the 19th). It's going to be very tight, I'm not going to deny that."
One of Worcester's hopes is that players who lose in the first or second rounds in the Olympics and are committed to play in the U.S. Open, might opt for a warm-up in New Haven. The court conditions and everything else in Beijing are expected to be much different that what New York will be like. But that's just a hope.
In the meantime, she's had to alter her recruiting strategy to try and land whomever she can. Worcester has already flown to Florida and California to talk to some of the players who have said that they're not competing in the Olympics, like Andy Roddick and Marion Bartoli, trying to put a bug in their ears about the positives of an Open-tune up in New Haven.
"I'm not expecting that he'll be entering tomorrow," Worcester said of Roddick. "But I'm hoping that he'll at least keep the door open. Bartoli has played the Pilot Pen before and I told her that she'd really help us with a commitment. She said she'd think about it. I'm hopeful."
She also focusing on players who are playing in the Olympics but might be willing to commit to New Haven early and "her regulars" as Worcester calls them, like Davenport, Maursemo, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Elena Dementieva and Daniela Hantuchova.
She needs names. She needs faces. There are 300,000 ticket brochures that are going to be going out in the mail in less than a month. Worcester needs commitments.
So far, it's been very hard to get them.
Look at Blake. A two-time Pilot Pen champion, he's usually committed by now. But having the opportunity to play tennis for his country — he missed out on the 2004 Olympics in Athens due to injuries and the death of his father — Blake is looking forward "to the opportunity of a lifetime" when he plays in Beijing. If he does play in New Haven, a commitment isn't going to come until the very last minute.
"We've talked about it. James has got to play in Cincinnati and Montreal and then fly halfway around the work to Beijing, so I'm very clear that those are his priorities," Worcester said. "I know that he's not going to be able to enter early."
The player picture could start clearing up on June 9 when the final ranking deadline for the Olympics passes. Players who don't make the ranking cut — each eligible country can take four players on its roster — will quickly pop up on Worcester's radar.
"When I talk to some of these players about playing the Pilot Pen this year, they say it all depends on if they make the (Olympic) cut or not," Worcester said. "On June 10, I'm going to be smiling and dialing and reaching out to all those players ranked fifth and higher in their respective countries because they will not make the cut."
Until then, however, Worcester will continue to work to try and get commitments for the Pilot Pen. Because she needs them. Desperately.
"That's my pressure. To have as many faces on that brochure as I can," she said. "I'm doing everything possible to make that happen."
Donald Young, 18, commits to Pilot Pen
Connecticut Post Online
Article Last Updated:05/06/2008 04:23:47 PM EDT
NEW HAVEN — Rising American Donald Young, the youngest player ranked in the top 80, has committed to Pilot Pen Tennis, an U.S. Series event on the ATP and WTA Tour, tournament director Anne Worcester announced Tuesday.
The tournament is Aug. 15-23 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale.
The 18-year-old joins 2007 Pilot Pen finalists Agnes Szavay and Mardy Fish, and 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli in commiting to play in New Haven. Last year, Young had an impressive season that included a break through win in his inaugural visit to New Haven. It was the first ATP match win of his professional career, and his strong play continued the following week at the U.S. Open, where he made it to the third round. In addition he won a Challenger tournament at Aptos, Calif., last summer and reached the finals of four others, which helped him climb 386 spots into the top 100 of the world rankings. This year, he has continued his upward charge by reaching the quarterfinals of Memphis and the third round of the Masters Series event at Indian Wells.
"We are thrilled that Donald has decided to play the Pilot Pen again this year," Worcester said. "As the youngest player in the Top 80, he has incredible talent and that he will be one of the leading faces of American tennis for years to come. Adding him to the field only strengthens a growing list of men's and women's rising stars as well as veterans that will compete in the Pilot Pen this summer."
"I will always remember the Pilot Pen, because you never forget your first win on Tour," Young said. "I am excited to be coming back to New Haven this summer, and hope that this year I can create more unforgettable moments for myself and the fans."
For tickets, how to become a volunteer, or more information about the tournament, call the Pilot Pen Tennis Box Office, 888/99-PILOT, 203/776-7331, or log on to www.pilotpentennis.com.
Isner In New Haven
By Tennis Week
5/15/2008 12:30:00 PM
Former Georgia all-American John Isner went back to school today and enjoyed the company of 400 kids in his class. Isner, has committed to competing in the Pilot Pen Tennis event, set for August 15-23 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale. He joins 2007 Pilot Pen finalists Agnes Szavay and Mardy Fish, Donald Young and 2007 Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli as players already committed to the tournament.
Isner came to New Haven today to lead the sixth annual Pilot Pen Tennis Free Lesson, in which he, USTA New England and local teaching pros offered approximately 400 fourth – eighth grade New Haven elementary and middle school students an introduction to the game of tennis through a new USTA program, QuickStart Tennis. The program appropriately scales down all aspects of regulation tennis—including equipment, court dimensions, and scoring—so that the game becomes specifically tailored to their age and size.
A key part of the strategy is that at the end of the clinic, all participants were encouraged to sign up for affordable tennis lessons offered this summer – and year-round – by the New Haven Parks & Rec.
Previous pros leading the Pilot Pen Tennis Free Lesson include Connecticut native Thomas Blake, U.S. Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe, former U.S. Olympic coach and current Fed Cup coach Zina Garrison and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour professionals Mashona Washington and Alexandra Stevenson.
For more information about the Pilot Pen Tennis Free Lesson, the tournament, tickets or how to become a volunteer, please call the Pilot Pen Tennis Box Office, (888) 99-PILOT, (203) 776-7331, or log on to www.pilotpentennis.com.
© 2007 Tennis Week