Getting to Know… Part I: The Young and the Dangerous

KEY BISCAYNE, FL - APRIL 03:  Genie Bouchard of Canada during the Miami Open Presented by Itau at Crandon Park Tennis Center on April 3, 2015 in Key Biscayne, Florida.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

By: Nick McCarvel

Before they win Grand Slams, before they become the household names that so many women’s tennis stars have been in the past and are today, the rising stars of the WTA stop at the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies hungry to make their mark.

With the August 21 start date less than a month away, we’re looking at the players that will descend on the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale in a four-part getting-to-know-you series. First: the young and the dangerous.

Genie Bouchard, 21, Canada | Rank: 26
The hard-hitting Canadian was the breakout star of 2014, making the Wimbledon final, semifinals at both the Australian and French Opens and embedding herself in the top 10. She hasn’t had the same success this year, but remains a player that most want to avoid in the draw, her powerful baseline game always lethal – particularly on the hardcourts of North America.

Did you know? Eugenie and her twin sister Beatrice are named after British royalty

Karolina Pliskova, 23, Czech Republic | Rank: 12
Few players had as good of a start to 2015 as Pliskova, who went 28-8 in the early part of the season, winning the fourth title of her career and first in front of a home crowd, in Prague. Pliskova has been tapped as a next-big-thing in women’s tennis, with wins over Victoria Azarenka, Ana Ivanovic, Lucie Safarova, Garbiñe Mugurzua and Angelique Kerber among others, and inserting herself into the top 15.

Did you know? Karolina loves to relax by going fishing. That’s right, fishing

Elina Svitolina, 20, Ukraine | Rank: 20
Only American Madison Keys is younger among top-20 ranked women than Svitolina, a fresh face who already has three career WTA titles, most recently in Morocco earlier this year. The Ukrainian had a career-best Grand Slam result at the French Open in June, marching into the quarterfinals before falling to former world No. 1 Ivanovic.

Did you know? A world traveler, Svitolina calls Chinese food her favorite

Caroline Garcia, 21, France | Rank: 35
When she nearly defeated Maria Sharapova at the French Open in 2011, men’s player Andy Murray said Garcia would one day be world No. 1. The Frenchwoman has made a slow climb into the world’s top 40, winning her maiden title in Bogota last year before making two finals (both in Mexico) earlier this year.

Did you know? Garcia is an accomplished doubles player, too, ranked inside the top 20

5 Minutes With… Madison Keys

during the BNP Parisbas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on March 14, 2015 in Indian Wells, California.

WTA Rising Star Madison Keys is set to make her first trip to the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies. Before heading to New Haven, we caught up with the American to ask about her love for Disney’s Frozen, her puppy, favorite school subjects and more!

Connecticut Open: New Haven is known for its eclectic restaurants and pizza! Do you have any go-to foods or favorites?

Madison Keys: I love pizza. If I could, I would probably eat pizza four times a week. I like vegetables on my pizza, because it makes me feel a little healthier. But, I also like to add pineapple.

CO: New Haven is also home to Yale University. Did you have a favorite subject to study in school? Additionally, what was your worst?

MK: For some reason, I loved Chemistry. I don’t know why, but for some reason it just clicked for me. Funny enough, I hated Math. I was good at Chemistry, but I was terrible at Math!

CO: As a younger player on Tour, how does it feel matching up against players that you’ve watched on TV? What was your first “Wow” moment?

MK: Playing in World Team Tennis, being a teammate with Venus, and playing against Serena and Kim Clijsters was kind of my first “Wow” moment. I think that was my first introduction into playing people that I watch on TV.

CO: We’ve seen adorable pics of your puppy, who is now a year old. Could you tell me about him? Tricks? Funny stories?

MK: We’re still working on “stay!” He has “sit” and “come” pretty well, but he’s not great at staying places. As a puppy, he loves to chew on things. In the area that we keep him, there’s tons of wood. So he pretty much chews through that entire area, much to my Mom’s dismay. He also recently learned how to shake hands.

CO: You’re always on the road traveling to different tournaments. Do you have any TV shows that you binge-watch in-between tournaments?

MK: I’m the Queen of binge-watching TV. I usually do it while I’m on the road. I will download all the seasons and watch in a couple of weeks. In Paris I began to watch Friday Night Lights, and I got to the last season and became so sad that I stopped watching it! But after I got home from Wimbledon, I watched eight episodes.

CO: You’re a big fan of Frozen! Do you have a favorite Disney movie and/or Disney character?

MK: I am obsessed with Frozen. I’ve watched it about 25 times. I love Finding Nemo. I can quote the entire movie. The Lion King is probably my favorite Disney movie.

CO: What are your favorites from the following questions, and why?…

CO: Chocolate or Vanilla?

MK: Chocolate – I’ve just always loved it.

CO: Serve , Forehand or Backhand?

MK: Serve – It’s the only shot that the other opponent has no effect on.

CO: Netflix or Movie Theatre?

MK: Movie Theatre – There’s not a ton of good movies on Netflix anymore. I definitely prefer the movies.

Thanks, Madison! See you soon!

5 Minutes With… Simona Halep

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 16:  Simona Halep of Romania celebrates victory in her match against Naomi Broady of Great Britain on day two of the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston Priory Club on June 16, 2015 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images for LTA)

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Before heading back to New Haven in August, we caught up with 2013 Connecticut Open Champion Simona Halep via email for an exclusive Q&A. However, instead of typing the responses, she answered the questions in her own handwriting! For more, read below!

You’re returning to the Connecticut Open for the third consecutive year. Could you tell us what you love about the tournament and explain your decision to return each year?

Q1

After New Haven, you’re off to the US Open. Could you share about how playing New Haven before heading to New York is beneficial?

Q2

Do you have any places (i.e. restaurants, shops) that you like to visit while in New Haven?

Q3

New Haven is known for its great restaurants, especially pizza. Do you have a favorite Romanian food?

Q4

What music are you listening to these days? What’s on your playlist?

Q5

What are some of your hobbies when you’re not playing tennis?

Q6

If you could have any profession/job other than a professional tennis player, what would you do?

Q7

What are some of your favorite TV Shows? Do you binge-watch (watch multiple episodes in a row)?

Q8

What are your favorites from the following questions, and why?…

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Q9

Dogs or Cats?

Q10

Serve , Forehand or Backhand?

Q11

Netflix or Movie Theatre?

Q12

Signature

5 Minutes With… John McEnroe

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04:  John McEnroe of the United States serves with teammate James Blake against Jim Courier of the United States and Mats Wilander of Sweden during their exhibition doubles match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Before traveling to New Haven for the Men’s Legends Presented by PowerShares, John McEnroe sat down with the Connecticut Open to talk about the next wave of Americans, love for art, bucket list of travel destinations and more!

Connecticut Open: Do you have any WTA players that you feel are on the rise and could be a top player in the next couple of years?

John McEnroe: I’m looking at Madison Keys if I had the pick. Obviously, the Americans had a pretty good showing at Wimbledon, with the Serena leading the way. But if you look at the younger ones, you’re looking at Sloane and Madison as the obvious choices. CoCo serves big and has put herself in the right position as well. Madison seems to be mentally prepared to take the next step and Sloane seems to be getting better, so I like our chances moving forward.

CO: We know that you have a passion for art and hear that you have quite the collection. Could you talk about your love for art and how it started?

McEnroe: It started because my good buddy Vitas Gerulaitis took me under his wing and took me around to a lot of art galleries in New York. I realized it was something that I could relate to as a tennis player, because you’re out there on an island by yourself getting judged. In tennis you’re trying to win, and in art you’re trying to create something that people would like. It can be pretty tough when things don’t go well. It was an appreciation for what the artist was trying to do because it’s so hard. There’s also a satisfaction to have an emotional feeling about it, like listening to great music. It inspires you to do better.

CO: You’re a New York guy, so we’re sure you know a few things about good pizza. Have you tried some of the legendary pies in New Haven?

McEnroe: I’m sure I have, but I don’t recall. I’m not sure if they match up to New York – the best of the best, but I definitely want to try. Pizza is one of my favorites.

CO: We were told that you visited Africa last week. Could you tell us about that experience?

McEnroe: Not sort of an experience that people are able to explain or share very often, because not many people get to be out there in the wild, but it was certainly memorable – up close and personal to the animals, such as lions, elephants and giraffes. It gives you a new appreciation for a lot of things, like getting out of there in one piece.

CO: Do you have a place that you’re looking to visit for the first time? What’s on the John McEnroe bucket list?

McEnroe: That’s a good question. I landed in Kilimanjaro before going on the Safari, and it made me think that Kilimanjaro would probably be a great place to hike at some stage. Dare I say bike, but that would probably be too much. I’ve never been Israel, so to see Jerusalem and the history would be great. I’ve heard that would be something pretty memorable. Those would be a couple off the top of my head.

CO: What is your analysis coming out of Wimbledon and who are your favorites to win the US Open?

McEnroe: You’re looking at the obvious choices. Serena will be going for the calendar Grand Slam. She’s doing something remarkable and extremely unusual, obviously. So that should bring a lot of great attention for her and deservedly so. For the guys, there’s a lot to gain. For Novak, it looks like he will be No. 1 either way because he already has two Majors and a final. For him it would be like icing on the cake, because he’s turning himself into one of the greatest players ever. So to witness someone rise in the all-time rankings list is pretty amazing, considering you saw guys like Federer make a claim for the greatest ever and Rafa doing the same. For me, it will be a couple of years before this group of young Americans will make a breakthrough. Just because he’s done so much for tennis, I would love to see Rafa get back to form. If he’s playing well, that would make things a lot more interesting.

CO: Could you talk about the style of play in 2015 compared to when you were playing?

McEnroe: Because of the equipment and knowledge that players get, as far as recovery, movement, maxing out your talents and a variety of other things, the game has certainly changed. More players are taking charge from the baseline and hitting the ball with spin and pace than we’ve never seen. Generally players are much more athletic now, and they have to be because things happen so much faster. You don’t see certain things that you saw in the past. The level of the game has never been so high, but it’s interesting to see what will happen in the next 10 years. I think a serve and volley can still be dangerous, but at the moment it’s so tough to break through. It’s a big change. A lot of it is technologically driven, but you never know what’s going to happen in the future.

Madison Keys Reaches Second Week at Wimbledon

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 04:  Madison Keys of the United States celebrates in her Ladies’ Singles third Round match against Tatjana Maria of Germany  during day six of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 4, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Connecticut Open commit and Rising Star Madison Keys has advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon for the first time in her young career, following a career-best semifinal performance at the Australian Open earlier this season. The World No. 21 has been extremely impressive, leading the field with 42 aces at the tournament. Let’s take a look at her road thus far at The All England Club.

First Round: Stefanie Voegele, 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4

Keys needed three sets and an extra day to defeat Stefanie Voegele 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4. Knotted at 2-2 in the third set, the match was suspended due to darkness and resumed the following morning. The American seized the upper-hand in the third set, winning four of the next six games en route to victory.

Second Round: Elizaveta Kulichkova, 6-4, 7-6(3)

The World No. 21 followed her opening round win with an impressive victory against Kulichkova, closing out the 19-year-old Russian in straight sets. The win marked Keys’ third consecutive trip to the third round at Wimbledon.

Third Round: Tatjana Maria, 6-4, 6-4

German Tatjana Maria was the next test for Keys, and the young American produced an astounding effort to advance. Keys defeated Maria 6-4, 6-4 to secure a berth into the second weekend where she will meet Olga Govortsova in a fourth round tilt.

Fourth Round: Olga Govortsova, 6:30 a.m. ET

Kvitova, Keys and Stephens Ease Into Round Three at Wimbledon

during day four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 2, 2015 in London, England.

Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty

Connecticut Open commits Petra Kvitova, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens have advanced to the third round at Wimbledon, posting impressive victories during the first week at the All England Club.

Kvitova has made quick work of her opponents, dropping only two games in the first two rounds. The Czech defeated Kiki Bertens 6-0, 6-1 in the first round followed by a 6-2, 6-0 triumph against Karumi Nara.

After dropping the first set against Stefanie Voegele, Madison Keys rebounded to secure the next two and a second-round berth. The American went on to bounce Elizaveta Kulichkova 6-4, 7-6(3) en route to the third round.

Stephens finds herself in Round 3 following two straight-set victories. The 22-year-old toppled Barbara Zahlavova-Strycova 6-4, 6-2 before defeating fellow American Lauren Davis 6-4, 6-4.

Kvitova, Makarova, Keys and Stephens Advance to Second Round at Wimbledon

during day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 29, 2015 in London, England.

Photo by: Julian Finney/Getty Images Sport

Defending Wimbledon and Connecticut Open Champion Petra Kvitova, Ekaterina Makarova and Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys have advanced to the second round at the All England Club.

Kvitova commenced her title defense in blazing fashion, defeating Kiki Bertens 6-1, 6-0 in 35 minutes. Dating back to last year’s championship run, the Czech has dropped two or fewer games in deciding sets in six of her last eight matches.

Makarova is also off to an impressive start at Wimbledon, securing a straight-set triumph over Sachia Vickery 6-2, 6-4 to book a second-round berth.

American Sloane Stephens also picked up a straight-set victory, bouncing Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova 6-4, 6-2 en route to a second-round appearance.

Madison Keys was knotted with Stefanie Voegele 2-2 in the third set before play was suspended on Tuesday due to darkness. The American finished the job on Wednesday, earning a 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 victory against Stefanie Voegele.

5 Minutes With… Petra Kvitova

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Defending Wimbledon and Connecticut Open Champion Petra Kvitova talked with us ahead of her title defense at The All England Club to discuss coming back to New Haven, her favorite memory on Tour and what’s on her music playlist!

Connecticut Open: You’re a two-time Champion at the Connecticut Open and have advanced to three straight finals. Can you talk about your comfort-level with the tournament and what attributes to your success here?

Petra Kvitova: I feel at home there, very calm. I like the town, it has a great, historic university and so there a lot of young people around. The venue for the Connecticut Open is really nice too, plus I love their fast courts!

CO: This is your fifth time playing in the Connecticut Open. Do you have any go-to places to visit in the city when you’re not on the court?

PK: Yes, there is a sushi restaurant (Miso) near to where we stay that I make sure I always go back to. For breakfast there’s a lovely organic restaurant called Claire’s which is another one of my favourites to visit.

CO: We asked last year about your favorite memory on Tour and you mentioned it was winning Wimbledon in 2011. This question came a few weeks before winning your second Wimbledon title last year. Could you talk about your success at the All England Club?

PK: Winning the second Wimbledon title I enjoyed more than my first time. I felt every moment, I really knew what was happening. But, I think it was tougher to win than the first time too.

CO: Could you walk us through your practice schedule? Do you have a routine that you follow or does it fluctuate?

PK: Normally if I am not on the tournament I am practicing about hour and half in the morning and the same in the afternoon. I will also always do some fitness which takes about hour. I do this routine 6 days a week.

CO: Last year we asked if you ever binge-watch (Video: 1:58), and your response was “no!” Has this changed?

PK: No! I am still the same.

CO: What are some of your favorite songs right now? Tell us the Petra Kvitova playlist!

PK: I like some new songs in the radio.. Some of my favourite singers are Ed Sheeran, Pink and Geronimo

CO: You’re known on Tour for your great serve. If you could take any player’s shot, past or present, and use it for your own, what would it be and why?

PK: I have been asked this question many times before, but I am always happy to say that I am happy with all my shots!

First thing that comes to mind:

Facebook or Twitter? Facebook

Cats or dogs? Dogs

Going to the movies or Netflix? Movies

Water or Sports Drink? Water

CO: Thanks, Petra! See you in New Haven!

Charity Spotlight: New HYTEs

New HYTEs Executive Director Mavi Sanchez has great passion for tennis and giving back to the community, so partnering with the Connecticut Open for the “50/50 Project” was a no-brainer.

“When I was approached about the 50/50 Project, I thought it was just an incredible initiative,” said Sanchez. “It allows us to reach out to the community and do more outreach by inviting the community to the premiere sports event in the city. It also allows families that are apart of New HYTEs to feel involved in the tournament. It’s just an incredible win-win for New HYTEs.”

In an ongoing effort to positively impact communities throughout the state, the Connecticut Open launched the “50/50 Project,” a charitable fundraising program that enables non-profit organizations to sell tickets for the event as a fundraising vehicle. Starting June 22, non-profits will be able to sell tickets to the Connecticut Open and receive 50 percent of the total net profit from the sale. The tournament is working with Governor Dannel Malloy to encourage maximum participation in the program statewide.

With programs centered on life skills curriculum and academics, as well as the health benefits of an active lifestyle, New HYTEs seeks to positively affect the future for children across Greater New Haven. When Sanchez was first approached regarding the 50/50 Project, she knew it was a program that correlates with the stance of her organization.

“Our flagship program runs year-round with 40 children between the ages of six and 12,” said Sanchez. “Our goal is to help our kids through their high school education, find a way give them a path to college and be a support system to them while in college and to see they graduate.”

Sanchez also discussed added benefits of the “50/50 Project” to her organization, as participation in the program helps to build a larger network in New Haven and surrounding communities.

“For us it creates another vehicle to introduce ourselves to others in the community and also to reach out to different vendors and companies,” said Sanchez. We’re able to target local New Haven and those visiting the city to have them purchase tickets through New Hytes and see how their participation will have a greater impact with kids in the city.”

 

Connecticut Open Commits Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys Advance to Second Round at French Open

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 26:  Madison Keys of the United States returns a shot during her women's singles match against Varvara Lepchenko of the United States on day three of the 2015 French Open at Roland Garros on May 26, 2015 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Two-time and defending Connecticut Open Champion Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys have advanced to the second round of the 2015 French Open, adding to their successful 2015 clay campaigns.

Kvitova secured a three-set win over New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, moving into the second round at Roland Garros for the fifth consecutive year.  The World No. 4 continues to build upon her solid clay season. Kvitova hoisted the trophy early this month at the Mutua Madrid Open, bouncing World No. 1 Serena Williams in the semifinals before defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova in the finals. The Czech will make her seventh trip to Roland Garros, advancing to the semifinals in 2011.

Keys dispatched fellow-American Varvara Lepchenko in straight sets, 7-6(3), 6-3, en route to a second-round berth, the second of her young career. The World No. 17 is also having a stellar 2015 on the clay surface, boasting a runner-up finish at the Family Circle Cup back in April. Keys appears in just her third French Open, but the hard-hitting American is capable of making plenty of noise at the second Grand Slam of the year.

For more information about the 2015 Connecticut Open ticket packages, including weeklong box seats, sponsorship packages, hospitality and becoming a volunteer, visit www.ctopen.org or call 1-855-464-8366.

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