NEW HAVEN OPEN ENJOYS SUCCESS ON AND OFF THE COURT

Tournament’s 15th Year Draws More Than 50,000 Fans for World-Class Tennis and Special Events
 
NEW HAVEN, Conn., August 26, 2012 – The 2012 New Haven Open at Yale celebrated 15 years of women’s tennis in New Haven with thrilling on-court action and fan-friendly off-court activities and events.
On court, 2011 Wimbledon Champion and WTA Player of the Year Petra Kvitova returned to New Haven for the second time in her career and walked away with the title, defeating Maria Kirilenko in a tight two-set match that lasted more than two hours.
“The 15th year of women’s tennis in New Haven was one we will never forget,” said Anne Worcester, New Haven Open Tournament Director. “From the exciting matches on the court to the countless events for our fans off the court, the 2012 edition of the New Haven Open is one of our most successful to date. Petra Kvitova continues her red-hot streak by winning here and we are delighted to crown her our new champion.”
Kvitova rolled to the championship without dropping a set, out-hitting her opponents and playing some of her best hardcourt tennis leading up to next week’s US Open. With her successful run in New Haven, she also won the Emirates Airline US Open Series and has a chance to earn up to $1 million in bonus prize money at the US Open.
Along with her success on-court, the 22-year-old Czech had time to enjoy the tournament and New Haven.
“With a great (tournament) director, it’s amazing,” said Kvitova. “It’s very calm here. You know, it’s five minutes from hotel to (the tennis center), so it’s pretty easy for us, for the players. You can go out to downtown for good dinners. We had a lot of offers here, so we could choose something we want to do. So that’s great… I think I will come next year again.”
The “offers” Kvitova was referring to include the Mayor’s Passport to Downtown Dining, which allowed players to enjoy complimentary meals at New Haven’s award-winning, international restaurants. You could also find her shopping at some of the city’s boutiques throughout her stay.
Kvitova’s run to the Championship signaled the end of an era as four-time defending New Haven Open champion Caroline Wozniacki’s unbeaten streak was ended as a knee injury forced her to retire in her semifinal match against Kirilenko. But the “Queen of New Haven” did not let that get her down, reflecting on her historical run in the Elm City.
“It’s definitely meant a lot to me, this tournament,” said Wozniacki. “You know, it was a big tournament for me to win back in 2008. Then coming back and defending it in 2009 was huge, as well, for me because I think that was the first time I had to go and defend a title. That was something that was special. Then, you know, you defend it again and again, all of a sudden you’re in this elite group that has won a tournament four times. I mean, there’s a lot of players that never win a tournament and there’s a lot of players that never win four. Winning the same one four times in a row is definitely special.”
Joining Wozniacki in her fifth straight year at the New Haven Open was boyfriend and No. 1-ranked golfer Rory McIlroy. McIlroy even took his first swings since winning the PGA Championships in the Yale Bowl, attempting to drive a tennis ball into a concourse tunnel. The video, which was uploaded to the tournament’s YouTube site, went viral, garnering more than 128,000 views in under a week.
Another high-profile boyfriend also made his way to the Connecticut Tennis Center this year. Four-time NHL All-Star Alexander Ovechkin was in the stands to cheer on Maria Kirilenko in Saturday’s final.
In doubles play, the World No. 1 team of Lisa Raymond and Leizel Huber of the United States won their fifth tournament of the year, getting revenge on the team that beat them at the Olympics, Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic.
Additionally, fans on-site were treated to two other tennis events, the US Open National Playoffs and the Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy.
The US Open National Playoffs provide the opportunity for hundreds of tennis players across the nation to vie for wildcards into the US Open Singles Qualifying Draws and Mixed Doubles Main Draw. At this year’s US Open National Playoff Championships, which took place concurrently with the New Haven Open, Alexandra Mueller and Clement Reix earned the singles qualifying wildcards and the team of Brian Battistone and Nicole Melichar earned the wildcard into the mixed doubles main draw.The Maureen Connolly Challenge Trophy is a yearly competition between the best female tennis players age 18 and younger from the United States and Great Britain. This year, the teens from Great Britain edged the Americans under the guidance of team captain Judy Murray, mother of World No. 4 and Olympic Gold Medalist Andy Murray.

The more than 50,000 fans in attendance were not only able to enjoy some of the world’s best action on court, but also the wide array of special events and activities around the grounds.
Highlighting this year’s off-court events was the return of initiatives to support the fight against breast cancer. The CYBEX Pink Ribbon Run saw more than 117 miles logged on the famed pink treadmill throughout the week, with WTA stars such as Kvitova, Kirilenko, Wozniacki, Agnieszka Radwanska, Sara Errani and Marion Bartoli lending their support to the cause. The autographed treadmill is being auctioned off on charitybuzz.com until September 6. All proceeds raised by both the run and the auction will be donated to Smilow Cancer Hospital Breast Center at Yale-New Haven.
Fans also did their part to support the fight against breast cancer, not only by running on the CYBEX pink treadmill and by making donations, but also by participating in July’s “15-Love” ticket promotion. This promotion celebrated 15 years of women’s tennis in New Haven by offering fans $15 seats to any session for 15 days, with $2 of each ticket sold also going directly to Smilow Cancer Hospital Breast Center.
Since the implementation of the breast cancer initiatives at the 2011 event, the New Haven Open has raised more than $30,000 for charity.
Before the tournament even began, the New Haven Open was taking other opportunities to leverage professional tennis to help make a difference in the New Haven community. Through the American Express and USTA “Fresh Courts” program, the New Haven Open was able to facilitate the renovation of tennis courts at McClain Park in the Hill Section of New Haven.
Additionally, the Emirates Airline Racquet Return Program encouraged fans to bring used racquets to the tournament to be refurbished and donated to New Haven Youth Tennis and Education. Throughout the week, more than 100 racquets were collected.
Fans coming to the site were also able to enjoy off-court activities such as the sold out fifth annual New Haven Food and Wine Festival Grand Tasting, Vineyard Vines Ladies Day Luncheon and Fashion Show, Aetna FitZone and Aetna Kids Day. Additionally, player autograph sessions were staged throughout the week at sponsor booths across the grounds.
The 2013 edition of the tournament begins in just under a year, on August 16. Mark your calendars today to ensure you don’t miss out on what should be another fantastic year of all the New Haven Open has to offer both on and off the court.

About New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara
New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara has always been much more than a tennis tournament; it is a leading example of leveraging a large-scale international sporting event to generate $26 million in regional economic impact and to build community pride, spirit and engagement, especially among youth. The 2011 tournament featured World No. 1 and now four-time defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, and three Grand Slam champions Li Na, Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova. The women’s-only WTA event is part of the Emirates Airline US Open Series and will be held August 17-25, 2012 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale. The New Haven Open is prominently featured domestically on ESPN2 and also broadcast around the world. For more information about the tournament and tickets, visit www.newhavenopen.com or call 1-855-464-8366.

About First Niagara
First Niagara, through its wholly owned subsidiary, First Niagara Bank, N.A., is a multi-state community-oriented bank with nearly 430 branches, approximately $35 billion in assets, $28 billion in deposits, and approximately 6,000 employees providing financial services to individuals, families and businesses across Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.firstniagara.com.

About Emirates Airline US Open Series
Now in its ninth season, the Emirates Airline US Open Series continues to serve as a true regular season of hard court tennis, linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open.  Fans follow the action throughout the summer during national broadcast coverage while players battle for $40 million, including a chance for bonus prize money at the US Open.  The Series collectively reached a U.S. television audience of 39 million and drew more than 800,000 on-site fans in 2011.
In 2012, Emirates Airline became the title sponsor of the Series, as well as the official airline of the US Open.  The Emirates Airline US Open Series is also supported by sponsors American Express, Chase, Citizen Watch Company, Esurance, evian and Gatorade.
Americans Mardy Fish and Serena Williams swept the 2011 Emirates Airline US Open Series men’s and women’s titles. In 2007, Roger Federer collected the biggest paycheck in tennis history – $2.4 million – for winning the US Open and the Emirates Airline US Open Series. In 2005, Kim Clijsters also captured both the US Open and the Series, winning $2.2 million – the largest purse in women’s sports history – and equaled that amount in 2010, winning the US Open and finishing the Emirates Airline US Open Series in second place.
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New Haven Open 2012: The Final Match

FINAL STEPS: Breaking Down The Semifinals

Maria Kirilenko

Head to Head: 0

Rank: 14

Country: Russia

Career Titles: 5

2012 Record: 25-17

New Haven Open: Semifinals (2010)

Quick Facts:
Currently at her career-high ranking.
Bronze medalist in 2012 Olympic Doubles (w/ Petrova).
Loves listening to Classical music.

VS

Caroline Wozniaki

Head to Head: 5

Rank: 8

Country: Denmark

Career Titles: 18

2012 Record: 29-16

New Haven Open: Winner 2008-2011

Quick Facts:
Is undefeated in New Haven (19-0)
Has been World No. 1 for 67 total weeks
Is dating pro golfer Rory McIlroy

—————————————————————————

Petra Kvitova

Head to Head: 2

Rank: 5

Country: Czech Republic

Career Titles: 8

2012 Record: 37-12

New Haven Open: 1st Round 2010

Quick Facts:
2011 Wimbledon Champion
2011 WTA “Player of the Year”
Highest-ranked lefty in WTA

VS

Sara Errani

Head to Head: 0

Rank: 10

Country: Italy

Career Titles: 6

2012 Record: 44-16

New Haven Open: Round of 16 2008, 2010

Quick Facts:
2012 French Open Finalist
2012 French Open Doubles Champion
Excellent football (soccer) player

Giving Back to New Haven…Tennis Style

Watching tennis is great. Especially in New Haven at the Open! But we also love being able to give back to the city that lends us a place to feature some of the best tennis stars in the world. This year Emirates Airline is giving back with its own very special program.

The Racquet Return Program asks fans to donate used racquets that will then be refurbished and given to New Haven Youth Tennis and Education. As a title sponsor of the New Haven Open at Yale, Emirates Airline was happy to bring its successful event to Connecticut. In July, the racquet return program took place in Los Angeles, at the 2012 Farmers Classic. Nearly 200 racquets were collected, refurbished, and donated to the LA84 Southern California Tennis Association/National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) Youth Tennis Program. Talk about a winner!

But the Racquet Return Program is about more than just giving back to the community. The event enables children to play the game, and gives them the opportunity to develop their tennis skills. For a tennis community like New Haven, we can’t think of a better way to invest in our youth.

In addition to donating the racquets to New Haven Youth Tennis and Education, Emirates will support tennis and education programming in the community. They’ll do so by providing equipment as well as funding for clinics and after-school programs. We’re honored to have such a socially responsible sponsor at the New Haven Open this year!

So when you’re here at the New Haven Open watching exciting tennis this week, do your part and make us proud! Every fan that donates a racquet will automatically be entered to win two tickets to the final round of the 2012 US Open in New York City! If that’s not an incentive, then we don’t know what is. Emirates is certainly doing their part to get involved in New Haven…will you?

We Met a Girl Named Maria

This is an inarguable point – there have been a number of incredibly talented Russian women’s tennis players that are also attractive (see Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova). One of those amazing women is here at the New Haven Open at Yale presented by First Niagara: the very lovely and very soft spoken Maria Kirilenko.

There is no doubt the 25-year-old is doing something very right with her tennis. That, combined with maturity, has helped her enjoy the best year of her career. She is ranked at a career high of No. 14 in the world and is a genuine contender for a spot in the world top 10.

There is such a fresh look about her, if you think about it, the song “Maria” from “West Side Story” could have been written for her. With that Bernstein/Sondheim classic playing in the background, Maria would be the perfect spokes-model for a TV commercial advertising one of those pure, crisp European cosmetic brands that you figure is going to leave your face feeling fresh and relaxed.

But as apt as that scenario might be for Maria Kirilenko, and as girlie as she is, she is just as happy to be in sweats and a tank top with her hair up having a good time watching football (soccer) on television, reading books such as Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers or Jack London’s White Fang, listening to the rich sounds of a piece of music by Vivaldi or Bach, cooking or just lounging on the couch watching a movie.

If she is cooking, fish would most likely be on the menu (and don’t be surprised if she had tucked her fine blonde hair into a baseball cap and done the fishing herself.)

All of that sounds so wonderful and idyllic but it is becoming rarer these days as the star continues to climb.

Kirilenko had been threatening to make a breakthrough on the WTA Tour for a while now, but she was also overshadowed by other players from her country. However, that stage is now is the past, as the consistency she lacked at times has developed in her game and she is competing with and beating many of the more established names.

Observers of the game started to notice the rise of Kirilenko starting about a year ago. At last year’s US Open she etched herself into the record books when she won the longest tiebreak played in a women’s match 17-15 against eventual champion Sam Stosur. Earlier this year she reached her fifth career final at beautiful Pattaya Beach in Thailand and things started to roll.

At the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells she reached the quarterfinals and backed it up in Miami, making the last 16 in singles and picking up the doubles title.

You would never figure someone with such a slender frame could hit the ball as hard as she can and her movement about the court exudes an element of grace as her long plait bobs around her back.

This year at Wimbledon, Kirilenko had her best showing in a Grand Slam, reaching the quarterfinals.

Just a few weeks after her success at the All England Club, she returned to the same venue to compete in the Olympic Games, an event historically monumental for the Russian people. To win an Olympic medal for Russia is like reaching the top of Mt. Everest. Maria went all the way to the semifinals, falling to her compatriot and French Open champion, Maria Sharapova. In the bronze medal play-off, world No.1 Victoria Azarenka snatched the medal.

However, Kirilenko was not done. Disappointed, sure, but not defeated. She and Nadia Petrova rebounded to win the doubles bronze medal and that dazzling smile on the podium highlighted how much it meant to her.

And the customized car President Vladimir Putin gave her for her triumph was the icing on the cake.

Maria beat Israel’s best player, Shahar Peer, in the first round and received a walkover when her second round opponent, Mona Barthel, pulled out due to illness.

She now faces Olga Govortsova of Belarus for a spot in the semifinal. Govortsova, a qualifier, beat an injured world No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska to book her place in today’s quarterfinal.

The two have never played, but expect fireworks on court when a spot in the final four of the 2012 New Haven Open is on the line.

By Craig Gabriel

Petra Kvitova: No Laughing Matter

Where do you start when writing about Petra Kvitova – her tennis results, her personality or her beaming face after a win? There are so many great attributes about this 22 year-old from the beautiful Czech Republic, but I think we should start with her laugh.

One normally uses the term “infectious” in a negative sense, but with Petra Kvitova it can only be a positive term with regards to her laugh. When she starts you just want to laugh with her; as I said it’s infectious because it is just so delightful. It’s like a giggle and her face lights up and you can’t help but like her even more.
You can get two versions of her laughing. There is one when she half covers her mouth and tilts her head with an element of shyness and then there is the one when she sort of tosses back those beautiful golden locks of hers and enjoys herself.

Petra Kvitova is an absolute joy. In all my years following the tennis tour, and there have been many, only three other Grand Slam winners have had that effect – Stefan Edberg, Pat Rafter and Kim Clijsters.

The left-hander is a phenomenal player and the second half of the 2011 tennis season made that abundantly clear. When Wimbledon began, not too many would have placed her among the tournament favorites even though she had reached the semi-finals the year before. However, playing the perfect match against the favorite Maria Sharapova in the final, Petra became the first Czech to claim the coveted crown since Jana Novotna in 1998 and the first left-handed woman to do so since Czech born Martina Navratilova in 1990.

In the immediate aftermath of that glorious win, Petra went through a let-down phase. It is not something uncommon when you are not used to winning a Grand Slam title. It happened to Li Na after she won the French Open last year and same with Samantha Stosur after she claimed the US Open in 2011.

However, Petra shook herself out of it a bit quicker than the others. She won the title in Linz, Austria and then closed out the regular season by capturing the coveted year-end crown, the WTA Championships in Istanbul in her first appearance at the event.

After she defeated Victoria Azarenka for the title in Istanbul she was asked: “Now, maybe, can you say that you’re the player of the year?”

“I’m playing Fed Cup, so maybe after,” she said laughing, optimizing the blonde-locks-being-tossed-back option.

A week later in chilly Moscow she was leading the Czech Republic to victory against the home team in the final of the Fed Cup – the biggest annual team competition for women. The Czechs had not won that event since 1988. Petra had also taken her world ranking up to No. 2. It was a season to remember.

Fast forward to 2012. In January she was only a couple of wins away from being ranked World No. 1, but after the Australian Open she began to have a few injury woes, in particular with her shoulder Because of that, she was unfortunately robbed of a few opportunities. But Kvitova wasn’t going to allow that to keep her down and she worked her way through her issues, and just couple weeks ago captured a title at Montreal.

Overall, what really shines through Petra is how grounded she is. She makes no excuses. Despite the fact that she suffers from asthma, she would never cite that as a reason for a loss.

She understands that with the wins come losses. One of the people who can take credit for that sort of attitude is her coach David Kotzya, who removes her from the tennis sites and helps her to appreciate things around her like museums and art galleries. It is all part of the learning and developmental process to create a high-profile athlete with a human touch and someone who truly appreciates the gifts that have been bestowed upon her.

By Craig Gabriel

Rory Mcilroy Drives a Tennis Ball Through The Yale Bowl

During a little downtime on Sunday afternoon at the New Haven Open, we took “Wozilroy” out for a little driving. And this was not the kind of driving you do in a Lexus (though that would be nice). Out four-time defending champion, Caroline Wozniacki and boyfriend, No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, Rory Mcilroy were game to have a little fun.

He visited the famous Yale Bowl, across the street from the Connecticut Tennis Center, to take a couple of swings with a driver…at a tennis ball. While the uprights were not in place, he picked out another target, the tunnel entrance to the field, and proceeded to hit the tennis ball through in just a few tries.

Now keep in mind that this was Mcilroy’s first swings since his victory at the PGA Championship and he is resting up before heading to Long Island to play at Bethpage in the upcoming PGA event this weekend.

Watch the video here. And don’t forget to check our blog daily for updates on the tournament and other great videos like this! We’ll be covering all of the action down here at the New Haven Open at Yale and keeping you up to speed on all things tennis in New Haven!

A Friend, And A Potential Foe

Caroline Wozniacki is a well-known player in New Haven, however one of her best friends on Tour might be slightly less recognizable to fans in the Elm City. That has been changing this year though, as Agnieszka Radwanska has catapulted up the rankings, and is the No. 1 seed this week at the New Haven Open. The two have been friends since childhood and it shows not only through their similar games but also through their equally sunny dispositions.

The two playfully teased each other during a press event where they were challenged to answer questions about each other’s favorite ice cream flavors, bands and alternate occupations.

“Remember when we were kids?” said Radwanska. “And we were saying about our future jobs if we were not going to play tennis? Remember? For sure you remember!”

A comical back-and-forth ensued in which Wozniacki recounted a post-career plan involving 14-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams.

“I was going to say something with nails,” said Caroline, pointing out Agnieszka’s impeccable blue nails. “Because that’s what you said later, with you, me and Serena opening a nail salon.” (That wasn’t right either. Her alternate career path would see Agnieszka as the back-up dancer while Caroline sang).

While the two friends laughed off-court, they might end up battling each other on-court later this week in the semifinals as they are on the same half of the draw.

Radwanska has a knack for taking her opponents out of their comfort zones with strategically-timed drop shots, lobs and approaches to the net.

But after four years of circling around the upper echelon of the WTA, she has had a breakout year in 2012, reaching the Wimbledon final and achieving a career-high ranking of No. 2 in the world, where she currently sits.

“To be honest, I think it’s just (having more) experience,” she said. “I really didn’t change anything. I was just working hard in the off-season and I think when I went on the court I was just feeling good and confident on pretty much every surface. At the beginning of the year I was already playing very good tennis against top players. I just want to keep going.”

Last year, she lost a tight match in the second round of the New Haven Open to qualifier Petra Cetkovska. What seemed to be an improbable result, however, turned out to be anything but a fluke as Cetkovska picked off two other seasoned veterans, Marion Bartoli and Li Na, en route to the finals.

Tonight, Radwanska faces another qualifier, Olga Govortsova of Belarus, for a spot in the quarterfinals. Radwanska won both previous meetings, but the two haven’t played in over a year.

Also looming in her quarter is Russian Maria Kirilenko, who has had a breakout season of her own this year. The 2012 Olympic Doubles Bronze Medalist also reached the Bronze Medal match in singles, losing to World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. She is sitting at her career-high ranking of World No. 14 and her game is on fire.

At Wimbledon this year, Kirilenko and Radwanska squared off in the quarterfinals in one of the best matches of the fortnight. The three-set battle progressed through rain delays and finally fell in Radwanska’s favor. In fact, four of the eight matches these two have played have gone the distance, although Radwanska has come away winning six of them.

With five titles in the last year, Radwanska is always a threat to go deep. Her level of play and experience on-court have grown exponentially, which will be key in getting through the tough road to her first New Haven Open title.

In order to do that, however, she will likely have to battle past Wozniacki. Although these two are great friends off the court, the smiles will surely fade to focused glares from across the net as each young star fights to reach the final.

By Jeff Watson

TOP FAN WINNERS ANNOUNCED!

The time has finally come! It’s been a fun fight to the end but the best have prevailed! We’re here to finally announce the winners of TOP FAN. Before we do- we would like to congratulate all that participated in the competition; we know you played hard! Everyone showed great dedication not only to the game, but to The New Haven Open and the sport of tennis. Here are our winners:

3rd PLACE:

Evan Maccani
Joseph Volpato
Emilijia Guayaba
Adi Gandhi
Bernie Olender

2nd PLACE:

Sue Cooke Volpato
Cathyanne Volpato Forsti
Ravi Luckoor!

1st PLACE: CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR TOP FAN

Arun Luckoor!

We hope you all enjoy your prizes- and we can’t wait to see everyone this week at The New Haven Open at Yale! It will be sure to be a good time filled with great tennis and hopefully good weather! Thanks for playing TOP FAN, and stay tuned into our Facebook for more games and prizes for next year.

 

(Winners please contact us with a Facebook message for information on how to receive your prizes)

TOP FAN Progress

It’s been an eventful few months leading up to the New Haven Open on our Facebook page, thanks to our TOP FANS. The competition has rivaled the best tennis matches happening around us! And now as the tournament approaches, TOP FAN will soon be coming to an end.

We’ve had a blast with everyone talking about star players, guessing pictures, testing knowledge, speed and wit! Though our TOP FAN changes constantly, some players have been involved from the beginning. It’s been great to see so many friends and families getting involved in the game together like the Volpatos and the Luckoors.

Players like Cathyanne, Bernie, Adi, Sue, Arun, Ravi and Emilijia have consistently been in the top ten and are sure to be contenders for the final prize. They’ve all proven themselves to be formidable players with their expert responses and informative posts of their own. We knew the competition would be fierce, but these fans really came to play!

With less than one week until the tournament begins, we only have a few more days of TOP FAN. We can’t wait to see who wins as all of our players race to the finish! The winner will be announced on Saturday, August 18th. As a reminder there will be five 3rd Place winners, three 2nd place winners, and ONE TOP FAN WINNER. The prizes are:

3rd PLACE: BAG OF SWAG- Receive tennis merch and gear that would make any fan jealous!

2nd PLACE: STAR PICTURE- Go on the court and get your picture taken with the stars of the New Haven Open!

BAG OF SWAG- Receive tennis merch and gear that would make any fan jealous!

1st PLACE: MEET THE STARS- Get a private meeting with one of the star professional players! You’ll get to meet,     have you picture taken together, and a personally signed ball from one of the semi-finalists before their big match!

RACQUET CLUB FOR 2- Dine in style with a TOP FAN meal for two in the luxurious and exclusive racquet club!

BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR- See the professional tennis world from the inside! You’ll get an unlisted behind the scenes tour at the New Haven Open!

FRONT ROW SEATS- See the action from the best seats in the house. Your ticket +1 guest will be specially upgraded to the very front row of the box!

TOP FAN PLAYER GIFT BAG- Receive the same gifts as the pros with your very own VIP New Haven Open Player Gift Bag!