Wimbledon is Coming to New Haven – And Fans Can Go There, Too

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By Nicholas McCarvel

As the stars of the WTA descend on the New Haven Open this month, a distinctly Wimbledon flair will come along with them, featuring 2011 winner Petra Kvitova, this year’s finalist Sabine Lisicki, reigning champion Marion Bartoli and tennis legend and 1997 champion Martina Hingis – all bringing world-class tennis to the courts at Yale University.

Fans, too, have the chance to carry on that Wimbledon feeling, with the chance to buy packages for the Wimbledon Experience, the only official package dealer for visits to the All England Club for The Championships 2014. The Wimbledon Experience booth will be set up on-site at the New Haven Open, so fans can book their 2014 tickets right from the grounds of the Connecticut Tennis Center.

“This is the one-and-only All England Club-certified experience for fans in North America,” Jan Thwaites, the vice president of sales for The Wimbledon Experience, told the New Haven Open blog. “Fans come to London and everything is set for them: this is a true world-class experience for those who love tennis.”

World-class, to say the least. The most popular among the Wimbledon Experience packages that fans can choose from is a two-day, three-night option, which puts tennis lovers on Centre Court one day and No.1 Court the next, three nights in a London hotel, a full English breakfast, buffet lunch in The Wimbledon Experience pavilion (beer and wine included!) and more.

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The Wimbledon Experience pavilion itself is just a stone’s throw from the actual All England Club grounds, across the road and a short football-field walk from Centre Court. It’s there that the lunch and drinks are served, a space that is air-conditioned, comfortable and a reprieve for fans should they need a re-boot during a day of tennis-viewing.

“We offer a first-rate experience that really caters to what are guests are after,” Thwaites told the blog during a special tour in London. “We’ve been doing these kind of packages since 1982, so fans know our product and what we offer.”

Fans will also know plenty of familiar faces should they go, with a bevy of New Haven Open regulars in action including four-time champion Caroline Wozniacki, a former world No. 1, world No. 6 Sara Errani and Angelique Kerber are always considered outside threats at majors – Wimbledon being no different.

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Who’s Who at the NHO: Part One

By Nicholas McCarvel

As the 2013 New Haven Open at Yale inches closer and closer, we’re taking a look at the WTA stars that will be descending upon the hard courts in Connecticut for the final tune-up before the US Open. Here, we look at three players on the fringe of a breakthrough: Magdalena Rybarikova, Kristina Mladenovic and Urszula Radwanska.

Rybarikova, MagdalenaMagdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia. Rank: 43 Age: 24
The Slovakian righty has three WTA career titles to her credit, including Washington DC last year. Currently ranked at World No. 43, Rybarikova is making just her second appearance in the New Haven main draw. In 2009 as a qualifier, she made an inspiring run to the quarterfinals, beating Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli before falling to Flavia Pennetta.

More on the Blog: Hingis’ Doubles Memories | A Wacky Wimbledon

Urszula Radwanska, Poland. Rank: 39 Age: 22BNP Paribas Open - Day 1
The younger sister of World No. 4 Agnieszka is a junior Grand Slam champ, winning Wimbledon in 2009. The 22-year-old has quality wins over Venus WilliamsAna Ivanovic and Dominika Cibulkova this year following her climb to a career-high No. 29 in the world last fall. Radwanska is making her first appearance in New Haven having lost in her last two tries to qualify for the main draw, in 2009 and 2011.

Kristina Mladenovic, France. Rank: 38 Age: 20Mladenovic, Kristin
The 2009 French Open junior champion has steadily risen up the rankings, and earlier this summer captured her first major as a pro, winning the mixed doubles crown at Wimbledon alongside veteran Daniel Nestor. “Kiki,” as she’s known, is six feet tall and hits hard off the ground, registering wins over Julia Goerges and former Wimbledon and New Haven Open champ Petra Kvitova this year. She owns one career title: winning the inaugural Taipei WTA $125K stop last year.

Martina Hingis: 5 Memorable Doubles Moments

By Nicholas McCarvel

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Fans at the New Haven Open this summer will get an unexpected thrill as former world No. 1 in singles and doubles – Martina Hingis – will play in the event as a doubles wild card.

The 32-year-old Swiss player retired from the game a second time in 2007, but surprised tennis fans and aficionados with the announcement that she’d play in a host of events this summer, including the New Haven Open.

While Martina was perhaps more well known for her prowess on the singles court, where she won five major titles and held the No. 1 for 35 weeks, Hingis has a significant resume on the doubles court, as well: she owns nine Grand Slam trophies in doubles, made two other finals, was ranked No. 1 and a mixed doubles major in 2006.

In anticipation of Hingis’ return to New Haven, we take a look at five big moments in the Hall of Famer’s doubles career:

1996 Wimbledon: First Grand Slam
Before Hingis was a major winner in singles she conquered the doubles court, winning Wimbledon alongside veteran Helena Sukova. The then-15-year-old and Sukova won six straight matches, including a quarterfinal upset of top seeds Jana Novotna and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. In the final, they took out Meredith McGrath and Larisa Neiland, the fourth seeds, in three sets.

No. 1 – in Singles and Doubles
In June of 1998 Hingis reached the top ranking in doubles, becoming just the sixth woman to hold the No.1 ranking in both singles and doubles. Hingis was simultaneously ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles for 29 weeks in her career, second only to Martina Navratilova.

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1998: The Grand Slam
She just missed out on a Grand Slam in singles in 1997, winning three of the four majors, but Hingis came good in doubles the next year, winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open for the first women’s doubles Grand Slam since her namesake – Martina Navratilova – did so with Pam Shriver in 1984. Hingis paired with Mirjana Lucic in Melbourne, then Jana Novotna at the other three Slams.

2006 Australian Open: Mixed Win
Adding to her major hall, Hingis made a winning return to the tour in singles and doubles in 2006 – but perhaps her crowning achievement was perhaps capturing the Australian Open alongside Mahesh Bhupathi. It was Hingis’ 15th total Grand Slam, her first mixed crown and most recent to date.

37 Titles, Many Partners
Hingis won a whopping 37 titles in her doubles career and partnered with 13 different teammates to do so. The Swiss Miss was most remembered for her wins with Anna Kournikova, but her initial return this summer in California has her playing with Daniela Hantuchova, her most recent doubles partner – from the 2007 season.

A Taste of Royalty – The Royal Box at Wimbledon

By Nicholas McCarvel

Tennis venues around the world all have a special reserved area for the most important and elite to sit and watch the on-court battles, but none of them are quite as famous as Wimbledon’s Royal Box. Centre Court’s distinct historic flair is partly attributed to said box, which has seen royalty pass through it for decades upon decades since The Championships moved to Church Road in 1922.

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New Haven Open Tournament Director and former WTA CEO Anne Worcester is a frequent guest of the Royal Box and says there is nothing quite like it. Listening to her describe her experience is like listening to a princess describing a royal afternoon:

“Walking up the steps and being escorted into the luncheon – last year I was seated with Kate Middleton’s parents and the Chairman of Wimbledon – watching matches from the best vantage point of the stadium – at four o’clock going back into the dining area for tea, scones and strawberries and cream – and watching some more tennis. It’s a fabulous experience.”

While the dress is all white for players, the box is a place where the most distinguished of guests wear their best – no matter the color. This year, the Duke of Kent and Camilla and the Duchess of Cornwall (Prince Charles’ wife) have graced the Box’s presence. The Duke is the president of the All England Club.
But while true royalty grace the Royal Box on a daily basis, so too do royal members of other industries.

This year was no different, Anna Wintour, J.K. Rowling, Jude Law, Wayne Rooney and Condoleezza Rice were all in the Box at one point or another. On the men’s final day Sunday, both British Prime Minister David Cameron and Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic were in attendance – as were two Kings of Hollywood, Bradley Cooper and Gerard Butler.

Worcester, who did not make it to SW19 this year due to her busy schedule, joked that missing Cooper was her biggest regret of her absence in the Royal Box at The 2013 Championships.

“I’ve met other people in the Royal Box,” said Worcester. “Like Luciano Pavarotti, Roger Federer’s family and the Middletons. But I have to say, I was really happy to be home this year as there was so much going on for the New Haven Open, but my one regret was seeing Bradley Cooper in that Royal Box – and I wasn’t there!”

It’s not just the royalty of politics, stage and screen that frequent the Royal Box, however. Tennis royalty including two-time New Haven Open champ (and seven-time finalist) Lindsay Davenport, Tracy Austin, John McEnroe, Greg Rusedski, Richard Krajicek and Britain’s current golden boy, Andy Murray, made appearances, as well.

Murray appeared on the Middle Saturday with a slew of British Olympians and Paralympians, all honored for their achievement at last year’s London Games. Murray, who won gold over Roger Federer in the final, received a standing ovation.

It’s somehow fitting that the most distinguished place to watch tennis in the world is on the most distinguished court in the world. Now, for the important question: do they get unlimited strawberries and cream?

New Haven Open brings Free Lesson to Newtown

Anne Worcester, Tournament Director of the New Haven Open and former CEO of the WTA, has always preached the “Three ‘Fs’ of Tennis:” Fun, Fitness and Friendship. On Wednesday, the New Haven Open, along with First Niagara, USTA New England, ESPN Anchor Prim Siripipat and WTA Professional Melanie Oudin, helped spread that message to kids in the community of Newtown, Connecticut through a Free Tennis Lesson.

Roughly 150 kids from Newtown Parks & Rec Day Camp took to the courts and had a fun morning of tennis, hitting and exercising with Oudin and Siripipat. For many of these kids, who ranged in age from four to 11 years old, this was the first time they had been exposed to the game of tennis, but hopefully not the last, as the day was also meant to encourage participation in local tennis lessons through Newtown Parks and Rec. This Free Lesson, however, also served to show support from one Connecticut community to another.

“For 16 years, it’s always been the strategy of the New Haven Open at Yale to leverage this large-scale international event to benefit the community in a healthy, active and positive way,” said Worcester. “After the events of December in Newtown, it was crystal clear that if they’d have us and it was appropriate, that we would want to bring the joy and benefits of tennis to Newtown. And so we’re here – they welcomed us with open arms.”

It wasn’t just the kids having fun on court, however. Oudin, an American tennis star who has reached as high as No. 31 in the WTA rankings, was just as enthusiastic about the day as the youth involved, if not more so.

“I love this. The kids are great,” said Oudin. “I really enjoy hitting with them, playing some points, battling some of the boys – they think they can take me and Prim! So it’s been really good, I’m really enjoying being here in Newtown, it’s a great event.”

It’s these types of off-the-circuit events that Oudin thinks round out the overall experience for fans and kids becoming engaged in tennis.

“I think it’s super important to do things like this,” she said. “People see us (WTA players) playing on TV and at pro tournaments, and they don’t get to know us or see what makes the tournaments possible. This New Haven Open Free Lesson is great, I think we have introduced a lot of kids to tennis and hopefully they’re going to want to play more and more. One day, one of these kids could be playing in a pro tournament, too.”

Helping out on-court and behind the microphone during introductions was Siripipat, who not only served as an anchor for Bristol-based ESPN during their Wimbledon coverage, but also served up aces playing collegiate tennis at Duke.

“If there’s anything that I do as a sportscaster,” she said, “it’s to get out in the community and make any sort of impact I can. We can always do a better job at the company and get out and ingratiate ourselves within the Connecticut community, so this Free Lesson has been a perfect time to do that.”

These “Free Lessons” have been integral in bringing tennis into the community, which is something Worcester keeps at the top of the New Haven Open’s list of priorities year in and year out. The tournament’s community outreach programs have fed thousands of kids into affordable tennis programs which are fun and teach the importance of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.

“The smiles say it all,” said Worcester. “We always say that tennis is about the “Three ‘Fs:” it’s fun, it’s fitness, it’s friendships. And if even just one of these kids picks up a racquet and wants to play for the rest of his or her life, then we’ve done our jobs today.”

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The full player field for the 2013 New Haven Open was also announced at this event. For the announcement, click here.

Wimbledon Wrap – Blogger Nicholas McCarvel

After two weeks of twists and turns, there was one final chapter to be written in the wacky Wimbledon that was for 2013.

But with Marion Bartoli writing her own fairy-tale finish to close The Championships, the  Wimbledon champion will be at the New Haven Open this August. The 28-year-old Frenchwoman, a tour veteran, launches herself to No.7 in the world and will look to follow up her magical run at the All England Club with a strong showing in the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series leading into 2013’s final Grand Slam.

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No one could have guessed that Bartoli would be the one hoisting the Venus Rosewater Dish on the second Saturday of the tournament, even after the top favorites crashed out during week one. 2013 New Haven Open competitor Sabine Lisicki was perhaps the de facto player to beat after her stunning upset of World No. 1 Serena Williams, but after she squeaked by World No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska in an epic semifinal, Bartoli played lights-out tennis in the final to grab ahold of her first Grand Slam in 47 attempts.

With the good news ringing in that Marion is the new Wimbledon champion and will bring her winning game to New Haven, I mark three can’t-miss moments from The Championships now past.

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A One-and-Only Place
I could be biased as the blogger for the New Haven Open, but I think it’s safe to say: there is no place quite like Wimbledon. There is something magical and unique about the game on lawns of SW19. I adore small stadium courts, and Court 18 here is one of my favorites in the globe. It’s the famous site of John Isner’s 70-68 fifth-set win over Nicolas Mahut in 2011, and has a grandstand that sits up over it as the hill stretches towards the big screen (aka Murray Mound, Henman Hill). Overlooking the court, as well, is the broadcast roof and a standing rail for fans, making the intimate setting have a bit of an enclosed feel, as well.

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They’re Humans, Too
As I have at many tournaments before, I got the chance to work with players on a one-on-one basis while at Wimbledon this year. As they almost always do, they showed what down-to-earth, relaxed human beings they are; in other words, just like us. Angelique Kerber, who will play at the New Haven Open this year, was relaxed and chatty when we did a Q&A outside the main interview room after her first win (we’ll post that later this summer). Andy Murray was unguarded and humorous when we did a video for the Wimbledon website. And Petra Kvitova, the defending New Haven champion, obliged when I asked her to do a short interview on the aforementioned roof garden, smiling and then walking down the stairs with me to the press centre, “That’s it?” She asked.

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Here Come the Stars
Angelique and Petra are just two of the players that will be descending on New Haven come late August. Sara Errani and Caroline Wozniacki will be there, as well. We will see Marion, of course, whose charm and personality overflowed following her win on Centre Court. “But just to finish on an ace to win Wimbledon and you saw the chalk come out of the line. Just, I mean, I could have seen it in slow motion. I could see the ball landing, the chalk come out, it’s an ace, and I just win Wimbledon. You can’t describe that kind of feeling.” Did someone say fairytale? And Taylor Townsend, a 17-year-old American phenom who led kids of New Haven in a Free Tennis Lesson earlier this summer, was another Wimbledon name worth mentioning. The serve-and-volley expert (yes, you read that right) made her way all the way to the final of the junior event, losing in three tight sets to Belinda Bencic.

Where the Players Eat – Wimbledon

Looking for a place to grab delicious food near The All England Club? Nick McCarvel suggests some great restaurants to check out in the village while awaiting mouth-watering matches at Wimbledon – you might even see a few players dining in there, as well! Check back next week for the New Haven edition of “Where the Players Eat.”

There is no food more famous than strawberries and cream at The Championships, but there is no better place to eat such a Wimbledon treat than on the grounds of the All England Club itself. But what about dining options nearby? We investigate five local hotspots that players and fans love to dive into following a long day of tennis.
Sticks’n’Sushi, 58 Wimbledon Hill Road, Wimbledon
http://www.sticksnsushi.com/
Who doesn’t go to Sticks n Sushi? Ivan Lendl, Victoria Azarenka, Rennae Stubbs and more are those who have made their way to this sushi restaurant that actually has a bit of Danish flare to it (noted in some of the unique sauces used and wide tap selection). Rolls are decently priced and creatively prepared. This spot sits down the road in Wimbledon Central, meaning you might go here for a step away from the Village, but expect to see someone you recognize…
The Dog & Fox, 24 High St., Wimbledon Village
http://www.thedogandfox.com/
This is the local watering hole. If you’ve queued for hours and still can’t get onto the grounds, this is the place to catch the action on the big screens. But it’s also a place that plenty of fans – and players – go for a post-tennis evening, 1997 Wimbledon champion Martina Hingis has been spotted here during the 2013 Championships. It’s got better-than-average bar food and a wide variety on tap.
Taverna Italiana Restaurant, 28 Ridgway, Wimbledon
This Italian joint is off the Wimbledon beaten path, which is a welcome option for many. This location is said to be a go-to for players who may have pulled a big upset that day, treating him or herself to to a seafood pasta (one of their specialties). The tiramisu? To die for. And of course there is house-made gelato that must be tried, as well.
The Butcher and Grill, 33 High St, Wimbledon Village
http://www.thebutcherandgrill.com/
This place is for the Andrea Petkovic’s and Goran Ivanisevic’s of the tennis world. What I mean by that is the spot – half restaurant and half butcher shop – is very low-key and accessible, a place where locals still do some shopping (for meat, of course!) but you can sit down and have dinner, too. What to get? Anything meaty will do, though the rump stake is a favorite. Add a house-made sauce like salsa verde and you won’t need any tea and biscuits for a snack later – you’ll be too full!

Cote, 8 High St, Wimbledon Village
http://www.cote-restaurants.co.uk/Index.html
A French Bistro in the Wimbledon Village, this spot is frequented by locals in droves, and can also find visiting players, coaches, agents and tennis VIPs having a nice dinner out. A Salmon Hollandaise is a popular choice to pair with one of their many wines, or the Haddock – a sauteed fillet wrapped in smoked bacon.

New Haven Flavor in Wimbledon Semifinals

By Nicholas McCarvel

There is a little New Haven flavor in the semifinals at Wimbledon on Thursday. New Haven Open regular Marion Bartoli qualified for her second-ever semis at the All England Club on Tuesday, joining the No. 4 seed and past NHO competitor Agnieszka Radwanska as well as Sabine Lisicki and Kirsten Flipkens.

Bartoli battled past American star Sloane Stephens 6-4, 7-5 in a hard-hitting affair that was their first meeting since the Frenchwoman had beaten Sloane in New Haven last year in a tight three-set affair.

Bartoli was a surprise finalist at Wimbledon in 2007, losing to Venus Williams in the final.

Flipkens is the surprise this time around, taking out defending New Have Open champion Petra Kvitova under a closed roof on Centre Court, the Belgian winning 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. A year ago, Flipkens was ranked No.262 in the world, but has worked her way into the top 20 with the help of on-and-off coach Kim Clijsters, who twice played in New Haven.

Lisicki backed up her win over Serena Williams in the fourth round by taking out Kaia Kanepi in her quarterfinal. Radwanska, who has played in New Haven four times in the past beat Li Na, a semifinalist at the NHO in 2011, in a rain-delayed quarterfinal.

All four women are chasing after their first major. Should Bartoli win, it would be a first for France since Amelie Mauresmo, another New Haven regular, who won in London over Justine Henin in 2006.

A Wacky Week at Wimbledon – Blogger Nicholas McCarvel

2013 New Haven Open Blogger Nicholas McCarvel is on-site at Wimbledon for the next fortnight and will check in every so often with insider perspective of the action in SW19. Be sure to follow him on Twitter at @NickMcCarvel.

Unlike ATP World Tour and WTA events, Grand Slams are broken into two weeks, which gives the tournaments two separate feelings: one of overwhelming action and busyness in week one and the other of a calmness that comes in week two – a certain reckoning with another event passing.But at Wimbledon during week one this year, the tournament’s feel ebbed and flowed each and every day, most notably on Wednesday, when Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka all crashed out. It was a day unlike any other at the majors that I’ve covered, with seven players pulling out or retiring from their matches with injury (a tournament record) and controversy swirling about the supposed slippery nature of the courts – which Wimbledon assured was not an issue.

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That’s what happens in tennis events of any size – upsets come and go – and Thursday a sense of normalcy set in, as did the classic Wimbledon rain. On Friday afternoon I had my first chance to take in tennis on Centre Court, watching British youngster Laura Robson be willed on by her compatriots under the safety of the Centre Court roof.With Sharapova, Azarenka and four-time New Haven Open champion Caroline Wozniacki all victims of a wackyWednesday, defending New Haven Open and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova is one many have pegged to make a run to the final once again. New Haven Open regular Marion Bartoli could stand in Kvitova’s way, the No.15 seed from France recapturing some of the magic that she had when she made a surprise run to the Wimbledon final here in 2007, booking a place in the fourth round without dropping a set.

On Monday, Kvitova was the first to book a quarter-final spot at the All England Club followed by Bartoli a few hours later.

One thing about Wimbledon is that it is Wimbledon: the history is palpable, the players’ respect for the tournament and its courts is obvious and the fans’ enthusiasm for a national treasure contagious. Henman Hill (or do you prefer Murray Mound? Or Robson Ridge?) is packed everyday when I walk by it, fans from all over the world crowding on the sloped grass to watch action from the show courts on the big screenWith week one almost in the books, what’s to come in week two? It’s hard to say, but a day like the first Wednesdayis possible at any point – that’s the fun of pro tennis events.