Who’s Who at the Connecticut Open: Part 2

By Nicholas McCarvel

With the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies creeping closer and the US Open Series officially underway, we’re giving you a sneak peek at the world class tennis players that will descend on the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale August 15-23. For our second installment, we look at two Czech veterans and a rising teenage star from the WTA.

Strycova

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, CZE
Rank: No. 32 Age: 28

At 28, Zahlavova Strycova had a career-best result at a Grand Slam earlier this month with a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon. She beat Li Na and four-time New Haven winner Caroline Wozniacki before bowing out to countrywoman Petra Kvitova, the eventual Wimbledon champ. Zahlavova Strycova owns one career title at Quebec City in 2011, and has reached four finals, as recently as Birmingham in June. Zahlavova Strycova reached a career-high No. 30 in the world following her run at Wimbledon. She’s making her second appearance in Connecticut, but the first since 2005, when she lost in qualifying.

Koukalova

Klara Koukalova, CZE
Rank: No. 34 Age: 32

Ranked as high as No. 20 in the world last April, the Czech veteran was a semifinalist in New Haven a year ago, also losing to Kvitova after she upset seed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round. Koukalova has three career titles, most recently in Florianopolis, Brazil, as well as 12 career final appearances. She has two fourth-round appearances in Grand Slams, making it that far at the French Open in 2010 as well as at Wimbledon in 2012. This will be Koukalova’s third trip to Connecticut.

Rybarikova

Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
Rank: No. 35 Age: 25

The Slovakian owns four career titles, three of them coming on U.S. hard courts, the most recent in Washington DC last summer, where she beat former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic in the final. She has twice been to the third round of the US Open. Rybarikova is making her first trip to Connecticut since 2010. In 2009, she qualified for the main draw before making a run to the quarterfinals, beating Schiavone and Marion Bartoli en route.

Svitolina

Elina Svitolina, UKR
Rank: No. 36 Age: 19

Just weeks ago the 19-year-old from Ukraine became the first teenager on the WTA to own multiple titles when she won the Baku stop. This year alone she has wins over Genie Bouchard, Sloane Stephens, Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova. Svitolina has reached a career-high No. 33 in the world earlier this year, which also included a run to the third round of the Australian Open. She makes her second trip to Connecticut after qualifying last year and losing in the first round.

Who’s Who at the Connecticut Open: Part 1

By Nicholas McCarvel

With the Connecticut Open presented by United Technologies less than a month away and the US Open Series officially underway, we’re giving you a sneak peek at the world class tennis players that will descend on the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale August 15-23. First, a batch of four 22 year olds that has been making noise on the WTA for the last 12 months.

Jovanovski

Bojana Jovanovski, SRB
Rank: No. 36 Age: 22

The Serbian Jovanovski once again had a successful run in Baku, Uzbekistan, last week, losing in the final to fellow Connecticut Open commit Elina Svitolina, a follow-up to Bojana’s 2012 title there. The 22-year-old made the third round at Wimbledon thanks in part to an upset of former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. Known as a baseline backboard, Jovanovski owns two career titles. She’s making her third appearance at the Connecticut Open.

Giorgi

Camila Giorgi
Rank: No. 39 Age: 22

The diminutive Italian has had some massive results, upsetting Caroline Wozniacki at the US Open last year, Maria Sharapova in Indian Wells this spring and Victoria Azarenka in the lead-up to Wimbledon. The 22 year old was a finalist in Katowice earlier this year and had her best result at a Slam in 2012, when she qualified for Wimbledon and made the fourth round. This is Giorgi’s second trip to New Haven, but first appearance in the main draw.

Coco

Coco Vandeweghe, USA
Rank: No. 48 Age: 22

The hard-hitting American is having a breakthrough year of sorts, having won her first-ever title at the grass court stop in ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, before Wimbledon. The California native also made the fourth round in Miami, beating top 25 opponents Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Sam Stosur before bowing out to eventual winner Serena Williams. She’s playing in New Haven for the first time since 2010, when she lost in qualifying.

Kurumi

Kurumi Nara, JPN
Rank: No. 40 Age: 22

The Japanese No. 1 is a consistent force on the WTA, and earlier this year won her first-ever pro crown with a victory in Rio de Janeiro, where she beat veteran Klara Koukalova in the final. Nara is particularly dangerous on hard courts, having made the third round at both the US Open last year and in Australia earlier this year. She’s making her debut appearance at the Connecticut Open.

5 Minutes With…Sara Errani

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We recently caught up with 2012 Connecticut Open semi-finalist and World No. 15 Sara Errani to hear about her perfect pizza, ping-pong skills, and Candy Crush craze.

CO: What’s the best thing about playing in New Haven?

Errani: It’s a good tournament to prepare for New York so I like to play there.

CO: You were a semi-finalist in New Haven in 2012, defeating Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Carla Suárez Navarro and Marion Bartoli along the way. What was your favorite part of the tournament that year?

Errani: Yes, it was a very good tournament for me, and it’s nice to go to New York after winning some matches. It’s important for your confidence going into the US Open so I will try this year to do my best.

CO: The Connecticut Open is played at Yale University, what was your favorite subject in school to study?

Errani: I like math a lot, but I don’t like history or anything like that.

CO: Are you reading any books right now?

Errani: Right now, no. I like the Internet more ha ha!

CO: New Haven is famous for its pizza, what is your perfect pizza?

Errani: I like it very simple.  For me, margarita is the best.  I really like tomato, mozzarella, and nothing more. Oh, and a coke! Just one coke.

CO: You are known as such a focused player on Tour and for grinding out tough matches.  Does your mind ever wander or think about other things while you play?

Errani: I try not too, because it’s very important in tennis to be focused in every point. I try to be very conscious of that.  Sometimes it happens but I try to stay really focused on what I have to do.

CO: When it does happen what do you think about?

Errani: Well it depends…it can be anything… sometimes I sing.

CO: Are you still a Candy Crush fan? If so, update us on your status. What level are you on now?

Errani: Yes, of course! I am on level 575 now. I am waiting for new levels.  I have finished everything, but every two weeks they add more.

CO: If you could play any other sport, what would it be, and why?

Errani: Basketball. I played for three years when I was younger and I have always really loved it. But I’m not tall so it’s very difficult.

CO: What’s the most challenging thing for you about playing on hard courts?

Errani: Well it depends on what kind of hard court surface it is because some are slow and some are very fast.  Of course, I prefer the slower ones, but I like to play on hard courts.

CO: In the New Haven Player Lounge, there is a very competitive ping-pong table. How good is your table tennis and have you ever faced off against other players?

Errani: I play at home a lot with my brothers so I like to play for sure. In Indian Wells and other tournaments I have played against Ferrer – and he is an unbelievable player!

CO: The Connecticut Open has a new name this year, which is the state New Haven is in.  Can you tell us about the state/region you are from in Italy: Emilia-Romagna?  What is your favorite part about living there?

Errani: The food is unbelievable, it is also very quiet where I live and the people are nice so I love it.

 

Thanks for your time, Sara!

 

5 Minutes With… Andy Roddick

Winston-Salem Open - Day 2
(c) Greg Forwerck, Getty Images

CO: What has been your favorite part about retirement and what do you miss the most about being on Tour?
Roddick: I’ve enjoyed not having to be on a schedule for the first year. During the second year I started with FOX, and I’ve been very busy. I definitely enjoyed the little break, but I like being a little busy. The thing I miss most is being in the locker room with the guys. I don’t miss the travel, at all. But I definitely miss the friendships I have on Tour.

CO: What are the top three most memorable moments from your career?
Roddick: One of them is with James Blake, winning the Davis Cup in 2007. Finishing No. 1 was a big landmark because you can’t really change that, and also one of the most fun weeks I’ve ever had was leading up to my final US Open, after announcing I would retire. I was able to look into the stands and not to be so focused all the time. I could actually enjoy it a little bit more, so it was a memorable week for me.

CO: What’s the coolest thing you’ve done since you’ve stopped playing professionally?
Roddick: It’s hard to even choose! I’ve had more time to go on golf trips with buddies, which I couldn’t do before, and spur of the moment trips with my wife. I think the coolest thing is being able to say ‘yes’ to things, which you can’t always do when you’re playing.

CO: You faced Blake this weekend in a World Team Tennis match, defeating him 5-3. Now, you’ll have play him in front of his hometown crowd. Any strategies going in?
Roddick: When we played Team Tennis, we were asked about our strategies and James summed it up pretty well. He said we’ve played and practiced against each other so many times that their will be zero secrets out there. He knows my game backwards, and I know his game well. It just comes down to execution. The crowd will be in his back pocket, which will help, but we’ll have a good time.

CO: Speaking of World Team Tennis, you’re also a part owner. In your role, what are you looking to accomplish?
Roddick: I wanted to stay in tennis on some level, and World Team Tennis allows for that. I can still play every summer, which I certainly enjoy. I think the biggest thing is to have strong ownership. We moved a couple of franchises around last offseason and it seems to have worked well. We need enthusiastic owners who love tennis, and for me it’s just about connecting the dots. You want guys who believe in the league and enjoy being around the team, and you want to sell them on the experience. I’ve also been very excited to bring a franchise to my hometown of Austin, Texas.

CO: You played in the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. What was the most memorable part of that experience?
Roddick: It was pretty fun. James and I played in the same group, and we shared a house there for a week. It was a great excuse for us to catch up. I played it a year before, but James was still on Tour, so he didn’t get a chance to play. We played with a couple of Pro golf buddies of ours. It was a really fun foursome. James made the cut, but I didn’t so I owe him one [Laughter].

CO: What’s it like to have made the switch from a pro athlete to working in television?
Roddick: I get that question a lot, and basically you’re on the other side of the media now. I view it a little differently. Most of the time I try to be the athlete’s voice through the media, as opposed to being combative. You have to learn where cameras are and how to get out of segments, so that takes a little practice, but at the core it’s still just talking sports. My mindset of most topics we cover is still that of an athlete, and I certainly respect the process of being a pro athlete. My rule is if an athlete was sitting across from me, I would look him in the eye and say the same thing. Then, it’s fair game.

CO: What’s your favorite fast food meal? If not fast food, what is your favorite meal to make at home?
Roddick: Is Chipotle fast food? If Chipotle qualifies, that’s my jam.

CO: What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
Roddick: I like a good glass of wine. That’s something I didn’t do at all as a player. I don’t do it much because I work nights in Los Angeles, but I definitely enjoy it.

2014 Connecticut Open Player Field Poll

The 2014 Connecticut Open Player Field was announced on Tuesday, featuring 2014 Wimbledon Champion and World No. 4 Petra Kvitova, 2014 Wimbledon Finalist and World No. 7 Genie Bouchard, and Defending Champion and World No. 3 Simona Halep. In addition to Kvitova, Bouchard and Halep, five other players in the field are ranked in the top 15, including four-time Connecticut Open Champion Caroline Wozniacki.

Top-ranked players and rising stars are heading to New Haven in August! Who are you most excited to watch?