Blogs > Pilot Pen 2009

The latest on the 2009 Pilot Pen tournament with tennis writer Jim Fuller and other New Haven Register contributors.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tournament drawing to a close

The women's doubles final is drawing to a close and the attendance drew 78,480 which is the lowest number since it became a combined event, down nearly 3,000 from last year.

The tournament took a huge hit in attedance with the rain hitting the area over the weekend. Likely it would have broken the 80,000 mark once again.

Verdasco wins title

Second-seeded Fernando Verdasco fought off three set points in the second set to win the Pilot Pen men's singles title with a 6-4, 7-6 win over Sam Querrey.

Querrey rallied from an 0-2 deficit in the second set and had two break points when Verdasco was attempting to send the set into a tiebreaker. Verdasco answered with four straight points setting the stage for the tiebreaker.

Knowle/Melzer win men's doubles

Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer won their first title of the year, defeating Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 6-4, 7-6 in the Pilot Pen men's doubles final.

It is the Austrians' first title together since winning in Casablanca in 2006.

We have a champion

The first champion of the 2009 Pilot Pen Tennis tournament was crowned when Caroline Wozniacki defeated Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-4 to win her second straight women's singles title in New Haven.

The men's doubles match was moved to the Grandstand Court. Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer won the first set against Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett 6-4.

The men's singles final between Fernando Verdasco and Sam Querrey is set for 7 p.m. on Stadium Court followed by the women's doubles final.

We have some outdoor tennis

The women's final has started - outdoors. Caroline Wozniacki broke Elena Vesnina in the opening game. The plan is still to have the men's final at 7 p.m.


In a match that seemed to go on forever....

Tennis fans were treated to a very tight match between two evenly matched players as No. 2 seed Fernando Verdasco survived a 7-6(4), 7-6(6) win over No. 7 seed Igor Andreev in the second men's semifinal played indoors this afternoon.
Verdasco will face No. 6 seed Sam Querrey in the final scheduled for tonight at 7 on Stadium Court.


The women's singles final between Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Vesnina, which Pilot Pen officials hoped would start by 3 p.m., has been pushed to no earlier than 3:45 p.m.


Tickets for both Friday sessions (sessions 10 and 11) and today's day session (session 12) can be exchanged for tonight's night session (session 13). You need to bring your tickets to the box office located near the main entrance of the tournament for the exchange. Gates will open tonight at 5 p.m. and matches are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.


While rain forced the men's singles semifinals indoors at 11 a.m., Pilot Pen tennis officials are hopeful to get the Caroline Wozniacki-Elena Vesnina women's final to start between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The blowdrying machines are out in full force to get Stadium Court ready.
The men's doubles final between Julian Knowle-Jurgen Melzer and Bruno Soares-Kevin Ullyett will follow the women's singles final.
The Sam Querrey-Fernando Verdasco singles final is still scheduled for 7 p.m. on Stadium Court followed by the women's doubles final.


Indoors or outdoors, it's good to own a power game....
Once again Sam Querrey showcased his power coming up with 11 aces and getting his first serve in 63 percent of the time to take a 6-3, 6-4 win over Jose Acasuso in the first men's semifinal match of the day.
One of his aces was so powerful, when it bounced off the court it hit the manual portable scoreboard that was set up to show the scoring in the match (numbers were manually attached to the board). When it hit the scoreboard the numbers on the scoreboard flew off and had to be replaced.
The men's semifinals were moved indoors at Yale's Cullman Courts with Querrey's match starting at 11 a.m. The Igor Andreev-Fernando Verdasco semifinal match is being played now.
The rain finally stopped around 1 p.m. and the blowers are out in full force on Stadium Court in preparation for the women's final - Caroline Wozniacki vs. Elena Vesnina. The match could start by 3 p.m. barring any more rain.
If you were on the fence about whether tennis would be played today, you should come to the Tennis Center because matches will be played.....

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Men's semifinals moved indoors

The men's singles semifinals have been moved to the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center on the grounds of the Connecticut Tennis Center because the Stadium and Grandstand courts will be not playable this morning.

The Sam Querrey/Jose Acasuso match will start at 11 a.m. and will be followed by the Fernando Verdasco/Igor Andreev match. Those who have tickets to the day session can watch the match but bear in mind that seating is limited and it will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Taking a quick look at the radar map, things are not looking promising as the only break I saw between now and 2 p.m. will come in the late morning. Let's hope that there are enough breaks in the system to allow the finals to go on as scheduled - outdoors.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What a day

The real winner at the Connecticut Tennis Center on Friday was Mother Nature.

The persistent rain prevented any of the matches from being held on the outdoor courts so the women's semifinals and all three doubles matches were moved indoors to the Culman-Heyman Tennis Center.

First to the news:
Caroline Wozniacki defeated Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-1 to advance to her second straight Pilot Pen women's final. She will meet Elena Vesnina, who defeated Amelie Mauresmo 5-7, 6-1, 6-2.

In doubles, the top-seeded women's team of Nuria Llagostera Vives/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez defeated Lisa Raymond and Jill Craybas 6-3, 6-3 to advance to Saturday's final against Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka.

The defending men's doubles champions (Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa) lost to Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 7-5. Knowle and Melzer will play Bruno Soares and Kevin Ullyett (winners over Martin Damm and Robert Lindstedt).

Despite making a couple of valiant efforts to dry the court, which is no easy task considering the amount of rain which fell through the day and night on a dreary Friday, the two men's singles semifinals were not played.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, Sam Querrey will face Jose Acasuso on Stadium Court. At 11 a.m. on Grandstand Court, Igor Andreev will play Fernando Verdasco. That is weather permitting of course.

The 1 p.m. women's singles final followed by the men's doubles final will wrap up the day session. The evening session will commence at 7 p.m. with the men's singles final followed by the women's doubles final.

Since Friday's two sessions were canceled, tournament officials are allowing those tickets to be exchanged for either day or night session tickets on Saturday. The box office will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and tickets can be exchanged there. If you don't exchange your tickets, you won't be granted admission so hold onto your tickets and head to the box office.

I know tournament officials will be criticized for playing indoors where it was tough to see the matches and the maximum capicity is around 1,000 but with the U.S. Open starting Monday for some of the women's singles semifinalists and no end in sight to the rain, the tournament was left with little choice but to move the matches indoors.

Now they can only hope that they are able to get in all of Saturday's matches.

Now changing gears, I try to avoid making my assignments all about me. I rarely mention any issues I have getting the access I (as well as my co-workers) need to inform the public. I believe the average reader simply does not care about sure issues but too much went down today to simply not address it.

After a couple of days of trying to arrange the details, Wozniacki was finally able to accept Yale football coach Tom Williams' invitation to address to the Yale squad at practice. I did not make it over there, but by all accounts things went off wonderfully. Williams stopped practice and the bubbly Wozniacki seemed to thoroughly enjoy herself. Several media members went over to Yale for what is a positive, feel-good story. However, when a member of the WTA communications staff informed the media that Wozniacki would not be allowed to speak to them until after her match (which ended about eight hours later) it was sadly a case of the WTA display a lack of common sense and a lack of respect for the job journalists do to allow her to spend a minute or two to answer questions about her visit to football practice.

My WTA rant No. 2. Earlier in the week, fellow Register reporter Chris Hunn requested to speak to the doubles team of Raymond and Craybas for a story he is working on regarding the state of American tennis. The WTA failed to follow through on his interview request even though he followed proper channels and I heard them apologize to him. So how did they make it up to him, by prohibiting him from asking the questions he needed to in his story in Friday's press conference with Raymond and Craybas. I could not believe my ears when an announcement was made that Lisa Raymond would call Chris on his cell phone. Bear in mind that Raymond was heading in for a press conference at the time. What in the world are these people thinking? I know the Pilot Pen pales in comparison in their eyes to the upcoming U.S. Open but to people in New Haven, it is a big deal and we cover it as such. The WTA folks have never seemed to understand that and probably never will.

There are other things that happened that put me in a sour disposition but I will end with just one of them. Hearing a tournament official chirp about the "New Haven Register keeps putting in that qualifying (tickets) are free" in ear shot of many in the media center really got under my skin. Yes, the paper did incorrectly put that info in the paper in the past but why this official needed to make a snide remark about our paper that devotes pages upon pages of stories, photos and assorted information on the sixth day of main draw was not only insulting but mystifying.

As days go, this is one I will remember - but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

My only request is to Mother Nature, please let the weather wackiness be a thing of the past. I could use a nice, normal day and night of tennis to report on during the final day of the 2009 Pilot Pen.

Wozniacki into final

Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki defeated Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-1 in the first women's singles semifinal to advance to her second straight Pilot Pen final.

Elena Vesnina is leading Amelie Mauresmo 5-4 in the first set in the other semifinal.

After holding out hope that the men's semifinals could be played tonight, the plug was just pulled. Sam Querrey will face Jose Acasuso are 10 a.m. on Stadium Court on Saturday while Igor Andreev will play Fernando Verdasco at 11 a.m. on the Grandstand Court. The winners will play at 7 p.m.

The women's final will be at 1 p.m. followed by the men's doubles final while the women's doubles final will follow the men's singles final.

Women's matches going indoors

With the rain continuing the fall, the women's singles semifinal matches at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament have been moved inside to the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.

The Caroline Wozniacki/Flavia Pennetta match will begin not before 7 p.m. while the Amelie Mauresmo/Elena Vesnina match will follow the men's doubles semifinal between the teams of Martin Damm/Robert Lindstedt and Bruno Soares/Kevin Ullyett. That match won't start before 7:30 p.m.

No decision has been made on the men's semifinal matches.

Details on ticket exchanges from the canceled afternoon session and whether they will allowed into the indoor court are still being worked out.

Clearing the court

Shortly after 5 p.m., workers brought out the process of trying to get Stadium Court ready for play by squigeeing off the excess water.

That is the first step to make the court playable, a process than takes about an hour (assuming there is no additional rain).

Stay tuned.

Afternoon session is a wash out

Just received the latest update, the afternoon session has been canceled but there will still be tennis this afternoon.

The three doubles matches are being moved indoors to the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center beginning with the Lisa Raymond/Jill Craybas vs. Nuria Llagostera Vives/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez women's semifinal at 3:30 p.m.

Tickets from the canceled session can be exchanged for either the Friday evening session or the Saturday day session but a ticket from the Friday afternoon session needs to be brought to the box office to be exchanged.

Here is the tentative schedule.
Stadium Court
(not before 4:30 p.m.)
Women's singles semifinal: Flavia Pennetta vs. Caroline Wozniacki
Followed by:
Women's singles semifinal: Amelie Mauresmo vs. Elena Vesnina

(not before 7 p.m.)
Men's singles semifinal: Igor Andreev vs. Fernando Verdasco
Followed by:
Men's singles semifinal: Sam Querrey vs. Jose Acasuso

Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center
(Starting at 3:30 p.m.)
Women's doubles semifinal: Nuria Llagostera Vives/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez vs. Lisa Raymond/Jill Craybas
Followed by:
Men's doubles semifinal: Julian Knowle/Jurgen Melzer vs. Marcelo Melo/Andre Sa
Followed by:
Martin Damm/Robert Lindstedt vs. Bruno Soares/Kevin Ullyett

Women's doubles moving indoors

The women's doubles semifinal at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament will be moved inside to the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center beginning at 3:30 p.m. No decisions have been made on the other matches as officials are waiting for the rain to pass.

Anybody holding a ticket for Friday's afternoon session can watch the team of Nuria Llagostera Vives/Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez will face Jill Craybas and Lisa Raymond. The winner will face Iveta Benesova and Lucie Hradecka in Saturday's women's doubles final.

In a holding pattern

No news is well no news at the Connecticut Tennis Center.

This much is for sure, the women's semifinal between Flavia Pennetta and Caroline Wozniacki will not be starting at noon. Once - or if - the rain stops, the court will be dried off and once it is deemed ready for play, Pennetta and Wozniacki will take the court.

There will be more details to follow in what promises to be a long day at the tournament.

Among those in the house are tournament founder Jim Westhall, who usually makes the trip from New Hampshire at least once and Yale football coach Tom Williams, who ESPN wants to put on the telecast. Of course, those plans could change since Yale is scheduled to practice at 2 p.m. and it would be a bit stunning to see any matches started by then.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Andreev, Querrey, Vesnina into semis

We are halfway to the men's singles final four as No. 6 seed Sam Querrey and No. 7 Igor Andreev prevailed in grueling three-set matches.

Querrey appeared ready to blitz top-seeded Nikolay Davydenko, ripping seven aces and dropping just two points on serve in winning the first set in 29 minutes. Davydenko didn't climb to No. 8 in the world rankings for no reason and he made some adjustments on his return of serve strategy to even the match. Davydenko also bounced back from an early break in the third set. Davydenko had a pair of break points which, if he could have converted, would have allowed the 2006 Pilot Pen champion to serve for the match. But Querrey answered back with first serves of 133, 122 and 133 en route to the hold. Three errors by Davydenko aided Querrey's match-clinching break in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win.

Andreev squandered nine of 12 break points but still had a chance to serve for the match. A pair of Andreev double faults kept Leonardo Mayer alive before Andreev eventually won 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.

Vesnina took out fellow Russian and 2008 Pilot Pen finalist Anna Chakvetadze 6-1, 7-5.

Show me the money, the sequel

Sam Querrey already clinched the men's U.S. Open Series title meaning he would win an addition $1 million if he were to win the U.S. Open title.

Now it is Flavia Pennetta's turn to earn some extra cash.

With Marion Bartoli and Samantha Stosur being eliminated from the Pilot Pen on Wednesday, Pennetta clinched a top three finish in the women's U.S. Open Series. If Pennetta beats Magdalena Rybarikova today, she would move up to second place. Actually, she would be tied with Jelena Jankovic but Pennetta would finish ahead of Jankovic because she has more match wins in U.S. Open Series events. Pennetta would need to win the New Haven title to beat out Elena Dementieva for the U.S. Open Series title.

The winner will double his or hers singles paycheck at the U.S. Open, the second-place finisher would get a 50 percent bonus with 25 percent going to the No. 3 finisher.

The bonuses could range from $3,750 to $1 million. Kim Clijsters in 2005 and Roger Federer in 2007 are the only players who have won both the U.S. Open Series and U.S. Open title.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Men's quarterfinals are set

Quick, everybody who predicted there would be more Argentines than Americans in the men's quarterfinals please raise your hands.

I thought as much.

With Rajeev Ram losing a tough three-set match to France's Florent Serra, Sam Querrey is the only American left in the men's draw. Querrey, the No. 6 seed, will face top-seeded and 2006 champion Nikolay Davydenko at 1 p.m. Thursday on Stadium Court. Right around the same time, Argentina's Leonardo Mayer faces No. 7 seed Igor Andreev of Russia.

The third quarterfinal of the day will be Austria's Jurgen Melzer vesus No. 2 seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain who overcame two rain delays to top Italy's Andreas Seppi. That is currently the fourth match on the Grandstand Court but there is a chance it could be moved.

The final semifinal berth won't be decided until late Thursday night when Argentina's Jose Acasuso plays Serra.

On the women's side, the final third round match between Marion Bartoli and Magdalena Rybarikova just started. If Bartoli wins, five of the top eight seeds will be in the quarters.

However, the first quarterfinal will feature two of the three unseeded players as 2008 finalist Anna Chakvetadze plays Elena Vesnina in an all-Russian quarterfinal. Defending champion and No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki will face Virginie Razzano after the conclusion of the 1 p.m. Davydenko/Querrey match. The Bartoli/Rybarikova winner will play third-seeded Flavia Pennetta. It will be the third match on the Grandstand Court and will not go off before 3 p.m. The highlighted women's match is the 7 p.m. showdown between top seed Svetlana Kuznetsova and eighth-seeded Amelie Mauresmo.

Querrey/Davydenko quarterfinal set

While there have been no lack of upsets in the men's draw, the highly-anticipated quarterfinal between Nikolay Davydenko and Sam Querrey will be the top attraction tomorrow at the Connecticut Tennis Center.

Davydenko and Querrey won in straight sets over Fabrice Santoro and Bjorn Phau respectively.

Querrey also clinched the U.S. Open Series title with the win meaning he will double his U.S. Open singles paycheck.

Radwanska is out

Agnieszka Radwanska, the No. 5 women's seed, retired before the start of the third set of her match against Virginie Razzano because of a right hand injury.

Razzano advances to the quarterfinals against the winner of the Caroline Wozniacki/Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova match.

No. 9 seed Samantha Stosur was eliminated by Elena Vesnina 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Kuznetsova holds on

Top-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova withstood the challenge from Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer to advance to the quarterfinals, winning the match in a third-set tiebreaker. Wickmayer was serving for the match at 6-5 in the third set but could not close the deal.

Kuznetsova is the first women's quarterfinalist. On the men's side, No. 7 Igor Andreev, No. 11 Jurgen Melzer and unseeded Leonardo Mayer are in the quarterfinals.

Mayer, Andreev into quarterfinals

Seventh-seeded Igor Andreev and unseeded Leonardo Mayer are the first two players to punch tickets into the quarterfinals.

Andreev defeated qualifier Frederico Gil 6-4, 6-4 to keep alive his streak of advancing to the quarterfinals each year he has played in New Haven. Mayer defeated Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-4. Andreev and Mayer will square off in the quarterfinals.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seeds are tumbling

While the Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco, the top two seeds on the men's side, are still in contention for the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament, their fellow seeds have not been as fortunate.

Fourth-seeded David Ferrer pulled out before the tournament started and heading into the third round on Wednesday, six other seeds are done. Third-seeded Tommy Robredo and No. 5 Mardy Fish were the biggest names sent packing as they lost to Jose Acasuso and Rajeev Ram respectively.

While the anticipated quarterfinal match between Davydenko and No. 6 seed Sam Querrey is still a possibility on Thursday and all four seeds are still around in Verdasco's portion of the bracket, the other two sections have been hit hard by upsets and surprising results.

No. 14 seed Igor Kunitsyn and unseeded players Acasuso, Florent Serra and Ram will be fighting it out for a semifinal berth. With Serra and Ram playing each other while Simone Bolelli and Leonardo Mayer also squaring off, there will be a minimum of two unseeded quarterfinalists. No. 7 seed Igor Andreev and qualifier Frederico Gil are also in that portion of the draw.

Yale Bowl tennis match video

Here is a link to the video of the Flavia Pennetta-Caroline Wozniacki exhibiton on Yale Bowl Monday afternoon the was posted by the WTA Tour.

Davydenko Advances

After a long first set, Nikolay Davydenko coasted in the second to a 7-6 (12-10), 6-3win over Robert Kendrick. Kendrick is the second American to be ousted from the tournment today, along with Taylor Dent. Davydenko drew the No. 8 seed for the U.S. Open.

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Open seeds announced

The USTA announced the seeds for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, seeded sixth in the women's bracket, is the highest seed among the players in the Pilot Pen.

No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 10 Flavia Pennetta, No. 12 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 14 Marion Bartoli, No. 16 Virginie Razzano, No. 17 Amelie Mauresmo, No. 28 Sybille Bammer, No. 30 Alona Bondarenko and No. 32 Elena Vesnina are the women's seeds who are still alive in the New Haven main draw as of 2 p.m.

Nikolay Davydenko, who just wrapped up a marathon first-set tiebreaker against American Robert Kendrick, is the No. 8 men's seed. Spain's Fernando Verdasco and Tommy Robredo are seeded 10th and 14th while Americans Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish (who will wrap up tonight's play against Rajeev Ram) are seeded 22nd and 25th. Victor Hanescu (No. 28) and Igor Andreev (No. 29) are others in contention for the Pilot Pen title who will be seeded in the final Grand Slam of 2009. Former Fairfield resident James Blake is seeded 21st.

The U.S. Open draws will be conducted at noon on Thursday.

Stosur Stays Hot

Australia’s Samantha Stosur beat Alize Cornet 6-7 (8-10), 6-2, 6-4.
Stosur is ranked a career-high No. 17 and has won eight of her last 10 matches. Stosur took Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova, who withdrew due to a rib injury.
If Flavia Pennetta can beat Ioana Raluca Olaru today, that will set up an intriguing second-round match between Pennetta and Stosur. Pennetta beat Stosur earlier this month at the Los Angeles Championships.

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Attendance Record

Monday night's session drew 9,043 spectators, setting the attendance for the session. The previous record of 7,310 was set in 2002. The tournament also set a record for the entire day with 14,206 fans. The previous record was 12,816 in 2006.

Dent Goes Down

Russia's Igor Kunitsyn beat wild card entry Taylor Dent 6-3, 6-4. It was Dent's first trip to New Haven. Dent was once ranked No. 21 in the world and returned to tennis last year after undergoing three back surgeries. Kunitsyn, the No. 14 seed, will face the winner of the match between No. 3 Tommy Robredo and Jose Acasuso.

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Board talk

The large video board in Stadium Court has been put to good use in recent years, showing replays, being utilized for player challenges, promoting advertisers but I have to question the judgment of what I saw on the big screen during Monday's Amelie Mauresmo/Ai Sugiyama.

There was a trivia question (nothing wrong with that) having to do with the favorite television show of a WTA star (still fine with all of that). But the player in question is world No. 1 Dinara Safina. Say what? Last time I checked, none of the 32 players entered into the 2009 women's singles draw in New Haven go by the name of Dinara Safina. Would it have been too much to ask for the subject a trivia question to be somebody actually playing in the tournament (Mauresmo, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Caroline Wozniacki, Flavia Pennetta, Agnieszka Radwanska come to mind). Just a thought.

I headed over to the Yale Bowl to check out the publicity stunt being put on by the WTA Tour featuring Pennetta and Wozniacki playing on the largest tennis court. Was a pretty interesting scene. Seeing Pennetta and Wozniacki attempting to throw a football makes me think that it was Wozniacki's first attempt at tossing a pigskin.

The WTA's choice of players for the public appearances so far has been spot on. Gisela Dulko was about as enthusiastic as any player representative I have seen conducting the draws. She wasn't even waiting for tournament officials, she was making the rounds with a glass bowl holding numbered chips and seemed to be having the time of her life. Wozniacki and Pennetta certainly got into the spirit of the event at the Bowl which I am sure was appreciated by tournament and WTA officials.

Photos of Yale Bowl as World's Largest Tennis Court

Here's a look at the transformation of the Yale Bowl into the World's Largest Tennis Court that happened Monday.

Photos courtesy of Pilot Pen.

Yale coach Tom Williams with Flavia Pannetta and Caroline Wozniacki.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pilot Pen Tickets

Looking for Pilot Pen tickets, buy them here.

Tuesday is New Haven Register Night

On New Haven Register night, the first 1,000 spectators at session five receive a fan.

Mauresmo Wins

Amelie Mauresmo, seeded No. 8, beat Ai Sugiyama 6-4, 6-1. Mauresmo is a former world No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion, who is playing in New Haven for the ninth time.

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Up Next For the Defending Champion...

Last year's Pilot Pen winner Nikolay Davydenko will face Robert Kendrick, who knocked off Frederik Nielsen 6-3, 7-5 today. Davydenko, ranked No. 8, received a first-round bye.


Today's Attendance...

at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament is 5,163.

Baghdatis Falls

Former Top 10 player and 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis dropped his first match to qualifier Frederico Gil 6-4, 6-3. Baghdatis was a wild card.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


No. 4 seed Nadia Petrova has been upset in the first round, falling 0-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 to fellow Russian Anna Chakvetadze this afternoon.

It is the first time a No. 4 seed has lost in the first round, for obvious reasons. This is the first year the top four seeds have not received byes. The field was expanded from 28 to 32.

When Forest Hills dropped its tournament, Pilot Pen expanded to provide four more slots for players.

Read more in Monday's Register.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day one in the books

It is a relatively tame first day at the Pilot Pen.

The biggest news was the decision of ninth-ranked Gilles Simon to withdraw after he made a run deep into the Cincinnati tournament. While losing a top 10 player is never easy for tournament organizers to deal with, I'm not sure that Gilles Simon was going to pack the Stadium Court. The other withdrawals on the men's side were Kristof Vliegen and Ivo Minar. It was pretty remarkable that there have been no main-draw withdrawals on the women's side since the list of direct entries came out late last month. Not sure too many tournaments can make that statement. Of course, let's wait until main-draw play begins on Sunday to see if the field remains intact especially with Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska advancing so deep into the Toronto draw. Radwanska's match with Maria Sharapova hasn't started yet, if you can believe it. Stosur lost in singles but is still alive in doubles.

Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco, no strangers to regulars at the Connecticut Tennis Center, are the top two seeds on the men's side. However, judging by recent results, I would say Sam Querrey may be the player to beat. Querrey and Davydenko could meet in the quarterfinals.

The most interesting first-round match on the men's side - on paper - is the showdown between veterans Ivan Ljubicic and Taylor Dent. Since the top 16 seeds receive byes, that cuts down on the number of compelling first-round matches for the men in comparison to the women.

Among the women's matches that caught my eye were Ai Sugiyama/Amelie Mauresmo, Nadia Petrova/Anna Chakvetadze, Patty Schnyder/Virginie Razzano.

The men's qualifying draw came out and Richard Gasquet is the top seed as he will play his first match since late April because his two-year suspension for failing a drug test was recently overturned. Fourteen of the 32 players are Americans so there's a pretty good chance that the list of Americans in the men's main draw will increase from the current number of six. Gasquet will be the second match on Grandstand Court although the real action may come afterwards in the post-match press conference as ATP officials are prepared to keep questions about the suspension and successful appeal from being answered by Gasquet.

The two Connecticut players in the qualifying bracket didn't get any breaks. Stamford's Todd Paul drew the No. 2 seed Pablo Cuevas while Marc Powers, also of Stamford, will face veteran Olivier Rochus.

Speaking of Connecticut natives in qualifying, Farmington teenager Rachel Kahan had an intriguing match against Monica Niculescu. A clearly nervous Kahan fell behind 4-0 but managed to get the two breaks back and served down 4-5 in the first set. Niculescu broke Kahan to win the set and then overwhelmed Kahan in the second set to win 6-4, 6-0. The other big news was top-seeded Sara Errani falling to Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 6-4.

Play in qualifying for the women continues tomorrow and begins for the men. With rain being predicted, it should make for an interest day. One thing working in the tournament's favor is that all the women's singles matches on Friday were completed and there are eight indoor courts which can be used.

The last order of business, there will be a question and answer session featuring James Blake (who is staying with his mom in Fairfield this week but not playing in the tournament) and Mardy Fish from 11:45-12:15 p.m.

I will say that after spending much of the last month speculating, confirming or denying various rumors of potential players coming to New Haven, it is a relief to actually just focus on covering the tennis matches.

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Simon says "withdrawal"

Ninth-ranked Gilles Simon, who would have been the No. 2 seed in the men's draw, has pulled out. Haven't heard the official reason but you don't need to be a genius to figure it out. He reached the third round in Canada and is into the quarterfinals in Cincinnati.

We'll see if there are any other of these "I have played enough tennis so I am pulling out" withdrawals. The candidates to keep an eye on are Sam Querrey on the men's side (although he was eliminated from Cincinnati) and Samantha Stosur and Agnieszka Radwanska on the women's side. Stosur is still alive in singles and doubles in Toronto while Radwanska will play Maria Sharapova in singles tonight.

Chile's Paul Capdeville moves into the main draw with Simon's departure. Robert Kendrick and Teimuraz Gabashvili got into the main draw when the two special exemption slots were not filled. Belgium's Kristof Vliegen is also out of the draw.

Time to head out to the tennis center. Want to catch some of Farmington's Rachel Kahan's match and then see Christina McHale play on the Grandstand Court before the women's and men's main draws are conducted.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blake steals the spotlight

James Blake isn't even playing in the 2009 Pilot Pen but he is still the center of attention.

On a day when No. 10 men's player Fernando Verdasco and No. 12 women's player Nadia Petrova accepted wild cards while rising American stars John Isner and Melanie Oudin respectively withdrew a wild card request and pulled out of the qualifying draw and former top 10er Richard Gasquet was confirmed to be entering the men's qualifying field, the Connecticut media (myself included) focused most of the attention on Blake.

The former Fairfield resident and two-time men's singles champion in New Haven is not entering the tournament, citing too many off the court scheduling conflicts. Personally, I think from a tennis standpoint, he is making a big mistake. Blake has lost his last five matches and will go into the U.S. Open with one match under his belt during the North American summer hard-court season.

Blake said the fractured right pinky toe was suffered when he was walking around in the dark in his hotel room in Croatia the week after Wimbledon. He jokingly chalked it up to bad karma since his brother Thomas suffered a similar injury and James busted Thomas' chops unmercifully. Blake hit with good friends Mardy Fish and Todd Paul for about two hours on Thursday on Stadium Court.

Blake was a bit more serious when talk came to why he is skipping the New Haven event for the second straight year.

"There’s a lot of things that went into it," Blake said. "I love playing in Connecticut. I love the fans and they seem to appreciate my style of tennis, I am having fun out here and give them a chance to have a lot of fun in the stands. I do have a lot of commitments coming up, I have my clothing line coming out.

"I definitely could see myself coming back here. The fans are the best but this year it was just too tough especially with how the scheduling has been for the ATP with the 500 (in Washington) and two 1000s (in Cincinnati and Canada) right before the (Pilot Pen), that makes it really difficult. I think there are going to be some tweaks to the ATP schedule and when that happens, this is the first spot I would look at to have a change in the calendar to make it possible for me to play here."

Blake said his injured toe feels good. As for his game, he will enter the Open on a five-match losing streak so his confidence is hardly soaring.

"It is a new challenge, my ranking won’t be where I think it should be, my match (preparation) won’t be where it should be but I will go in with a new scenario," Blake said. "I have been in the Open in a lot of situations, coming from here as a first-round loser, coming here as a title holder and different results and this year it will be a new one."

Pilot Pen Tennis tournament director Anne Worcester is obviously disappointed not to have Blake in the field but she was feeling better on Thursday after listening in on Blake's interview with the media immediately following his practice session.

"I am so glad he came here today. I love James Blake, I think he is such a fantastic person. I was very disappointed that he didn’t chose to take a last-minute wild card but I am glad he came here to practice. He was honest with me. While I would much rather he was playing in the main draw but I told him ‘I am glad to have you here under any circumstances.’ I am disappointed but he clearly feels comfortable here and I don’t want that to change. I do understand how complicated it is to organize all those events with sponsors, television, people and he has a very tightly packed week next week. I understand that you can’t back out of corporate commitments."

The tournament finalized its wild cards. On the men's side they will go to Taylor Dent, Verdasco, Rajeev Ram and Marcos Baghdatis. For the women, they were given to Svetlana Kuznetsova, Petrova and Meghann Shaughnessy.

Qualifying wild cards went to NCAA singles champions Devin Britton and Mallory Cecil, Yale Summer Championship open division winners Marc Powers and Rachel Kahan as well as Chase Buchanan, Jessie Levine, Gail Brodsky, and Christina McHale.

Tomorrow the draws will be pulled beginning at 12:30 p.m. and are open to the public. The women's draw figures to be done first with Gisela Dulko the WTA player representative. Dent will be the ATP player to help with the men's draw.

The women's qualifying draw will begin tomorrow and here is the schedule:
GRANDSTAND start 10:00 am
Qualifying - [WC] R Kahan (USA) vs M Niculescu (ROU)
Qualifying - Y Wickmayer (BEL) vs [WC] C Mchale (USA)
Qualifying - [WC] M Cecil (USA) vs J Craybas (USA)
Qualifying - U Radwanska (POL) vs M Kirilenko (RUS)

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
Qualifying - V Diatchenko (RUS) vs A Petkovic (GER)
Qualifying - R Vinci (ITA) vs [WC] G Brodsky (USA)
Qualifying - S Errani (ITA) vs V Lepchenko (USA)

Not Before 3:00 PM
Qualifying - S Peer (ISR) vs T Garbin (ITA)

COURT 2 start 10:00 am
Qualifying - A Brianti (ITA) vs I Olaru (ROU)
Qualifying - A Parra Santonja (ESP) vs V Kutuzova (UKR)
Qualifying - O Govortsova (BLR) vs C Pin (FRA)

Not Before 3:00 PM
Qualifying - M Rybarikova (SVK) vs K Bondarenko (UKR)

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
Qualifying - K Kucova (SVK) vs A Dulgheru (ROU)
Qualifying - E Gallovits (ROU) vs P Hercog (SLO)
Qualifying - T Pironkova (BUL) vs L Hradecka (CZE)

Not Before 3:00 PM
Qualifying - K Flipkens (BEL) vs N Llagostera Vives (ESP) - TBA

Now all the tournament can do is hope there aren't any withdrawals between now and the start of the main draw. When you have players like Samantha Stosur and Sam Querrey who have been advancing deep in nearly event summer tournament, it does cause Worcester a bit of a concern.

The men's qualifying draw won't begin until Saturday. There's no question what the big story will be. France's Richard Gasquet, a former top 10 player, has had a trying last six months. He was drug tested at the tour stop in Miami and small amounts of cocaine were found in his system. He was suspended for two years but appealed saying the cocaine got in his system when he kissed a woman at a Miami club. A panel of three lawyers believed him, largely because the amount of cocaine was so small, and overturned the appeal. The International Tennis Federation, which first banned Gasquet, countered Gasquet's success appeal with an appeal of their own. Since the United States Tennis Association works closely with the ITF, they have no plans to award a wild card to Gasquet so he has to go through qualifying.

I know ome people want to come down on the tournament but this is out of their hands. Every wild card request has to be approved by the USTA and most are. This is a case where the tournament was not able to give Gasquet a wild card. There are also USTA rules on tournament officials commenting about why players don't receive wild cards. Knowing this, I reached out to the USTA via e-mail this morning. I received eight e-mails from the USTA but none of them happened to be a response to my request for a comment on Gasquet's wild card request.

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Verdasco, Petrova in; Isner out

The wild card picture is starting to come into focus.

No. 10 Fernando Verdasco received a men's wild card, marking the fifth straight year he will play in New Haven while No. 12 Nadia Petrova was given a women's wild card.

In other news, John Isner, who suffered heat exhaustion forcing him to retire in his singles match in Cincinnati, withdrew his wild card request giving the tournament two men's wild cards.

James Blake met with the media after a two-hour hitting session and said he is not playing in New Haven. There will be more on his decision in friday's Register.

Also, No. 1 Dinara Safina and No. 7 Vera Zvonareva will not be requesting wild cards meaning the tournament will lose one of its top 10 wild cards so there are no more women's wild cards available.

Marcos Baghdatis will likely get one of the wild cards with the other going to an American to be determined by the USTA.

The tournament has confirmed that Richard Gasquet intends to play qualifying, his first match since being suspended for testing positive for cocaine in March. The International Tennis Federation is appealing the decision and the USTA, which works in conjunction with the ITF, had no intentions of agreeing to give Gasquet a main-draw wild card.

Julien Benneteau, who moved up to No. 1 on the alternate list, pulled out.

There have been no withdrawals so far on the women's side.

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Ivanovic passing on New Haven

Former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic will not be requesting a wild card despite losing Wednesday in Toronto. The tournament is still waiting to hear one way or the other from Dinara Safina and Vera Zvonareva. If the two Russians both decline, the Pilot Pen will lose its fourth wild card because it has to go to a player who ended the 2008 season ranked in the top 10. Safina lost early in Toronto while Zvonareva doesn't play until 7:30 p.m. so she would have to request a wild card before taking the court against Maria Sharapova.

No. 12 Nadia Petrova appears to be in line to receive the third wild card. No. 6 Svetlana Kuznetsova and former top 15 player Meghann Shaughnessy were given wild cards on Wednesday.

On the men's side, Albert Montanes withdrew and he will be replaced in the main draw by Andrey Golubev. Julian Benneteau will also move into the main draw. Benneteau is now first on the alternate list and will move in with another withdrawal (Kristof Vliegen is the most likely candidate to withdraw since he posted on his official site that he would not be able to play in New Haven). Even without a withdrawal, Benneteau would get into the main draw through the two special exemption spots. A special exemption can be given to a player who reached the semifinals in one tournament while being entered in the main draw of the next event. Since it is impossible for a player to play in both tournaments at the same time, the ATP will award them a spot as a special exemption. Benneteau and Chris Guccione are the only ones who fall under the criteria to receive a special exemption so no matter what happens, Benneteau would be in the New Haven draw.

American Robert Kendrick, who made news this summer first with his gallant effort before falling in four sets to Andy Murray at Wimbledon and then for his role in a confrontation with Leander Paes in a World Team Tennis match, is moving up to alternate list. He is currently the fourth alternate but if Benneteau moves into the main draw because of another withdrawal and Guccione doesn't advance to the semifinals at Cincinnati, the special exemption spots would go to Maximo Gonzalez (who owns wins over Mardy Fish and Carlos Moya this year) and Teimuraz Gabashvili. Kendrick would move up to the No. 1 alternate spot.

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