Blogs > Pilot Pen 2009

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

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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