Pilot Pen Tennis at Yale is well-known as the final tune-up event of the summer hard court season and the last tournament before the US Open but the Olympus US Open Series event also has become an impressive showcase for tennis stars of the future. Scheduled for Aug. 22-28 at the Connecticut Tennis Center on the historic Yale University campus in New Haven, this combined men’s and women’s tournament has given fans the opportunity to see up-and-coming players on their way to stardom.
Examples? Well, in 2008, Danish teenager Carolina Wozniacki came into New Haven unseeded and captured her second career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title. One year later, Wozniacki defended her Pilot Pen Tennis title, then reached her first grand Slam final at the 2009 US Open two weeks later. She’s now No. 2 in the world, and returns to New Haven as one of the elite stars in tennis today.
Marin Cilic of Croatia impressed many fans as he captured his first career ATP World Tour title in New Haven in 2008. Last year, Cilic reached his first-ever career Slam quarterfinal at the US Open, knocking out world No. 2 Andy Murray en route, and this year reached the semis of the Australian Open in January while zooming into the men’s Top 10.
Indeed, since the women’s tournament began in 1998 and the men made their New Haven debut in 2005, Pilot Pen Tennis has had its share of memorable moments. Americans Venus Williams and James Blake both made a big impact. Williams was unstoppable from 1999 to 2002 as she won four consecutive Pilot Pen Tennis singles titles and Blake, who attended high school in nearby Fairfield, Conn., captured the Pilot Pen Tennis singles title in 2005 as a wildcard. It was also the first time "The J Block," a large group of Blake’s vocal supporters, made its presence felt—and heard. Blake, always a local favorite, won the event again in 2007.
Pilot Pen Tennis has maintained close ties to its host city of New Haven, organizing free tennis lessons each spring for hundreds of public school children and working in conjunction with the New Haven Parks and Recreation Department to provide affordable year-round tennis lessons. Thousands of children have participated. Last year, Pilot Pen Tennis worked to secure funding from the USTA and the City of New Haven to help resurface tennis courts at a public park in New Haven.
Pilot Pen Tennis has become a fan-friendly tennis extravaganza with a host of special events including Kids Day - to be hosted by Blake - autograph sessions, an interactive Sports Zone and a Ladies Day luncheon and fashion show. Says Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament Director Anne Worcester, "Fans will be treated to great tennis from some of the best players in the world, as well as exciting off-court special events such as the New Haven Food & Wine Festival, all in an intimate venue that lets them get up close and personal with the players."