Sharapova, Hundreds of Kids to Hit the Streets of New Haven

May 5, 2004 04:41 PM

“Pilot Pen Tennis Street Clinic” To Turn Church Street Into Tennis Court; Appearance By Tennis’ Top Teen Sensation Highlights Day Of Tennis Fun In Front Of City Hall

NEW HAVEN, CONN., May 5, 2004 – We knew Maria Sharapova, the up and coming Russian tennis star, could “stop traffic,” but who knew she could shut down a street? On July 6, the 17-year-old, who has already won two WTA Tour events on her way to a No. 22 ranking, will do exactly that as she joins hundreds of kids from the New Haven Parks & Recreation Summer Camps program in turning the asphalt and double-yellow lines of Church Street into a regulation-size tennis court - complete with lines, net, umpire chair and grandstand - for the third Pilot Pen Tennis Street Clinic in front of City Hall. Lindsay Davenport (2002) and Monica Seles (2001) have participated in past Street Clinics, to the delight of the kids and the hundreds of spectators who lined the streets both years.

Downtown businesspeople and area residents are invited to enjoy their lunch in the grandstand around the court to watch the afternoon’s festivities. Pilot Pen Tennis, the City of New Haven and USA Tennis New England have again collaborated to organize the event.

The day will include a kids’ clinic featuring Sharapova and teaching professionals volunteering their time to instruct the children beginning at noon. The clinic, conducted by USA Tennis New England, will offer a brief introduction to the basics of tennis, a sport they can enjoy for a lifetime, and will be followed by a “Pro-Celebrity Challenge” at 1:00 p.m. in which Sharapova will match shots with area celebrities and media personalities.

Sharapova, a rising young star currently ranked No. 22 in the world, is among the 70 top pros who will compete in the Pilot Pen presented by Michelob ULTRA, a US Open Series event, held August 20-28 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale.

“The Street Clinic is a special way for me to connect with youngsters in New Haven,” said Sharapova. “My parents and I came to this country when I was six years old. They didn’t speak English and didn’t have any money. But they worked hard and instilled values in me that I want to help pass on to these kids. If we can make it, so can they.”

“Connecticut has really embraced the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament as its own,” said Ron Shaw, president and CEO of Pilot Pen Corporation of America. “The Street Clinic in a way serves as a ‘thank you’ to our community as well as a reminder that New England’s premier women’s sports entertainment event is just around the corner.”

“The Pilot Pen Tennis Street Clinic provides a terrific opportunity for the community to become involved with one of New Haven's most exciting summer events,” Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. said. “We are thrilled that Maria will share her talent with our City's children, and I encourage residents and businesspeople to come downtown for this exciting afternoon of tennis and fun.”

Sharapova made a splash last year at Wimbledon, reaching the fourth round in her first main draw appearance there. She improved by 154 spots in the WTA Tour rankings in 2003, finishing at No. 32 following singles titles at Japan and Quebec City late in the year. Sharapova has had a strong start to 2004, reaching the third round at the Australian Open and the semifinals in Memphis en route to her current ranking of No. 22. She is making her first appearance at the Pilot Pen. Other top pros that have already committed to the 2004 field include Kim Clijsters (No. 2), Lindsay Davenport (No. 4), and Nadia Petrova (No. 6).