Wimbledon Champion Sharapova, City Kids Hit the Streets of New Haven

July 7, 2004 08:26 AM

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

NEW HAVEN, CONN., July 6, 2004 – We knew Maria Sharapova, the up and coming Russian tennis star, could “stop traffic,” but who knew she could shut down a street? Today, the 17-year-old, fresh off her historic Wimbledon victory, did exactly that as she joined more than 100 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.

Hundreds of downtown businesspeople and area residents enjoyed their lunch in the grandstand around the court while taking in the afternoon’s festivities. Pilot Pen Tennis, the City of New Haven and USA Tennis New England again collaborated to organize the event.

The day began with 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, offered an introduction to the basics of tennis, a sport they can enjoy for a lifetime, and was followed by a “Pro-Celebrity Challenge” in which Sharapova matched shots with area media personalities.

Sharapova, a rising young star currently ranked a career-best No. 8 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. Three of the top 10 and six of the top 15-ranked players have already committed, including No. 2 Kim Clijsters, No. 5 Lindsay Davenport, No. 11 Paula Suarez, No. 12 Nadia Petrova, and No. 13 Vera Zvonareva. No. 21 Magdalena Maleeva and No. 26 Jelena Dokic are also entered. The full list of direct entries will be announced next week.

“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 has shared her talent with our City's children.”

Sharapova shocked the sports world with her stunning, straight-set victory over two-time defending champion Serena Williams to capture her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last Saturday, after rallying to top Davenport to reach the final two days earlier. 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 also won the Wimbledon tune-up event at Birmingham, England and now has four career WTA Tour titles. She will be making her first appearance at the Pilot Pen next month.

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.

About USA Tennis New England

USA Tennis New England, one of 17 sections of the United States Tennis Association, is a not-for-profit organization committed to promoting the game of tennis by offering quality recreational and competitive programs for people of all ages and abilities. Founded in 1927, USA Tennis New England now boasts 29,000 individual and 400 organizational members and 1000 volunteers. USA Tennis New England serves the states of Connecticut (excluding Cos Cob, Greenwich and Riverside), Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

About Pilot Pen Tennis presented by Michelob ULTRA

“New England’s Premier Women’s Sports Entertainment Event of the Year.” The 2004 Pilot Pen presented by Michelob ULTRA (www.pilotpentennis.com), a US Open Series event, will be held August 20-28 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale. Three of the world’s top 10 and six of the top-15-ranked players, including Kim Clijsters, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Paula Suarez, Nadia Petrova, and Vera Zvonareva, have already committed to the tournament. A total of 14 hours of Pilot Pen Tennis action will be televised nationally on ESPN, ESPN2 and CBS Sports. For information on tickets, travel packages, sponsorships or on how to become a volunteer at the 2004 Pilot Pen, call the Pilot Pen Tennis office at 203/776-7331 or 888/99-PILOT.