The future of United States tennis is coming to New Haven. Now the question is, just how many of the current U.S. stars will be on hand at the Pilot Pen tennis tournament?
The Pilot Pen announced on Wednesday that rising American star Angela Haynes was among four players to receive wild-card entry into the tournament’s qualifying draw. Today the speculation about who will receive the tournament’s three wild cards into the main draw will come to an end.
Four-time defending champion Venus Williams, the world’s No. 5 player, has been slowed by an abdominal strain and is unlikely to request a wild card, though she has until 4 p.m. today to do so.
Williams’ agent, Carlos Fleming, said on Wednesday that "it is far from likely" that Williams would seek a wild card today. However, when he was asked whether Williams was definitely out of the Pilot Pen picture, he said, "I’d hate to see you write that and then I get a call at 11 o’clock tonight. But I think it is very unlikely."
Williams has been hitting on the side for a couple of weeks, and Fleming said she believes she can play in the U.S. Open.
This much is known -- ninth-ranked Chanda Rubin, the fifth-rated American on the WTA tour, will not be in New Haven. Representatives for Rubin said on Wednesday that her ailing right shoulder will keep her from playing next week.
Barring a decision by Williams to defend her title, the three wild cards likely will go to No. 7 Jennifer Capriati, No. 17 Jelena Dokic and either No. 18 Patty Schnyder or No. 46 Ashley Harkleroad, another promising American.
Capriati, Dokic, Schnyder and No. 20 Silvia Farina Elia are all on the "next in" list because they committed to the Pilot Pen after the entry deadline. However, Pilot Pen Tournament Director Anne Worcester said confirmed that no withdrawals are anticipated from the current 19-player main draw. That leaves those on the "next in" list needing a wild card into the main draw.
Capriati and Dokic would be obvious choices and are the top two on the "next in" list. The final spot is not as simple. Schnyder, who has been ranked as high as No. 8, is a more accomplished player that Harkleroad, but the USTA has the final say and historically tends to push up-and-coming Americans into the main draw of U.S. events.
If Harkleroad doesn’t get into the main draw, she will be in the qualifying draw, which begins Friday. She would be one of a number of promising Americans in the qualifying draw.
Haynes, who is considered a can’t-miss prospect, opened a few eyes by beating tour veteran Rita Grande at the Bank of West Classic in Stanford, Calif., last month. She received a wild card into the main draw of the U.S. Open on Thursday, as did Bea Bielik and Theresa Logar, both of whom are qualifying wild-card selections for the Pilot Pen.
Former NCAA singles champion Bielik, who will be in the qualifying for the second straight year, has a local tie. Yale women’s tennis coach Chad Skorupka coached Bielik when both were at Wake Forest.
Logar won the USTA Super National Hard Court 18 Championships last week to earn an automatic wild-card berth into the U.S. Open. She will look to continue her recent string of success at the Pilot Pen qualifier.
Milangela Morales, who has reached No. 2 in the USTA girls’ 18 rankings, received the other qualifying wild card. The final two qualifying wild cards will be announced today.Those under consideration include reigning NCAA champion Amber Liu and Corina Morariu, who earned the Family Circle Magazine 2003 Player Who Makes a Difference Award for her return to the tour after being diagnosed and receiving chemotherapy for acute promyelocytic leukemia.
"I have been more engaged in selection of qualifying wild cards than ever before," Worcester said. "There are a lot more Americans on the (rise) than people know about and there are so many others who deserve wild cards. We are happy to give them to younger players who need those extra opportunities in order to improve their rankings and get in Tier V, IV and III tournaments."
The Pilot Pen main draw begins on Sunday.
Right now I don't know what to think......