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Main Line tennis fans are getting ready for first-class women's tennis at the Advanta Championships, to be held at Villanova University Oct. 31 to Nov. 6.
By EDDIE LEVIN
villanova - Main Line tennis fans are getting ready for first-class women's tennis at the Advanta Championships at Villanova University Oct. 31 to Nov. 6.
Advanta and IMG are collaborating for yet another year of championship-caliber action to be held at the Pavilion on the Villanova campus.
The field will include Wayne native and five-time Advanta doubles champion Lisa Raymond, two-time singles champion Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova and Nicole Vaidisova, who is one of the hottest players on tour.
Venus Williams, Patty Schnyder and Nadia Petrova, who are three players competing for the final two spots in the season-ending tour championships that will be played next week, also will be at Villanova.
"We are very excited about the upcoming tournament," said tournament director Barbara Perry. "We have another first-class field and believe it will be a week of great tennis."
To accompany the action on the court, Perry has worked with her sponsors to provide activities off the court. The tournament will kick off Friday afternoon at Savona with the Draw Luncheon. A private reception will be held Sunday evening at Ardrossan to benefit the Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Once play begins at Villanova, off-court activities include McDonald's Kids Day Nov. 1, where youths age 12 and under will be admitted free with the purchase of an adult ticket. Ronald McDonald will be on hand, and youths age 16 and under will receive free tennis racquets as part of Advanta's Ready, Set, Racquet! Program, which provides free racquets to youths age 16 and under at any session.
Nov. 2 is Macy's Ladies Day, where festivities will include a fashion show, gifts for ladies and a luncheon sponsored by Savona. A health awareness program also will be included.
The Advanta Championships have been a big part of the professional tennis schedule, and each year the field features top notch action. After returning to Philadelphia in 1991 as the Virginia Slims of Philadelphia, the tournament found a permanent home on the Main Line in 1995.
"Philadelphia has always been a friendly spot for most of the top players," said Perry. "It [the Pavilion] is an intimate environment where fans are close to the action."
One of the key factors for the field has been the location of the schedule. The Advanta Championships are held during the week leading up to the WTA season-ending championships.
In 2000, the WTA season-ending championships were moved out of the United States, causing the Advanta Championships to be moved out of the area.
After a two-year hiatus, the Advanta Championships returned to Philadelphia, due in large part to Perry and Advanta CEO Dennis Alter.
IMG, who used to run the tourney, owned too many tournaments and were not allowed to own the date of the championship because of WTA rules. Without hesitation, avid tennis fan and player Alter stepped forward and bought the tournament back to Philadelphia.
"We owned too many tournaments," said Perry. "I approached Dennis about purchasing the tournament and he stepped forward."
Once again, the WTA has moved its season-ending championships out of the United States next year, causing the move of the tournament away from Villanova for the 2006 season.
"Advanta is committed to bringing world-class tennis to the Philadelphia area, as we have done for years with the Advanta Championships as well as the Philadelphia Freedoms and World TeamTennis," said Alter.
"The logistics of the 2006 WTA schedule would make it impossible to attract the level of players our fans are used to seeing. While the Advanta Championships will not be on the WTA calendar in 2006, we are always looking for opportunities that will continue to bring the best in tennis to this area be it next year or further down the line."