Pilot Pen adds six names to women's field
CHRIS CASAVANT email@example.com
To say that the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament is considerably ahead of where it was one year ago in terms of preparation would only be scratching the surface.
It was about the middle of May last year when the Pilot Pen officially added a men's tournament to its existing women's event, making it one of the few combined events in professional tennis. From that point forward, it was a mad scramble to get everything in place by mid-August, when the tournament began.
This year, however, ticket sales are up, defending men's champion James Blake, now ranked a career-high No. 7, has already committed, and Tuesday six women's players were officially added to the field.
Defending champion Lindsay Davenport and top-ranked Amelie Mauresmo, both New Haven regulars, head the list of six top-20 players who are expected to play at the Pilot Pen, which will be held Aug. 18-26 at the Connecticut Tennis Center on the Yale campus.
"I was surprised," tournament director Anne Worcester said. "This is definitely the best list of early entries we have ever had, both in terms of quantity and quality."
The group of six also includes No. 9 Elena Dementieva, No. 12 Anastasia Myskina, No. 16 Daniela Hantuchova and No. 17 Elena Likhovtseva, all of whom have played in New Haven before. For Myskina, it's been a few years, though she did receive a wild card last year that she couldn't use because of a last-minute injury.
"She called me (last August) and said, 'If you need me for anything, I appreciate that you offered me this wild card and I feel terrible I can't take it,'" Worcester said. "When I saw her in Miami (in March) she was very optimistic about playing. Players don't forget wild cards."
Worcester said four-time champion Venus Williams has expressed an interest in playing the Pilot Pen again this year, though she has yet to commit, and her words must be taken with a grain of salt considering how rarely she plays at all these days.
Worcester is also interested in adding some rising young players, including Russia's Maria Kirilenko and India's Sania Mirza. As for other top players, including this year's big story, Martina Hingis, Worcester said they likely wouldn't commit until as late as the days leading up to the tournament.
But the early commitments give Worcester and her staff a head start.
"Having a full year to promote this new, combined event has made all the difference in the world," she said. "Week-long box seats sales are particularly strong. Boxholders who canceled their boxes after the men's tournament left (in 1998) have come back. And sponsorships are very strong." Pilot Pen commitments
1. Amelie Mauresmo
7. Lindsay Davenport-x
9. Elena Dementieva
12. Anastasia Myskina
16. Daniela Hantuchova
17. Elena Likhovtseva
7. James Blake-x