As many of you have heard, the current Pilot Pen Tennis tournament held in New Haven, CT, is having trouble finding a new title sponsor for the upcoming year. I was fortunate enough to spend the last few days at this event and I have to admit, it would be a terrible loss for the local area.
On Wednesday, University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball head coach, Geno Auriemma, was spotted on the grounds of the tournament and was gracious enough to provide a full-fledged interview. The Huskies’ coach received the attention of the largest crowd of interviewers of any one person all week. The journalists informed him about the sponsor troubles and (jokingly, I think) asked if he would like to fill the void. Affably declining, Auriemma proceeded to point out that there are about three big events that New Haven and the surrounding areas have to look forward to each year, the Pilot Pen tennis event being one of them.
So why does the highly successful and widely popular coach put the Pilot Pen on such a high pedestal? Well, for those of you who have been to other tournaments, I’m sure you’re familiar with the food courts and all the sponsor booths. However, what really separates the tournament from other events is the impressive fashion in which they get all of the fans involved. The very entertaining Sports Zone features several mini tennis courts for any tournament attendee to play on. If you think you have a bigger serve than Andy Roddick (or even if you don’t), a speed clock is available at the Zone as well. The hysterical Wayne Bryan, the father of Bob and Mike Bryan, frequently uses the Sports Zone to conduct activities with high school groups, boy scouts, girl scouts, amongst others.
Wayne is also the emcee for the tournament. He introduces the players before matches, talks about their highlights, and holds on court interviews with the winners. In between matches, he plays amusing games with the ball boys and willing fans. By being very well liked on the tour, he is able to get players to come out onto the grounds, sign autographs at the booths, and take pictures. Players also love to venture out onto the grounds and are a common sight if they have finished a match earlier on in the day. I have seen many players conversing with fans, which makes the atmosphere/here on the grounds incredible and enjoyable.
A lot of the credit for the spectacular tournament in New Haven must be given to the tournament director, Anne Worcester. It is abundantly clear in every aspect of the event that she puts in a great deal of effort to run the competition as effectively as possible. For one thing, the ilot Pen Tennis is one of a select few of tournaments that hold a men’s and women’s singles/doubles draws running concurrently. This year’s doubles line-up is absolutely phenomenal, featuring no less than half of the world’s top 20 teams; including the world number two team, Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic. The women’s side features the top seed at this year’s U.S. Open and 2009 U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki, as well as the 2010 Roland Garros finalist, Samantha Stosur. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, both Marcos Baghdatis and James Blake have emphasized that Worcester is the best tournament director on tour.
The loss of the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament from the exciting Olympus U.S. Open series would be a great shame. It’s a great experience for the fans and it attracts some of the friendliest players I’ve ever met. It may not garner the very top singles players, but it still holds its own against other large events. I fully expect it to succeed in its search for a sponsor so if you plan on getting to New York early for the US Open in the following years, drive up to New Haven (only an hour and a half away) and check out this fantastic spectacle.
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