New Haven Register Blogs: Pilots' Blog: August 2008

Pilots' Blog

Our bloggers check in with the latest news and views from the 2008 Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Looking ahead

The 2008 Pilot Pen is in the books but with the U.S. Open beginning Monday, there are some intriguing first-day matches with familiar names to New Haven area tennis fans.

Both 2008 Pilot Pen women's singles champion Caroline Wozniacki and runner-up Anna Chakvetadze will be in action on Monday. Chakvetadze will face fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the fourth match on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Wozniacki will play American Ashsa Rolle in the fourth match on Grandstand Court although there is a chance it could be shifted to Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Lindsay Davenport, who played doubles only at the Pilot Pen the last two years, will meet Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in a pretty intriguing first-round match. It will be up second on Ashe Stadium. Two-time Pilot Pen men's singles champion and former Fairfield resident James Blake will face Donald Young, who won his first career ATP match at the 2007 Pilot Pen, in the second match in the night session at Ashe Stadium.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Cilic makes history

Teenager Marin Cilic won his first career title with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 win over Mardy Fish in the men's singles final.

Cilic finished off Fish with a 123 mile an hour ace. He raised his arms in celebration and after a couple of seconds he fell to his knees in celebration.

"I was all over the place, my mind was going (everywhere)," Cilic said. "I will know next time how (to celebrate)."

Fish was obviously disappointed after losing in the New Haven final for the second year in a row and dropping to 2-9 in ATP finals.

"It's my 11th final and I have only won twice and it is starting to really sting," said Fish. "I have a lot of runner-up trophies. These are the ones I need to get. To get somebody who certainly has a lot of talent, a lot of up side and will be out here for a long time. I would have liked to have put more pressure on him and showed that I was a little more adapted to the situation.
"I love this tournament, I would love to win this tournament. I have come close both times and I feel like I can do it again. I felt there were some great opportunities to get my third title. There are definitely a lot of what ifs, a lot of finals of tournaments I have played."

Lisa Raymond and Kveta Peschke won the women's doubles title with a 4-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over Sorana Cirstea and Monica Niculescu. It was Raymond's 67th career doubles title and second straight in New Haven.

A tale of two Pens

As if competition on the court isn't enough, now we have the case of the dueling pens at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament.

As the name would indicate, Pilot Pen is the preferred pen at the tournament. But as fans made their way from Stadium Court and walked across the street to go to the food court, notepads and pens - Bic pens. Pretty ironic, don't you think?

To Denmark, From Poland

If Pilot Pen women's champion Caroline Wozniacki's last name doesn't exactly sound like a Danish -- well, it isn't. Both her parents, Piotr and Anna, are natives of Poland.

So why does Wozniacki sport the Danish flag painted on her thumbnails, rather than Poland? Well, she was born in Denmark. Her father was a professional soccer player in Poland, but he was sold -- first to Germany, then to Denmark, where he eventually settled.

"And he took my mother with him," Wozniacki quipped.

And that's no Polish joke.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cilic reaches final

Sixth-seeded Marin Cilic advanced to his first career ATP final with a convincing 6-3, 6-3 win over qualifier Luka Gregorc.
Cilic only lost two points on his serve in the first set and 11 points on serve in the match to advance to Saturday's championship match against Mardy Fish.
Cilic, who is projected to break into the top 25 in the ATP rankings on Monday regardless of the results of the final, had never advanced in four previous trips to the semifinals in his young career.

Chaka Con?

Anna Chakvatadze minces no words -- she wants to be the No. 1 women's tennis player in the world.

"That's my goal," she said on Friday after beating Amelie Mauresmo in a Pilot Pen semifinal match.

If so, Chakvetadze (currently ranked No. 10) will need to improve her concentration and maturity level to get there, according to Mauresmo herself.

"Mentally today, she went down a little bit in the second set. I guess she will have to raise these moments," Mauresmo said. "Her serve, also – there were a few double faults there (nine for the match). But it's very hard to say the way she's going to evolve and grow up a little bit in her game, and mentally. It's difficult to know if she's going to be able to put things together and really focus the way she has to to get to that No. 1 spot. It's going to be hard."

Mauresmo knows a thing or two about being No. 1. She held that spot for most of 2006 while winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Since then, injuries and illness have contributed to her falling out of the top 30, though her strong performance this week at the Pilot Pen has her thinking she can get back to her former perch.

Not to pick on Chakvatadze too much, but she also had probably the most embarassing moment of the tourney on Friday night. Awaiting a high Mauresmo lob return at the net late in the third set, Mauresmo flat-out swung and missed at the ball. Just plain old swung and missed.

She was able to spin around and hit a backhand -- into the net. Chakvatadze was able to laugh at the mistake, both on the court and after the match.

"Oh my God. I just lost the ball in the sky, I don't know how it happened," she said. "It was not that difficult a shot."

I asked her the last time she remembers whiffing at a shot.

"I don't know," she replied. "I just remember the last time, my hair got stuck in the racket."

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Not Rotten in Denmark

Caroline Wozniacki, who advanced to tomorrow's Pilot Pen women's finals, is a hero in her native Denmark. Earlier in the month, she became the first Danish native ever to win on the WTA Tour with a victory at the Nordea Nordic Light Open in Stockholm, Sweden.

She sports the colors of her country's flag on her thumbnails to show her pride, but it's a safe bet her country is just as proud of her. A large crowd in her home town of Copenhagen filled an indoor arena to watch her dispatch Russia's Vera Dushevina in the finals at Stockholm.

"There aren't really that many tennis players in Denmark, so there was a lot of focus," Wozniacki noted. "It was a big deal. I only spent a few hours in Denmark before I left for the Olympics … but I heard so many people were cheering for me at home."

Wozniacki lives in Monte Carlo, so she doesn't get a chance to spend much time in Denmark. When she's there, however, she's treated like royalty.

"The people support me so much," she said. "I get more and more attention. People on the streets want my autograph, but in a nice way. It's really nice. It's great to know people are supporting me."

Wozniacki was recently was named as an ambassador for her native country.

"I hope that it will help the younger girls and boys to start playing," she said. "Hopefully, we'll get more good players in the future."

When asked if she was the most popular sports figure in Denmark right now, she said "Sure, one of them."

Wozniacki couldn't think of anyone more popular, which got us to thinking: who is the most accomplished Danish-born athlete? Top of our head, we could only come up with longtime ex-NFL kicker Morten Andersen and current PGA Tour pro Thomas Bjorn.

Can anyone think of any others? Feel free to reply.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Bucking the trend

Somehow Caroline Wozniacki has avoided the Pilot Pen draw pulling jinx.

Dating back to 2002, which ever player has been asked to serve as the WTA representive has exited quickly from the tournament. Tamarine Tanasugarn (2002), Ashley Harkleroad (2003), Alicia Molik (2005) and Patty Schnyder (2006) all lost in the first round while Tatiana Golovin in 2004 and Sania Mirza last year were gone by the end of the second round.

Wozniacki, however, who made history earlier this summer by becoming the first player from Denmark to win a WTA title, prevented this little piece of Pilot Pen history from repeating.

On a side note, all four players who had their photos on the Register's special section have been eliminated. Juan Del Potro pulled out of the men's field while Dominika Cibulkova and Nicole Vaidisova lost in the first round of the women's singles draw. Alize Cornet, who lost to Wozniacki in the semifinals on Friday, was the last of the four talented teenagers to be alive in the tournament.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Great Dane

Earlier in the month, Caroline Wozniacki became the first native of Denmark ever to win a WTA Tour title when she won in Stockholm, Sweden. Now, the 18-year-old from Copehnagen is honing in on title No. 2.

Wozniacki beat France's Alize Cornet, 7-5, 6-4, in a women's semifinal match today to advance to the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament finals. She'll face the winner of tonight's semifinal match between top seed Anna Chakvetadze and comeback kid Amelie Mauresmo in the finals tomorrow afternoon.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quick with the quips

Mardy Fish is doing more than putting on a show on the court, he has been delivering the one-liners during the press conferences.

On the subject of the hurricane expected to wreak havoc in the area near Fish's Tampa, Florida home he had this little nugget:

"It rained quite a bit but that is about it. I had to get my pool pumped. I didn't know about it, I haven't been there for a few weeks but my mom told me there was a hurricane coming there but it was a tropical storm. I have been in Florida my whole life so we don't get scared unless there is a (category) 3."

A few hours before Fish came in for his post-match press conference after beating Jesse Levine, some Evian bottles were left on the table, a reminder of the James Blake press conference set up by Evian and the ATP tour. Fish, who lives on the same street as Blake in Tampa, was asked if he ever considered designing a facial spray like Blake did for Evian.

"I actually heard about that for the first time this week. I don't have any, I don't see any in Tampa but if he has some there, I know where the spare key is to his house."

Speaking of Evian, expect there to be more events with Blake at future Pilot Pen Tennis tournaments. Evian has been sponsoring the former Fairfield resident for three years. Whether it will be a meet and greet session like on Thursday where people were able to get their pictures taken with Blake and were given the framed photos, that will be decided at a later day.

On a more somber note, Fernando Verdasco - the top seed in the men's draw - dedicated his quarterfinal win to the victims of the plane crash in his hometown of Madrid. More than 150 are feared dead.

Verdasco requested to make a statement before taking questions from the media.

"First of all, I want to dedicate my victory today to all the victims and all the families of the victims in the flight in Madrid and send them all my support. I am so sorry about that. Is my hometown. I really felt so bad yesterday and today. It's really hard. But I only want to send them all my support and everything for them."

Play kicks off at noon on Friday with the women's semifinal between 18 year olds Caroline Wozniacki and Alize Cornet on Stadium Court while the men's doubles semi between the team of Lucas Arnold Ker/Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo/Andre Sa on Grandstand Court. The rest of the Stadium Court day session schedule will be Verdasco vs. Fish in the men's semifinals followed by the women's doubles match between Anastasia Rodionova/Galina Voskoboeva and Kveta Pescke/Lisa Raymond. The men's doubles match between the teams of Simon Bolelli/Andreas Seppi and Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles.

The night session, which begins at 7 p.m., begins with the women's singles semifinal between Anna Chakvetadze and Amelie Mauresmo followed by Luka Gregorc facing either Igor Andreev or Marin Cilic in the final men's semifinals.

It's All Over for Hantuchova

When Lindsay Davenport and Daniela Hantuchova entered the media center to answer questions following their 6-3, 1-6, 11-9 loss to Anastasia Rodionova and Galina Voskoboeva, Pilot Pen media coordinators asked the press first to ask questions about the doubles match, then to ask Hantuchova questions about her singles loss earlier in the day.

When no one had a question about doubles after about a 10-second pause, Davenport said, "Oh good, OK," and left the podium.

Hantuchova expressed some frustration over her 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 loss to Alize Cornet in the singles quarterfinals. Late in the match, a Hantuchova shot was ruled out. She disagreed but was out of challenges and could do nothing about it. Apparently, chair umpire Yvette Kahn agreed that it was out, as well, according to Hantuchova.

"I saw the mark, and the umpire saw the mark, too," she said. "She admitted it was in, she told me it was just too late to make a decision, which I had never heard about before. It was kind of strange, especially when she was sitting right there. I don't understand why she didn't overrule it."

Hantuchova insisted she wasn't flustered by about a 10-minute delay in play midway through the second set, when Cornet tended to a quad injury.

"After all these years, you're used to it," she said. "There are so many players doing it, there's nothing you can really do about it."

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Dedicating his victory

Fernando Verdasco, the top-seeded player in the Pilot Pen men's singles draw, could be excused if his thoughts were anywhere but on his Thursday morning quarterfinal against Mischa Zverev.
The news of Thursday's plane crash which killed 153 in Verdasco's hometown of Madrid left the world's No. 13 ranked player so shaken that he requested to make a statement to the media before his post-match press conference.

"I want to dedicate my victory today to all the victims and all the families of the victims in the flight in Madrid and send them all my support and everything of me that I can," Verdasco said.

"I am so sorry about that. Is my hometown. Is so bad when these things happen, no? I really felt so bad yesterday and today. But I only want to send them all my support and everything for them."

Verdasco put aside his emotions and quickly jumped up on Zverev en route to a 6-2, 7-6 victory and a berth in the semifinals.

Jim Fuller

Return to Register's Pilot Pen site.

Quiet please

Forget crowd noise.

With Daniela Hantuchova serving to extend her match with Alize Cornet, facing triple match point, about two dozen canadien geese flew over just as she was ready to serve, squawking away.

Obviously not Hantuchova's day.

Return to Register's Pilot Pen site.

Hurray, Cornet!

No. 7 seed Alize Cornet just knocked off No. 2 seed Daniela Hantuchova, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, in a quarterfinal match at Stadium Court.

Cornet won despite needing a medical timeout in the second set. She had just gone up, 4-3, in that set when she asked for a trainer. The trainer attended to her back, and eventually wrapped her thigh. After about 10 minutes, play resumed.

Cornet actually looked even better follwing the break, winning the second set then rallying back from a 4-1 deficit in the third to win the final five games. She'll face unseeded Carloine Wozniacki of Slovakia in tomorrow's semifinals.

Return to Regisgter's Pilot Pen site

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Karlovic is out

After winning the much-hyped battle of the men's tennis giants on Tuesday night, 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic was knocked out of the men's singles draw with a 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 loss to qualifier Luka Gregorc on Wednesday.

Gregorc won 56 percent of the points on Karlovic's second serve to upset the second-seeded Karlovic. Karlovic had beaten 6-9 John Isner on Tuesday night to advance to the third round.

Return to Register's Pilot Pen site.

Show me the money

One thing which went unnoticed when Marion Bartoli advanced to the Pilot Pen quarterfinals with a win over Tsvetana Pironkova on Tuesday was that she clinched the No. 2 spot in the women's U.S. Open Series.

Dinara Safina had already clinched the top spot with 170 points and will receive a 100 percent bonus of her U.S. Open singles earnings. Bartoli will get a 50 percent bonus for finishing second. She currently has 105 points and would max out at 160 points. Dominika Cibulkova is currently third with 85 points but Anna Chakvetadze would pass Cibulkova and receive a 25 percent bonus if she wins the Pilot Pen. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro are the top three finishers in the men's U.S. Open Series.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Workin' Overtime

If Amelie Mauresmo ends up earning the $95,000 winner's check from the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament, she might want to look into receiving a little overtime pay, as well.

For the second straight day, Mauresmo battled through a grueling three-set match on Wednesday, this time holding on for a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (8) victory over fifth-seeded Patty Schnyder on Stadium Court.

One more fault away from an early ouster, Mauresmo held consecutive serves in the tiebreaker to go up, 7-6, and won it when Schnyder hit a return shot into the net to complete the 2-hour, 9-minute match.

The day before, Mauresmo took 2:38 to dispatch Kaia Kanepi in a three-setter.
Mauresmo will face fourth-seeded Agnes Szavay in an intriguing quarterfinal match today.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jame's Blake's "Going" Problem

Maybe James Blake needs a prescription for Flomax. Apparently, he's got a bit of a "going" problem.

Let's explain.

Blake, along with Mike and Bob Bryan and some other members of the U.S. men's Olympic tennis team shared an apartment with women's team member Lindsay Davenport at the Olympic Village last week. Davenport was the only woman in the apartment.

The place had three bedrooms; one had its own bathroom, the other two shared a conjoined bathroom. At first, Davenport was in one of the rooms with a shared bath, but that quickly changed.

"James went to the bathroom, like, three times, in the middle of the night, turning the lights on," Davenport explained. "The next day I was like, 'There's no shot I'm staying here. I’m getting the bedroom with my own bathroom.'"

She did, but not without incurring the wrath of Blake & Co., who started bombarding here with practical jokes. Blake put a salami in her pillow, and other guys started throwing stuff in her toilet.

"Eventually, they got me to leave," Davenport said, with a laugh.

No hard feelings, of course. It was all in good fun.

"We had a great time," Davenport said. "(Blake is) a great guy."

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Mauresmo's Marathon

In a nearly three-hour marathon, Amelie Mauresmo staved off a spirited upset bid from Estonia's Kaia Kanepi and won her first-round Pilot Pen Tennis tournament match, 6-2, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, Tuesday afternoon on Stadium Court.

The No. 33-ranked Mauresmo won the first set rather easily, though a slew of double-faults towards the end of the set were a harbinger of things to come. Her troubles from the service line continued in the second set, and Kanepi jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

Mauresmo won the next five, but Kanepi rallied back to go up 6-5. Mauresmo tied it again, but Kanepi won the tiebreaker to send it to a third set.

Once again, it seemed nearly every game went to deuce as the two continued their long battle. Mauresmo broke Kanepi's serve to go up, 4-2, rallied from a 15-40 deficit to win the next game, then won the final game off deuce again.

Mauresmo, who won both Wimbledon and the Australian Open in 2006 but has battled injuries and illness since, will face Sweden's Patty Schnyder in the next round.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Monday, August 18, 2008

Del Potro pulls out

Argentine teenager Juan Martin Del Potro, winner of his last four tournaments, is pulling out of the men's tournament.

Del Potro soared to No. 17 in the latest rankings and other than Rafael Nadal might be playing better than anybody else on the ATP tour. He is in New Haven and will address the media in about 20 minutes.

American Jesse Levine will take Del Potro's spot in the draw.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

New Heights

With John Isner's win over Igor Kunitsyn today, it sets up what is believed to be the tallest matchup in the history of professional tennis.

Isner, 6-foot-9, will take on 6-10 Ivo Karolovic, the tournament's No. 2 seed Tuesday. Time TBA.

Learn more about Isner and Karlovic.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page.

Feeling The Heat

It was billed as a battle of the up-and-coming teenagers, and for the first set the match lived up to the hype.

Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, 18, and Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova, 19, met in the first match on Stadium Court Monday.

Although down early, Wozniacki rallied to tie the set at 6 and force a tiebreak. She went to win the tiebreak, 9-7, and claimed the first set.

But before the start of the second set, Cibulkova retired due to illness from fatigue and the heat. Cibulkova is ranked 19th on the WTA singles tour and was seeded eighth in this tournament.

Since the end of July, Cibulkova has played tournaments at Stanford, Los Angeles, Montreal and at the Olympics in China before coming to New Haven on Saturday night.

"I'm sure (all the traveling played a factor)," Cibulkova said. "I had a tough month because I was traveling. I played two tournaments in the U.S. and I played Montreal. I flew from Montreal home (to Slovakia), then to Beijing then home then here. I am kind of tired and I need to have some days off."

Cibulkova was making her second appearance in New Haven. She advanced to the main draw as a "lucky loser" from the qualifying round but was forced to retire in the first round against Emilie Loit.

"It was another retirement," Cibulkova said. "Maybe I will think about (playing here) next time about having a week off (before next week's U.S.Open)."

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Davenport Healthy, Ready to Go

Lindsay Davenport was pondering how many times she has been at the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament.

"Nine," quickly came a voice from the back of the room. The voice belonged to tourney director Anne Worcester, who was ecstatic that Davenport had flown in from Beijing the night before to play doubles at this year's event.

Davenport is 32, with a young son, and has been bothered by cartilage damage in her knee for much of the year. She has publicly pondered retiring after this year's U.S. Open, but hasn't decided yet.

For now, she'll be perhaps the most popular player at this year's Pilot Pen. Worcester said on Friday that she hoped to get Davenport's doubles matches with new partner Daniela Hantuchova on center court as much as possible.

Davenport, who lost with doubles partner Liezel Huber in the quarterfinals at the Olympics, said the experience was "one of the greatest times of my life, professionally." A highlight: shortly before Opening Ceremonies, the entire U.S. contingent (Dream Team, Michael Phelps ... everybody) was pulled into the fencing hall. There, they were surprised by both President Bushes -- 43 and 41 -- to address the athletes for about two hours.

For more on Davenport, check out tomorrow's New Haven Register story.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Queens of the Roundtable

The Pilot Pen's top four women's seeds -- world No. 10 Anna Chakvetadze, No. 12 Daniela Hantuchova, No. 13 Marion Bartoli and No. 14 Agnes Szavay -- recently held an all-access, roundtable discussion with the media.

Here's some of what they had to say:

Chakvetadze, on the brutal invasion of her Moscow home last December, in which burglars made off with over $200,000 worth of valuables while bounding Chakvetadze and her parents. Chakvetadze had her hands tied together so hard that she couldn't hold a racket for nearly two weeks:

"I did put it behind me, I don't think about it anymore ... It's affected me because I didn't practice. For almost 10 days, I couldn't hold a racket ... I just wanted to play, and I couldn't ... I wanted to move, but my parents didn't want to. They wanted to stay (in the home), so we stayed."

Szavay, on the pressure she's felt since her remarkable run from the qualifiers to the finals of last year's Pilot Pen (she lost to Svetlana Kuznetsova):

"It wasn't easy to play this year, I've had some ups and downs. It's not easy to deal with this pressure I get from other people. It's really not easy to play like that, when everybody wants to beat you, you're not the one who has nothing to lose, everybody's expecting you to win, not the (opponent)."

Hantuchova, on her Pilot Pen doubles partner, Lindsay Davenport:

"I planned not to play too many doubles because of the (stress fracture) injury I had, but when you get asked by somebody like her, it's impossible to say no. She's such a great champion, and I think it's great for the tournament to have her here, at least for doubles. We always have a lot of fun together, there's so many things I can learn from her. I respect her game so much."

Hantuchova, on Davenport's gesture at the Australian Open, where she decided to pull the pair out after the third round because Hantuchova had a quarterfinals singles match the next day:

"It's such a great gesture from her ... She said 'Look, I just don't want you to have any regrets, having to play doubles the night before. You've got to save your energy for the match.' That was something I respected so much. I don't know anybody else who would do that."

Unfortunately, no one had much to ask Bartoli.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Still drawing a crowd

Lindsay Davenport still has drawing power. The former world No. 1 was on the practice court Sunday afternoon when close to 100 fans were transfixed watching the three-time Grand Slam singles champion warming up. It appeared as if there were more fans watching Davenport's practice session than there were fans in the seats for veteran American Vince Spadea's win over Luis Flores in the final round of qualifying.

Davenport will play in the doubles draw with Daniela Hantuchova.

The women's qualifying is over with American Mallory Cecil, Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, Romania's Monica Niculescu and Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova earned spots in the women's main draw. Sara Errani, who lost to Cecil, will also be in the main draw as she earned the lucky loser's spot by being the highest-seeded player to lose in the final round of qualifying. She will replace Olympic doubles silver medalist Anabel Medina Garrigues who pulled out Friday because she was still playing in Beijing.

Spadea and fellow American Alex Bogomolov Jr. won in the final round of men's qualifying. Paraguay's Ramon Delgado also advanced through qualifying. The final qualifying round match between former Duke star Philip King and Gregorc is in the third set.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Final Olympian count

Now that the doubles draws are out, the final count of players in the Pilot Pen who also competed in the Beijing Olympics is 50.

The women's draw began with 16 Olympians. Sara Errani, who represented Italy in Beijing, is guaranteed a spot either by winning her match today against American Mallory Cecil in the final round of qualifying or since Errani would be the highest-ranked player to lose in the final round of qualifying, she would take the lucky loser position created when Olympic doubles finalist Anabel Medina Garrigues pulled out. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez would become the 18th Olympian in the 28-play main draw if she beats Julia Goerges in the final round of qualifying later today.

There are 18 Olympians in the men's main draw, eight more who are playing only in the men's doubles event and four more who are exclusively in the women's doubles draw. Both the top seeds in men's and women's doubles consist of Olympians.

The only medalist scheduled to play in New Haven is Sweden's Simon Aspelin who teamed with Thomas Johannson to win the silver medal in men's doubles. Aspelin and Austria's Julian Knowle are the top seed in the Pilot Pen men's doubles event.

Return to the Register's Pilot Pen page

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Odesnik not Spadea gets into draw

My assumption that Vince Spadea as the top seed in qualifying would earn the spot in the main draw when the final Special Exemption position was not filled was incorrect.

Wayne Odesnik, who reached the third round of the French Open, earned the spot. Odesnik, currently ranked 119th, will face veteran Frenchman Sebastien Grosjean in the first round for the right to face No. 8 seed Mardy Fish in the second round.

Spadea is currently play Justin Natale in qualifying and after losing the first set in a tiebreaker is up a break in the second set.

No medal for Blake

Former Fairfield resident and two-time Pilot Pen singles champion James Blake lost to Serbia's Novak Djokovic in the bronze medal match and will return home without a medal.

Blake is not entered in the Pilot Pen but he will be on site Thursday at the Connecticut Tennis Center when he makes a public appearance for Evian, one of his sponsors. There will be more on that event as it draws closer.

Speaking of the Olympics, 34 players who competed in singles in Beijing are also playing either men's and women's singles in New Haven. That number could rise as four Olympians were entered in the women's qualifying draw. The doubles fields and draws have not been released but Lindsay Davenport and Jamie Murray, who played in women's doubles and men's doubles respectively in the Olympics, have been confirmed as entries in doubles in the Pilot Pen.

Here's a list of the Olympics scheduled to play in New Haven
Dominika Cibulkova Reached third round
Sorana Cirstea Lost first round
Alize Cornet Reached third round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Jill Craybas Lost first round
Casey Dellacqua Reached second round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Gisela Dulko Lost first round in singles/reached second round in doubles
Daniela Hantuchova Reached second round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Olga Govortsova Lost first round in singles/reached second round in doubles
Kaia Kanepi Reached third round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Flavia Pennetta Lost first round in singles/reached quarterfinals in doubles
Tsvetana Pironkova Reached second round
Virginie Razzano Reached second round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Patty Schnyder Reached second round in singles and doubles
Agnes Szavay Lost first round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Nicole Vaidisova Lost first round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Caroline Wozniacki Reached third round

Note: Qualifiers Maria Martinez Sanchez and Nuria Llagostera Vives reached second round and Sara Errani fell in first round at Olympics. Pilot Pen already lost one Olympian when Maret Ani lost in first round of qualifying. Lindsay Davenport, who reached quarterfinals in doubles, will play doubles at Pilot Pen.
Igor Andreev Reached third round in singles/reached quarterfinals in doubles
Thomasz Bellucci Lost first round
Simone Bolelli Lost first round singles and doubles
Agustin Calleri Reached second round
Marin Cilic Reached second round
Marcos Daniel Lost first round
Steve Darcis Lost first round in singles/reached second round in doubles
Robby Ginepri Lost first round
Chris Guccione Lost first round in singles/reached quarterfinals in doubles
Victor Hanescu Reached second round
Nicolas Lapentti Lost first round
Jurgen Melzer Reached quarterfinals in singles/reached second round in doubles
Ivo Minar Lost first round
Juan Monaco Lost first round
Olivier Rochus Reached third round in singles/reached second round in doubles
Andreas Seppi Reached second round in singles/lost first round in doubles
Potito Starace Lost first round
Jiri Vanek Lost first round

Friday, August 15, 2008

Local flavor at Pilot Pen

Three former Connecticut high school stars will be in action when men's qualifying starts on Saturday.

Former North Branford High star Artie Beavis was given a last-minute wild card into qualifying and the current player at Division II Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. will play Alex Bogomolov Jr. at 9 a.m. in the first match on the grandstand court. Former Barlow star Will Boe-Wiegaard, who won a Division III national title at Bates College, earned a spot into the field by winning the men's open division crown at the Yale Summer Championships. He will face Alberto Francis at 9 a.m. on Court 1. Ex-Fairfield Prep and Wake Forest star Todd Paul will be the third match on Court I when he faces Ramon Delgado.

Veteran U.S. player Vince Spadea, once ranked as high as No. 18, is the top seed in qualifying and his match against Justin Natale will follow the Beavis/Bogomolov match on grandstand court. Jesse Levine, a 20-year-old rising American star who owns wins over Pilot Pen main draw competitors Donald Young, John Isner and Steve Darcis, is the second seed in qualies and will have the second match on Court I. One thing to consider, if I am understanding the ATP's Special Exempt placement rules corectly, Spadea could end up in the main draw. Two-time NCAA singles champion Somdev Devvarman was in contention for a spot in the main draw with a win over Igor Kunitsyn Friday as a Special Exempt since he would still be alive in the main draw of the Washington, D.C. event at the time the qualifying tournament in New Haven was going on. However, Devvarman lost 6-4, 6-1 opening up a spot. My assumption is that the next player on the alternate list (i.e. Spadea) would move into the main draw now that the Special Exempt spot was not filled.

Speaking of the Pilot Pen main draw, although Andy Roddick is not coming to New Haven, event organizers have the next best thing as Viktor Troicki - who beat Roddick in the quarterfinals in Washington, D.C. Friday, will be playing in the main draw.

Should be a full day of tennis on Saturday with women's and men's qualifying heating up.

Day one in the books

Twelve women's qualifying matches were completed not counting American Mallory Cecil receiving a walkover because Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is still alive in doubles in the Mason, Ohio tournament.

American Alexa Glatch was leading Russia's Galina Voskoboeva 7-5, 4-4 when the match was suspended. That match will be completed Saturday while the Nuria Llagostera Vives/Marie-Eve Pelletier match, which never started, was also pushed to Saturday.

Results went pretty much according to form with Zahlovova Strycova, the No. 5 seed, and sixth seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova the only seeds to fall.

Men's qualifying will begin on Saturday. The draw will come out later this evening.

Men's draw in the books

With no last-minute withdrawals and John Isner failing to earn a Special Exemption spot, No. 25 Feliciano Lopez was not able to get into the main draw of the men's tournament.

The four wild cards went to Ivo Karlovic and Americans Isner, Donald Young and Robby Ginepri.

The most intriguing part of the draw is that Young could draw the top seed in the second round for the second straight year while Isner could face the No. 2 seed in the second round. Young will face Israel's Dudi Sela while Isner will meet Igor Kunitsyn. The winner of Young/Sela will meet Fernando Verdasco in the second round while the 6-foot-9 Isner would meet the 6-foot-10 Karlovic if he survives his first-round test.

Walk-On Over for Some Pizza

UConn men's basketball walk-on John Lindner, a Cheshire resident, is manning the Courtside Pizza stand at the Pilot Pen. Lindner's friend's dad owns Shoreline Foods, one of the event's main vendors, so he's helping out at the stand for the whole week.

Lindner, a senior-to-be, should have a spot back on the UConn roster next season, though he'll have a better idea following a team meeting on Aug. 24. He's been playing in a summer league in Cheshire.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound (at least) bruiser was one of the strongest players on the Huskies' team last season and provides plenty of muscle in practices.

Women's draw is out

The women's main draw ceremony just wrapped up. The most interesting first-round matchups are Alize Cornet playing Nicole Vaidisova in a rematch of the first round of the Olympics which was won by Cornet. The little bit of trivia was pointed out by 18-year-old Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark who was the player representative at the draw. Wozniacki drew Dominika Cibulkova in another showdown of talented teens. Former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo will face Kaia Kanepi in the first round.

There was no player movement in either the men's and women's fields overnight. Donald Young was given the third men's main draw wild card joining Robby Ginepri and Ivo Karlovic. The conducting of the men's draw was pushed back until the completion of the John Isner/Juan Martin Del Potro match in Washington, D.C. If Isner wins, he will receive a Special Exempt spot in the field allowing the tournament to give out another wild card.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hurry up and wait

The women's field, barring any withdrawals between now and the draw Friday at 12:30 p.m., is set. The biggest surprise on Thursday was Lindsay Davenport deciding to play doubles with Daniela Hantuchova.

Tamarine Tanasugarn, Nathalie Dechy and Tathiana Garbin are waiting in the wings if there are any withdrawals and wild card recipients Patty Schnyder and Bethanie Mattek move into the main draw.

Men's wild cards have been awarded to Robby Ginepri and Ivo Karlovic. If tournament officials have their way Donald Young and John Isner would move into the main draw without the aid of wild cards and that would allow 2005 finalist Feliciano Lopez and American Jesse Levine would get given wild cards into the main draw.

Three names to keep an eye on are Flavia Pennetta, Juan Martin Del Potro and Igor Andreev. Pennetta, who would be seeded fifth in the women's draw, is still alive in doubles in the Olympics. Because of the rain and the Olympic organizers to start Thursday's session at 4 p.m., all the matches could not be completed. Pennetta and Schiavone will play the Bondarenko sisters in the quarterfinals in the second match on Court 2. Pilot Pen tournament director Anne Worcester hasn't heard anything on Pennetta's plans but she would not be the first player to withdraw from the tournament after going deep into the Olympics. Samantha Stosur did just that in pulling out of the Pilot Pen on Thursday.

Del Potro didn't go to the Olympics but seemingly has won every other tournament since Wimbledon. The 19 year old Argentine won clay court titles at Stuttgart and Kitzbuhel and proved he was not a one-surface wonder by winning the hard-court championship in Los Angeles when he beat Andy Roddick in the final. Del Potro has played 16 singles and six doubles matches since Wimbledon, a heavy work load by anybody's standards. He is still entered but tournament organizers must be a bit anxious to see if Del Potro will be a part of the field.

Andreev went deep in both the singles and doubles draws in Beijing, Arnaud Clement is still alive in doubles and Jurgen Melzer was a surprise quarterfinalist in singles so it will be interesting to see if they choose to get on a plane, fly half way around the world and play in New Haven.

Stay tuned.

Here is the schedule for Friday.

Matches Start At 10 AM
Sara ERRANI (ITA) vs Christina MCHALE (USA)
followed by
followed by

Matches Start At 10 AM
Monica NICULESCU (ROU) vs Evgeniya RODINA (RUS)
followed by
Anastasia RODIONOVA (RUS) vs Magdalena RYBARIKOVA (SVK)
followed by

Matches Start At 10 AM
followed by

Matches Start At 10 AM
followed by
Stephanie COHEN-ALORO (FRA) vs Julia GOERGES (GER)

This is not a Pilot Pen related item, but it appears as if some habits are hard to break for notorious tennis hothead John McEnroe. McEnroe was defaulted in his Champions Cup match against Mal Washington for multiple audible obscenities, abuse of officials and unsportsmanlike conduct.

McEnroe, who will remain in the round-robin event, did not meet with the press after the match which was a bit hypocritical since he is a member of the media now in his duties as a television commentator. Washington did talk to reporters.

"I guess 1992 in New Haven was the last time I played John. Has anything changed? I guess he has one of those explosive personalities, you could say. There are a lot of things I can deal with, disputed line calls, stoppage in play. I have an issue when my opponent starts berating people, fans, and umpires. I said something to the official. As players, we are in control of the match. Officials are in charge of the integrity of the game."

Women's field set

There were no last-minute additions to the women's field at the Pilot Pen.

With Daniela Hantuchova and Nicole Vaidisova moving into the main draw following the withdrawals of Sania Mirza and Samantha Stosur, the three wild cards went to Patty Schnyder, Bethanie Mattek and Jill Craybas. Tamarine Tanasugarn and former Pilot Pen finalist Nathalie Dechy were in the running for wild cards but the tournament opted to go with the Americans Mattek and Craybas instead.

The biggest news, as mentioned in a previous blog entry, was former world No. 1 Lindsay Davenport entering to play doubles with Hantuchova. Anna Chakvetadze, ranked 10th, is the only top 10 player in the field but the tournament has nine top 20 players.

Former Fairfield Prep and Wake Forest star Todd Paul was given a wild card into the men's qualifying draw along with Scoville Jenkins, Adam El Mihdawy and former Barlow star Will Boe-Wiegaard, who won the men's open singles title at the Yale Summer Championships to earn that wild card berth. Naomi Cavaday, Asia
Muhammad and Mallory Cecil join Christina McHale as women's qualifying wild card selections. McHale also won the qualifier into the Pilot Pen qualifier like Boe-Wiegaard.

The men's field is still being finalized. The deadline is Friday at noon.

The draw ceremonies will be held Friday beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Connecticut Tennis Center. Play in the tournament begins with women's qualifying action kicking off at 10 a.m.

Davenport returning

Although she will not be playing singles, fan favorite Lindsay Davenport will be returning to the Pilot Pen to play doubles with Daniela Hantuchova.

A year ago following the birth of her first child, Davenport made her return to the WTA tour as she teamed with Lisa Raymond to play doubles in New Haven. Unfortunately for her, Davenport and Raymond drew the top seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber and lost in three sets in the first round. Ironically, Davenport is playing with Huber at the Olympics and is still in contention for a medal.

Sania Mirza and Samantha Stosur have withdrawn from the women's singles draw allowing Hantuchova and Nicole Vaidisova to move into the main draw. Sybille Bammer and Ashley Harkleroad have taken their names off the women's alternate list. On the men's side, Robin Haase has pulled out of both the Pilot Pen and U.S. Open.

The full women's field will be announced Thursday afternoon, shortly after the 4 p.m. entry deadline. The men's entry deadline is Friday at noon.

The tournament begins Friday with play in the women's qualifying draw.

Calm before the storm

The play begins in a little more than 24 hours in the tournament but if history counts for anything, this could be a busy day for Pilot Pen tournament officials are the final movement in the playing fields takes shape.

The early news has Robin Haase out of the men's main draw and Sania Mirza withdrawing from the women's field. Jiri Vanek moves into the men's field while Daniela Hantuchova, who entered the tournament Wednesday, is officially into the women's field.

Neither withdrawal was a surprise as both players have been dealing with injuries for months. Haase is out pulling out of the U.S. Open. His withdrawal from New Haven moves Americans Donald Young and John Isner to No. 2 and 3 on the alternate list behind Chris Guccione. Isner and Alejandro Falla, who are still alive in the Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C., are in contention for the two Special Exempt spots in the main draw. The SE was set up to reward players on a roll so if a player is still alive in the main draw of a current event while they were entered in the qualifying of the next tournament, they can receive a special exempt. With the Pilot Pen men's qualifying set to begin on Saturday, Isner and Falla could be alive as of Saturday with wins in the quarterfinals tomorrow. It should be interesting.

Other things to watch today will be what happens with the players still competing in the Olympics. Jurgen Melzer is the only players committed to New Haven who is still alive in the men's Olympics singles draw while Arnaud Clement, Igor Andreev and Chris Guccione (No. 1 on the alternate list) are still in the doubles draw. Sybille Bammer (third on the women's alternate list) is alive in singles while Flavia Pennetta and Sam Stosur remain in the doubles draw. Will they want fly for 18-20 hours, get to New Haven and play? We shall see. (UPDATED AT 10:30 A.M.): Bammer and Stosur both lost their matches.

Although he will not be defending his Pilot Pen title, former Fairfield resident James Blake delivered the biggest win of his career with a straight-set win over No. 1 Roger Federer in the quarterfinals today. It is Blake's first win against Federer and puts him into the semis against either Fernando Gonzalez or Paul-Henri Mathieu. Blake is 2-0 all-time against Mathieu while he is 3-5 versus Gonzalez with the star from Chile having won the last five meetings. However, Blake was 0-8 against Federer before Thursday.

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