2014/10/02

On Court 17 Youth is Served and Gets Served On Day 2 of the US Open Qualies

 

Setfan Kozlov, USTA International Spring Championships, Carson, CA

Setfan Kozlov, USTA International Spring Championships, Carson, CA

(August 20, 2014) Court 17, played host to a combination of veterans, college players and juniors on day two of the US Open qualifying tournament on Wednesday.

The day led off with a three-set women’s battle between former world No. 29, Poland’s Urszula Radwanska and last year’s Australian and US Open junior champion, Ana Konjuh of Croatia.

The younger sister of Agniezska Radwanska rocketed to a 6-1 first set, but the 16-year old Konjuh rebounded in the second set which consisted of mostly service breaks between to the two women.

The match took a turn the youngster’s way when the Croatian jumped out to a 3-0 lead to start off the third set. Unforced errors, which Konjuh fell victim to throughout the match crept back into her game and Radwanska won six out of the next seven games to claim the set and the match 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. Konjuh made 52 unforced errors in the match.

Second match on the fourth largest show court in Flushing Meadow saw 16-year-old junior Stefan Kozlov face off against former University of Virginia player Mitchell Frank. After a slow beginning from the two-time junior Grand Slam finalist, who lost the opening set 6-3, the match turned. Koslov took the next set 6-0. Frank had a medical time out for a trainer to work on his back. His movement appeared hampered and Koslov finished off his opponent by claiming the third set 6-2.

The third match on Court 17 saw former US Open quarterfinalist from 2009 and Mixed doubles champion from 2011, American Melanie Oudin play Sesil Karatantcheva, born in Bulgaria, but now representing Kazakhstan. The 22-year-old Oudin needed just 70 minutes to stop the 25-year-old, breaking her serve five times.

To round-up the evening, American junior 16-year-old Francis Tiafoe fell to No. 11 seed Tatsuma Ito in a two hour and 22 minute contest 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3.

Related article:

A Q & A with No. 1 US Junior Tennis Player Stefan Kozlov

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Melanie Oudin Captures Party Rock Open Title

MelanieOudin7172012

LAS VEGAS (Sept. 29, 2013) – Melanie Oudin captured her seventh overall career singles titles, sixth USTA $50,000 Pro Circuit event and first Party Rock Open with an exciting three-set win over fellow American CoCo Vandeweghe on Sunday at the Darling Tennis Center.

Traditionally not a fast starter, the 22-year-old Oudin from Marietta, Ga., was broken in the first game of the match and dropped the first set 5-7, before gaining control of the match to reel off a 6-3, 6-3 win and capture her first title of 2013 and the $7,600 that goes along with it.

For the second straight year the singles final was contested by two Americans at the Party Rock Open, which was played under ideal and warm 82-degree desert temperature and in front of an enthusiastic crowd that enjoyed top-level tennis all week long, even though both players said they got off to a slow start Sunday due to nerves.

“It wasn’t the best quality tennis from both of us,” said Oudin, who has won one WTA event on grass and now has six $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit titles, including wins in Vegas, Charlottesville, Va. (2012), New Braunfels, Texas, (2012), Indian Harbour Beach, Fla., (2009), Raleigh, N.C., (2009) and Lexington, Ky., (2008). “Obviously it’s never easy returning CoCo’s serve, but I felt like I was doing a better job of attacking it in the second set. It was close the entire time.”

Vandeweghe, 21, had a long exchange with the chair umpire after a disputed line call with Oudin leading 2-0 in the third set and Vandeweghe serving at deuce.

A late out call by the linesman went in favor Oudin and she won the next point taking the crucial 3-0 lead.

“I thought the ball was out,” Oudin said. “It was just a late call. It makes sense to me. And I think that’s what happened. But she was obviously upset about it.”

Vandeweghe took what seemed like two or three minutes to get an explanation from the chair umpire. “I have no idea what happened there,” Vandeweghe said afterward. “There was no explanation. I did my best to come back and kept fighting.”

Vandeweghe did, indeed, breaking Oudin’s serve for 3-1 and then serving what Oudin called a “great” game in the fifth game to hold and make it 3-2.

Oudin said she hasn’t decided but would like to play the next Pro Circuit event in her home state, a $25,000 event in Macon, Ga. Then she will play three more $50K events, two in Canada and one in Florida before shutting it down for the season.

Oudin was asked by a local reporter if she gets tired of often being solely linked to her great US Open quarterfinal run in 2009. “Yes, that’s way over. That’s like so long ago now. I’m so past that. Waaaay past that.”

Vandeweghe, who won $4,053 for finishing runner-up, was able come back and win the doubles title a week after taking the Albuquerque Challenger doubles event as she Austrian partner Tamira Paszek, the No. 2-seeded team, took out the U.S. pair of Denise Mursean and Caitlin Whoriskey, 6-4, 6-2. The winning team split $2,786 ($1,393 each) while the finalists earned $1,393 total ($696.50 each). Mursean and Whoriskey were both three-time All-Americans from the University of Michigan and the University of Tennessee, respectively.

The Party Rock Open is Las Vegas’ only professional tennis tournament, and is named for LMFAO’s Redfoo and his Party Rock franchise’s title sponsorship.

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Mattek-Sands, Hantuchova and Davis Receive Main Draw Wild Cards into Cincinnati

D Hantuchova

CINCINNATI (August 6, 2013) — Four of the nine women’s wild card recipients for the 2013 Western & Southern Open have regional ties to Cincinnati and the surrounding area.

 

Two of the three main draw wild cards were born in the Midwest – Lauren Davis from Cleveland and Bethanie Mattek-Sands from Rochester, Minn. The third wild card went to Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova.

 

Qualifying wild cards were awarded to back-to-back NCAA singles champion and Cincinnati native Nicole Gibbs, as well as Pittsburgh’s Alison Riske. The remaining four qualifying wild cards went to New Jersey’s Christina McHale, Georgia’s Melanie Oudin and California’s Maria Sanchez along with Slovenian Polona Hercog.

 

“We take great pride that we have ticket buyers from all 50 states, and so much of that support comes from around the region because of the number of tennis fans who live within driving distance of the event,” said Tournament Director Vince Cicero. “We’re excited about this talented group of wild card recipients, and we hope that the Western & Southern Open can be a ‘home’ tournament for these players from this region.”

 

Davis, 19, who is from the Cleveland suburb of Gates Mills, won the 2008 Ohio High School Division II singles title while playing at Gilmour Academy. Early this season she reached her second WTA quarterfinal in Hobart.

 

Mattek-Sands will be making her fifth appearance at the Western & Southern Open. A semifinalist here in 2005, she also won the doubles title in 2007. In 2013, she has reached the final at Kuala Lumpur, the semifinals in Stuttgart and the fourth round at the French Open.

 

Hantuchova, who is playing Cincinnati for the sixth time, reached the 2005 semifinals here and was a quarterfinalist on two other occasions. She owns six career titles, including a win earlier this summer in Birmingham.

 

The six qualifying wild cards will begin play Saturday in a two-round tournament to earn one of 12 spots in the main draw.

 

Gibbs, 20, just completed her junior year at Stanford by winning her second straight NCAA singles title. In addition to her collegiate success this year, Gibbs has reached a pair of ITF event finals, winning the title in Yakima.

 

Riske, 23, reached the semifinals at the grass court event in Birmingham earlier this summer for the second time in her career. She has reached the semifinals or better in three ITF events this season.

 

McHale, 21, has had previous success in Cincinnati, reaching the main draw third round two of the last three years, including in 2011 when she defeated World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

 

Oudin, 21, reached the US Open quarterfinal in 2009, and in 2012, she won her first career WTA title. This year she has successfully qualified at WTA Premier events in Rome and Brussels.

 

Sanchez, 23, was an All-American at the University of Southern California. In 2013, she has reached the third round at the WTA event in Birmingham as well as two ITF quarterfinals.

 

Hercog, 22, owns two career WTA titles and this season has claimed two ITF tournament titles. She has been ranked as high as No. 35 in her career.

 

The draws for both the main draw and qualifying will be made on Friday. Qualifying begins Saturday, which is also AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day, and tickets start as low as $5. WTA main draw play begins Monday. All matches will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

 

The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.

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Oudin and Kudla Serve Up Tennis for Kids at Citi Open Kids Program

Oudin Kudla

Washington, D.C., July 17, 2013 – Citi, title sponsor of the 2013 Citi Open SM, hosted its first Citi Open Kids program in coordination with the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF) at the East Capitol Campus location. The event featured WTA player Melanie Oudin, American ATP player Denis Kudla, along with former professional tennis player and three-time Grand Slam mixed doubles champion, Zina Garrison. The tennis stars were joined by youth from the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF), a premier educational and tennis organization for underserved children in Washington, D.C.

 

Citi Open Kids is an educational and motivational community-based initiative for students located in the Washington, D.C. area developed by Citi in collaboration with the WTEF. Citi Open Kids reinforces Citi’s commitment to make a positive impact in the communities it serves and aims to provide cultural, social, athletic and economic enrichment for the members of the WTEF. As the tournament’s benefactor, the WTEF is instrumental in identifying ways to ensure the continual athletic and educational success of its members and Citi strives to aid to these efforts throughout the year.

 

Citi Open Kids will begin with a brief program promoting the importance of financial literacy and saving for the future. Both Oudin and Kudla will share their experiences, and offer advice on staying focused while pursuing both academic and athletic success. The Citi Open Kids program will conclude with a 45-minute tennis clinic for all program participants with Oudin, Kudla and Garrison.

 

“Citi is committed to making a difference in the communities in which we do business, and programs like Citi Open Kids provide a meaningful and unforgettable experience for children all over Washington D.C,” said Candi Wolff, head of Global Government Affairs for Citi and a board member of WTEF. “Similarly to our mission of supporting clients in their journeys from ambition to achievement, Citi is delighted to create programs that help empower and enable underserved D.C. students to achieve their highest potential.”

The Washington Tennis & Education Foundation (WTEF) was founded in 1955 as an organization designed to help disadvantaged youth through tennis. Since then, it has evolved into an organization that provides academic help to at-risk children, by helping them to apply the lessons learned on the tennis court in the classroom and beyond. Today, WTEF is a leader in the best practice of providing academic enrichment, supplemented by tennis and life skills instruction, as a means for developing the skills necessary to achieve academic and personal success.

 

“The Citi Open Kids program is a wonderful opportunity for the children involved with the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation to learn about the importance of financial education and hear from professional athletes the importance of perseverance, resilience, and optimism, both on and off the court.” said Eleni Rossides, Executive Director, Washington Tennis & Education Foundation. “Our kids are tomorrow’s leaders, and it is fantastic that Citi is investing in their futures as part of a solid commitment to the Washington, DC area.”

 

The Citi Open will be held July 27-August 4 at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C. It is one of only 11 elite ATP World Tour 500-level events worldwide and the only one held in the United States. The event is also part of the prestigious Emirates Airline US Open Series, the five-week summer tennis season that links nine North American hard-court tournaments to the final Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. In addition, the Citi Open features a WTA International Tournament which provides fans the opportunity to watch simultaneous competitions of both world-class men’s and women’s tennis throughout the nine-day event. The tournament features 48 men’s singles players and 16 doubles teams, 32 women’s singles players and 16 doubles teams, and offers nearly $2 million in player compensation.

 

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Americans in Paris – Day Two at Roland Garros

SloaneStephens

Sloane Stephens

(May 27, 2013). Americans went 8-4 in Paris on the day 2 of the French Open. Here is a look at how they all fared:

First round: Sloane Stephens (17) (USA) def. Karin Knapp (ITA) 6-2, 7-5

In a bit of a slump since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and the recent coverage of her controversial comments during an ESPN magazine interview, Stephens said that she was positive about her win.

“Obviously really excited to be back here.  Had a great year last year, and this was one of my favorite tournaments.  So it’s good to be back and playing a lot better than a couple weeks ago.

Just excited to be back on the court and playing well again.

Stephens commented  on the media attention since her ESPN interview after aftermath off-court:

“Yeah, I mean, it’s been okay for me.  Obviously I haven’t had that many good results leading up to the clay season, so to get some match in on my favorite surface and get some confidence back and kind of just start feeling ball better.

“It wasn’t that my mind wasn’t on the court.  I just needed to find a balance, and obviously that’s tough.

“I’m only 20 years old, so I have a lot to learn and a long ways to go.  Just finding the right balance is what we’re doing.

“It’s been fine for me.  My really good friend came and my mom is here.  I’m just having a good time.  It’s been fun.

“I mean, obviously attention is attention.  It comes, it goes.  When you’re winning they love it; when you’re losing they love it.  It’s all the same really.”

 

First round: John Isner (19) (USA) def. Carlos Berlocq (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

 

First round: Varvara Lepchenko (29)(USA) def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 6-1, 6-2

 

First round: Martin Klizan def. Michael Russell (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-1 Ret. Left hamstring injury

 

First round: Madison Keys (USA) def. Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3, 6-2

At 18, Keys is the youngest of the American women in the main draw. She is No. 58 in the world.

 

First round: Jana Cepelova (SVK) def. Christina McHale (USA) 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4

McHale who was struck with glandular fever last year is ranked 53rd in the world.

 

First round: Albert Montanes(ESP)  def. Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

The former NCAA champion Johnson extended the recent Nice Open titlist to five sets.

 

First round: Ryan Harrison (USA) def. Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)

Harrison will play fellow American and Davis Cup teammate John Isner in the second round.

 

First round: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) 6-4, 6-1

With 15 women in the main draw of the French Open at the beginning of the tournament, Mattek is proud of so many U. S. women moving up in the rankings. “It’s a great group of girls coming up. They’re talented. They’re all pretty fun to be around. They got good personalities.”

She commented that just a few years ago, people kept asking her about the state of U.S. women’s tennis.

 

First round: Vania King (USA) def. Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) 7-6(3), 6-1

King made it through to the main draw by going through the qualifying tournament.

 

First round: Michal Przysiezny (POL) def. (LL) Rhyne Williams (USA) 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 7-5

Williams who came into the tournament as a lucky loser, lost to the same person who defeated him in the final round of the Qualifying tournament.

 

First round: Melanie Oudin (USA) def. Tamira Paszek (28) (AUT) 6-4, 6-3

Almost four years ago Oudin made it to the quarterfinals of the U. S. Open as 17-year-old. She spoke about pressure on her then as an American player.

“I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself after everything, “she said to media. “It’s a totally different story now. There’s so many Americans now coming up, and so many in the top 100. It is nice to not have it all on me….I mean, it really was all on me at that time. Like, besides the Williams sisters, everyone was like, `Oh, who’s going to be the next upcoming American?’ And it’s like, `OK, it’s going to be Melanie, because you got to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.’ It was a lot. And I was young.”

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Jankovic Survives Oudin in Charleston

JelenaJankovicCharelston

By Stephanie Neppl

(April 2, 2013) CHARLESTON, SC – Former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic survived a tough three-set battle with American Melanie Oudin in the first round of the Family Circle Cup on Tuesday.

The Serbian had lost her two previous match ups with the American, and admitted Oudin’s style of play gives her issues.

After her 4-6, 7-5, 4-6 win, Jankovic said, “She has this game that I don’t really like and doesn’t really suit me, I always have trouble with her. I mean, it’s just her style of play is just difficult for me to play against.”

Coming off a semifinal result in Miami last week, Jankovic said she felt it was a good match despite it being her first clay match of the season. “I just came from Miami so I was playing a long tournament and took a lot out of me physically, mentally. I’m grateful that I was able to pull this out.”

The crowd was vocally behind Oudin, who has failed to find much success after her run to the 2009 US Open quarterfinals although she’s still only 21 years old. After taking the second set, Oudin fought back from 2-5 down in the third but Jankovic served it out on her second attempt to advance to the second round.

In her post-match news conference, Jankovic said she gained confidence from her run in Miami but struggled to move on the green clay. “I love playing on clay, but today I wasn’t happy with the way I was moving so I have got to improve.”

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Later on Tuesday, Jankovic joined Andrea Petkovic in ladies’ doubles, and a large crowd enjoyed the duo’s entertaining match against Lucie Safarova and Kristina Mladenovic. The Czech/French team won 6-4 6-2.

Jankovic, who won the Family Circle Cup in 2007, is in Charleston without a coach, something she says is suiting her well. “I’m here with my brother and a hitting partner, so I don’t have a coach. It’s great. My brother knows me better than anyone.”

The Serbian lost here in the first round last year to Venus Williams so each win will help her ranking, something Jankovic is focused on.

“I’m working hard every day just trying to get to another level and just overall become a better player,” she said. “My goal is to get back to the top rank where I was before.”

Next up for Jankovic is Caroline Garcia of France.

Stephanie Neppl is in Charleston covering the Family Circle Cup for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. She has worked as Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland’s ATP and WTA tournaments. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.

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Italy Rallies Past US to Move into Fed Cup Semis

errani-vinci

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci

(February 10, 2013) Italy came back from 1-2 down to defeat the United States in Fed Cup 3-2 on Sunday in the first round of the World Group in Rimini, Italy.

 

World No. 1 doubles team Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci sealed the win for Italy in the fifth rubber with a victory over Varvara Lepchenko and Liezel Huber 6-2, 6-2.

 

“Errani and Vinci are the weapon,” said Huber. They are like sisters. They are like best friends. They can almost see each other’s body language and predict something before it has happened. They have a different style than what we are used to and stick to their style. They are great singles players and don’t discount doubles. I enjoy watching them play, just not against me!”

 

The United States led 2-1 after Lepchenko beat world No, 7 Errani 7-5, 6-2 in the first of reverse singles on Sunday.

 

“In the first set, I had to get my body started,“ said Lepchenko. “I had a long match yesterday, so I was a bit up and down in the beginning. Once my body warmed up, I was playing better and better in the second set and got pumped and got going.”

 

Vinci rallied for Italy topping Jamie Hampton 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to send the tie into a fifth rubber.

“I had a tough match yesterday, so I had to regroup and do my best for the team,” Hampton. ”First set, I made a lot of errors and started off like yesterday. I got back together in the second set and thought I had a hold of the match, but I made a lot of errors.”

 

 

Italy will next host defending champion Czech Republic in the Fed Cup semifinals, a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The other semifinal has Slovakia at Russia.

 

Next the United States will play in the World Group Playoff, April 20-21, to remain in contention for the Fed Cup World Group l in 2014 and to try and stave off relegation to World Group II next year. The United States’ opponent will be drawn on Wednesday, February 13, at 10 a.m. GMT at the ITF offices in London.

 

The U.S., who will be seeded will play one of the four winners of the World Group II First Round (Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, or Germany). The host site for Switzerland or Sweden will be determined by a coin toss on Wednesday. The U.S. would host Spain or Germany.

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Tennis Channel, Wilson Sporting Goods and Melanie Oudin Ring Opening Bell at NASDAQ

NEW YORK, NY – Wilson Sporting Goods Co. President Chris Considine, along with Tennis Channel Chairman and CEO Ken Solomon and Wilson player Melanie Oudin, rang the NASDAQ Opening Bell remotely on Friday from the US Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows, New York.  Wilson, the leading manufacturer of ball sports equipment, is the official ball and stringer of the US Open.
“For Wilson, the US Open is an incredibly special time of the year.  Not only does this respected event ignite New York’s passion for tennis, it also commands a global stage for players and devoted fans,” said Considine. “We love welcoming and directly engaging with consumers and our customers at our on-site store, while supporting our outstanding athletes.  Ringing the Opening Bell with Melanie and our Tennis Channel partner is a great way for us all to celebrate this incredible tournament.”
Georgia-native Oudin won the hearts of thousands at the 2009 US Open when she became the youngest American Grand Slam quarterfinalist since Serena Williams at the Open in 1999.

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Melanie Oudin – Looking backward, yet looking forward

NEW HAVEN – Almost three years have passed since her surprise surge to the quarterfinals in the 2009 US Open, but Melanie Oudin is still looking onward and upward despite her inconsistency on the court since that magical run in Flushing Meadow which saw her knock out Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova along the way. Oudin’s ranking plummeted to No. 370 back in April – a far cry from her career high ranking of 31 achieved back in late April of 2010, but she’s made strides since then to move back up to 106 in the world this week, thanks to capturing her first career WTA title in Birmingham back in June. She’s also moved her training base to the United States Tennis Association’s training center at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow.
I asked the Marietta, Georgia native on Saturday, ‘What would 2012 Melanie Oudin tell 2009 Melanie Oudin after all that has happened?’
She replied:  “I would probably tell myself that I cannot believe everything that I’ve been through in the past three years and I’m only twenty years-old. I’ve already been through the highs and the lows of a tennis career, in about a three-year period.
“So that’s probably the craziest thing ever but really I think that.. there were always things that helped about that run in ’09 and there are things that didn’t help me in the run 09. I’ve never regretted it though. Of course not.
“Everyone says that it’s the best I’ve ever played, but I really, really think that I can still play better tennis than I played in ’09 and I have a feeling that I am going to be a better player through everything. You know, I’m getting smarter. As I get a little bit older I think that it’s just not quite here yet. I feel that it’s just going to take a little bit more time for me. But I do think I’m going to be a better player even when I did well in ’09.”
Oudin is looking forward to the upcoming US Open where she and Jack Sock are defending Mixed Doubles champions.
“We are going to play again,” said an excited Oudin. She said that people seemed to be surprised that she and Sock are playing together again. “We are undefeated- I mean our first time playing we win the tournament! So we are definitely looking to defend the title. It should be really, really fun.”
Oudin will participate in all three events at the US Open- singles, doubles and mixed doubles. “I’m looking forward to going deeper in singles and in Women’s Doubles as well,” Oudin said gleefully.
“Last year all I had to focus on were the Mixed Doubles, but this year I’m hoping to do well in all three events.”
Oudin reached the main draw of the New Haven Open as a “Lucky Loser” and lost in the first round on Monday to Sofia Arvidsson. Oudin will play in the US Open beginning next week.
Karen Pestaina is the editor and founder of Tennis Panorama News.
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New Haven Open Preview: Wozniacki’s Drive for Five is Alive

By Jack Cunniff

NEW HAVEN – For the fifteenth straight year, several of the top Women’s Tennis Association professionals will be at the Connecticut Tennis Center in New Haven the week prior to the U.S. Open.  And defending New Haven Open champion, Caroline Wozniacki from Denmark, hopes to be holding the winner’s trophy for the fifth straight time.  As always, the path to the title has a lot of obstacles, with eight of the Top Twenty ranked women entered in the draw.

When Wozniacki defended her title last year, she was holding seven other tournament titles and ranked No. 1 in the world.  Her form has dropped off in the last 12 months; she’s been unable to win a title since the 2011 New Haven Open.  As a result, her ranking has dropped to No. 8, and she’s seeded third.  But Wozniacki still has to be considered a title contender.  She holds a perfect 17-0 record at the event, and nine of those wins have come against opponents ranked in the Top Twenty.  Is that enough to snap a streak of twenty straight events that Wozniacki has lost? She will make history if she can win her fifth title; only three other women in tour history have won an event in five consecutive years, Chris Evert (Charleston), Steffi Graf (Hamburg), and Martina Navratilova (Wimbledon, Eastbourne, and Chicago).

The top seed at the 2012 New Haven Open is Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.  Radwanska had her best career result just a few weeks ago, reaching the finals of Wimbledon before losing to Serena Williams in three sets.  She’s improved her world ranking to No. 3 on the strength of five titles in the last 12 months, including three Premiere events (Miami, Tokyo, and Beijing).

The hottest player coming into this year’s event is Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic.  She is the only woman who has reached the quarterfinals at each of the 2012 Grand Slam events.  More recently, she won the Canadian Open in Montreal last week, and reached the semifinals in Cincinnati this week.  But on the downside, that’s a lot of tennis for Kvitova, and she could be feeling the effects here.

Rounding out the Top Four seeds in New Haven is the Italian who made a surprise run to the French Open final a few months ago, Sara Errani.  Since moving off of clay courts, Errani has found things more difficult, winning only four matches on grass courts or hard courts since June.  She has been able to show winning form on hard courts earlier this year, reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

In looking at title contenders, recent history in New Haven shows that you must look past the seeded players.  While the first nine New Haven finals did not feature an unseeded player, there has been an unseeded surprise finalist in four of the last five years.  Some names who could continue that trend in 2012 include Andrea Petkovic, Sloane Stephens, and Laura Robson.  Petkovic, the entertaining German player, reached No. 9 in the world last year, but has played only a few events this year because of injury.  New Haven marks her return to the tour after a four month absence.  Stephens, from the United States, has made her breakthrough this year reaching the fourth round of the French Open.  She is also the youngest player ranked in the Top 50, at age 19. Robson is even younger, at 18, and is coming off a silver medal win in the London 2012 Summer Olympics, where she partnered with Andy Murray in Mixed Doubles.

It’s a difficult field to handicap, but one thing is for sure: whoever is holding the trophy next Saturday will have a great chance of making a run at the U.S. Open title as well.  In the last fourteen years, the New Haven champion has reached at least the semifinals on ten occasions.

Around the Grounds – Saturday August 18th: Nicole Gibbs, the Stanford sophomore who swept the NCAA singles and doubles title this year, defeated her first Top 100 opponent Saturday, dispatching No. 77 Lourdes Dominguez-Lino of Spain in the second round of qualifying… Melanie Oudin, the surprise 2009 U.S. pen quarterfinalist, continued her comeback by ousting Silvia Soler-Espinosa in three sets.  After her win, Oudin confirmed that she and Jack Sock would be attempting to defend their 2011 U.S. Open Mixed Doubles title… Andrea Petkovic isn’t the only player on the comeback trail at New Haven; 2007 runner-up Agnes Szavay of Hungary is playing in her first WTA main draw of 2012. Szavay also played in The London Summer Olympics this month as she returns from a career-threatening back injury.

Jack Cunniff is covering the New Haven Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. His personal twitter is @JRCunniff.

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