Summer Life
- Page 18
Women Stars in State Open
While Men’s Legends Exhibition will feature Germany’s Haas against Connecticut’s Blake

BY ROGER CLEAVELAND
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

The Connecticut Open is a 32-player draw women’s only professional tournament that is part of the U.S. Open Series and attracts the best players in the world. Held each year the week prior to the last grand slam tournament of the season, it serves as a great warm-up for the U.S. Open. As such, it traditionally attracts a field composed almost entirely of players ranked in the top 50.

Normally only a select few elite-level players want to play the week before a grand slam event so whether or not the tournament attracts many Top 10 players often depends on how those players fare during the beginning of the summer hardcourt season in the U.S.

Those elite players who get knocked out of the tournaments that lead up to New Haven earlier than they would like will sometimes ask for a late wild card entry into the Connecticut Open to get in some valuable competition before the U.S. Open.

Primarily, however, the tournament depends on a strong core of Top 25 players and a wealth of competitive players from the Top 50. Last year, the tournament had only one Top 10 player but eight from the Top 25 in the world.

Last year’s field had a direct entry ranking cutoff of No. 38 in the world.That means that so many quality players were among those vying for the 20 direct entry spots that any player ranked higher than No. 38 in the world had to go through the qualifying tournament or be granted a wild card. In 2016, the direct entry cutoff was the No. 31 ranking in the world.

Because there are so many of the players ranked between No. 10 and No. 35 committing for direction entry into the tournament each year, the tournament draws a highly competitive field for its qualifying the Friday and Saturday before the start of main draw play.

For those fans who don’t care about marquee names but would love to see an up-close view of many of the world’s top 100 women’s players scrapping and fighting to get in some match time prior to the U.S. Open, the Connecticut Open’s qualifying on Aug. 17-18 is one of the summer’s best sports entertainment bargains in the state.

Often the qualifying tournament includes 10 or more players ranked in the Top 60 of the world. The qualifying tournament is a 48-player draw with players competing to earn the final six spots into the main draw field.

In addition to the qualifying and main draw play, Worcester attempts to add a variety of entertainment. That includes daily live music, high-end shopping, fashion shows, wine tastings, a kids zone, autograph signings, women’s empowerment discussions and a variety of food trucks and booths.

For the past four years, the centerpiece of that entertainment has been a Men’s Legends exhibition series, which was popular and successful enough to become part of the Invesco Series which hosts events around the country. This year the four players taking part in the three sets of exhibition matches include John McEnroe, James Blake, Tommy Haas and Todd Martin.

Haas will play Blake on Thursday, Aug. 23, following the night session women’s quarterfinal match. Then the next night, McEnroe will play Martin after one of the two WTA semifinals. The winners of Thursday’s and Friday’s men’s exhibitions will then play a final championship set Friday, also.

Of course, the main event of the tournament is the WTA tournament. Last year’s field included Top 25 players: No. 10 Aga Radwanska, No. 11 Dominika Cibulkova, No. 13 Petra Kvitova, No. 14 Kristina Mladenovic, No. 18 Elena Vesnina, No. 20 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, No. 23 Barbora Strycova, No. 25 Shuai Peng.

Continued on Page 19