Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic showed the world why she has become the latest “Queen of New Haven,” inheriting the position from first, Venus Williams, and then, Caroline Wozniacki. After disposing of Wozniacki in straight in the semifinals on Friday, Kvitova, the tournament’s No. 2 seed and the No. 5-ranked player in the world, rallied from a one-set deficit to defeat fellow Czech Lucie Safarova 6-7(6), 6-2,6-2 to clinch the Connecticut Open on Saturday afternoon. For Kvitova, who is still recovering from a mid-summer bout with mononucleosis, it was her third title in New Haven, having also won here in 2012 and 2014. Indeed, the only time Kvitova did not win in the past four years in the Nutmeg State was in 2013, when she reached the final before losing to Simona Halep in straight sets in the championship match.
Saturday, Kvitova used a dominant serve to overcome her No.6-ranked opponent and capture her 17th overall WTA singles title. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Saturday’s match was that they resembled Patty and Cathy—you remember, the “identical cousins” on the classic sitcom, The Patty Duke Show. Both women, who represent Nike, wore the exact same uniform—red skirts and white tops, replete with matching red headbands. Now, this may have been a major faux pas if each showed up dressed the same at the Wimbledon Champions Dinner Party, but on Saturday, on the hardcourts at the Connecticut Tennis Center in New Haven, it was merely interesting.
The first set was as even as the score would indicate. Indeed, Safarova held serve throughout and emerged victorious in the tiebreak. But from that point forward, it was all Kvitova, who broke her opponent twice in each of the final two sets.
“She’s a big hitter,” Safarova said of her “identical cousin,” Kvitova. “She’s putting a lot of pressure on you, serving really big. She was just going for it today, striking it well.”
“I feel terrible, but doesn’t matter,” said Kvitova after her victory, conceding she has not fully recovered from her summer bout with “I will have a day off [before the start of the U.S. Open in New York, where she is seeded No. 5]. “It was very tiring.”
This year’s Connecticut Open brought men into the mix in the form of “Legends” play—and by any measure, it proved to be as popular as the main event itself. Want proof? 4,800 fans came out Friday night, the second semifinal match which was followed by a “fun match” between John McEnroe (age 56) and Jim Courier (44). On Saturday, only 3,507 showed for the championship match. Overall, attendance for the tournament was up nearly 5,000 over last year—which did not feature Legends play.
That pretty much makes it a keeper. McEnroe has hinted he may hang it up completely this year, arguing he has a difficult time competing against the likes of Andy Roddick and James Blake, both in their mid-30s, who played on Thursday night. And that may be true. Roddick’s serve is still clocked in the 125 mph area. But still, it’s hard to believe McEnroe is ready to walk away from a game he not only loves with every breath he takes, but one in which he still has so much fun.
For McEnroe, it meant a return back to his roots—where he was able to ham it up with “arguments” with the chair umpire. Courier, meanwhile, was comfortable with his role as straight man—as Ed Norton to McEnroe’s Ralph Kramden.
“I do love to play,” said McEnroe before the pro-am doubles tournament, in which he was paired with UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma. “You never get that spirit of competition, but you can have a little more fun with it. Make sure you get the right guy that gets with the program, take it easy on the old man,” he said, nodding in Courier’s direction.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” joked Courier right back at McEnroe.
McEnroe, who won the match in three sets was even able to display some crazy athleticism, with behind-the-back volleys popping up, seemingly out of nowhere.
“You want to go out there and show you have something left, added McEnroe, who has transitioned marvelously into the booth where he is one of the top tennis broadcasters in the world. “If you can add a little flavor to the semifinal evening, it would be awesome.”
And Johnny Mac was also able to give back to community. During a break in play to repair a damaged net, McEnroe auctioned off two of his racquets—fetching $3,500 for each—raising a grand total of $7,000 which tennis’s “Bad Boy” donated to the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital. One of the racquets was purchased by Auriemma.