Earthquake evacuates Connecticut Tennis Center
Published 6:10 pm, Wednesday, August 24, 2011
NEW HAVEN -- There was that time bugs stopped play or the time when a faulty court surface postponed play for two days before the start of the tournament back in 1992.
And, of course, there have been almost yearly rain delays, including Hurricane Danny wreaking havoc on the tournament schedule two years ago.
Throughout its history as the Volvo International, the Pilot Pen and now the New Haven Open at Yale, the Connecticut Tennis Center has seen its fair share of unusual stoppages of play, but never what happened around 1:53 Tuesday afternoon.
"I was doing an interview with SI.com and all of a sudden the earth shook," tournament director Anne Worcester said. "Me and the reporter were looking around. She said, `The San Francisco in me would have said that was an earthquake,' And I said, `Oh no, we never have earthquakes in Connecticut.' I thought somebody was horsing around or jumping around on the flooring."
In actuality, the effects of a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va., caused the New Haven tennis center and surrounding grounds to shake, including at Stadium Court, where Elena Vesnina was leading Jelena Jankovic 2-0 in the first set of their match.
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Play was halted immediately and spectators -- an estimated 4,000 across the entire tennis center grounds -- were ordered to evacuate the stadium.
On-site emergency responders arrived on the scene immediately and began to access if there had been any structural damage to the building. Eventually, around 3:30, both the New Haven fire marshall, building inspector and structural engineer deemed it safe, allowing the players -- who'd been ushered to a nearby field to wait -- to return inside. Spectators were let back inside the grounds at 3:55.
In the interim, there was a lot of waiting as spectators milled around the grounds waiting for an official announcement when or if play would resume. Reactions ranged from some claiming it felt like a "bomb going off" to the more popular opinion of "I didn't feel anything."
Witnesses inside the Stadium Court also said that when they saw the ball boys begin fleeing from the court, they knew something was amiss.
"I was having lunch at the racquet club. It started shaking. We looked out the window at the court and they were evacuating the stands," Derby resident Jim McGuire said. "[An earthquake] was the last thing I thought about when I was coming here today."
Said Milford's Kathy Morales, "I thought about the tragedy at the State Fair in Indiana at the Sugarland concert, because we were inside the racquet club and it wasn't a fixed structure, so I knew we had to get out of there."
Although it was in the middle of a point, Vesnina wasn't too bothered by the earthquake or roughly two-hour delay as she held on to defeat Jankovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 for her first win in six matches against the former world No. 1. Vesnina said she didn't realize anything was wrong until she saw people moving en masse during the middle of play. Then she noticed the umpire chair swaying.
"It's something to say, I won the match after the earthquake," Vesnina said. "I will remember this the rest of my life."