New Haven Open eyes Venus Williams as potential wildcard entry
NEW HAVEN-- Over the next 24 hours, each time New Canaan's Anne Worcester's cell phone rings or buzzes with another incoming e-mail, it's likely to be an agent, or an agent's assistant, or perhaps even the player herself, looking to see if the remaining aces that Worcester still has up her sleeve have been put down on the table.
The New Haven Open at Yale starts in earnest on Monday but Thursday at 4 p.m. is the deadline to ask for a wildcard entry into the tournament.
Worcester, the tournament director, has three enter-the-tournament-free cards left but who will get them? Well, that's the $64,000 question.
"It's so different from last year when we had three Top 10 player wild card requests in July and early August. This year, it's been silent.
Most players said to me in Miami and in phone calls and e-mails, `Let's see how it goes in Toronto and Cincinnati,'" Worcester said Tuesday at a ceremony to open a set of refurbished tennis courts at Wilbur Cross High School. "We've given one to [American] Christina McHale, who's having a very good summer, but there are several players on my radar."
And they are... drum roll, please:
Venus Williams, the four-time and undefeated Pilot Pen champ (1999-2002), who pulled out of last week's tournament in Toronto and this week's event in Cincinnati with a viral illness, and hasn't played a single match on hardcourt all season; French Open champ Na Li, who lost her only match in Toronto and won her opening match in Cincinnati on Tuesday; Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova, who lost her second round match in Toronto and is skipping Cincinnati; Jelena Jankovic, who lost her only match in Toronto and won on Tuesday in Cincinnati; and Marion Bartoli, who lost in the finals to Serena Williams in Stanford, lost her only match in Toronto and is not playing in Cincinnati.
"We've been closely tracking several players and that's because they've had fewer matches than they probably hoped for, or they're coming back from injury, " Worcester said. "I'm waiting to hear from Venus. I've told her agent that I'm doing the `Venus Vigil.' I don't know if no news is good news. I don't know how to read it. She's played just six matches in six months, it's not like she's had lots of matches. She's been out for a long time."
Landing Williams is obviously the golden ticket for Worcester but A): has she recovered enough from her illness? B): will she decide that needs to play some hardcourt matches and enter in New Haven? or C): will she decide to continue resting and head straight for New York?
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Williams, 31, played just three matches at the Australian Open in January, losing to Andrea Petkovic in the round of 32. She took the next five months off to recover from hip and abdominal injuries and played at Eastbourne, losing in the quarters and at Wimbledon, losing in the round of 16. Overall, she is just 7-3 on the season.
Not exactly the kind of build-up you need to prepare for the final major of the season, right? Worcester sure hopes so.
"It would be likely, if she's healthy," said Worcester about the possibility of Williams requesting a wild card to New Haven. "So, I'm waiting to hear [on Venus]."
One player that won't be coming to New Haven is world No. 2 Kim Clijsters, who has trying to recover from an abdominal muscle tear.
According to Worcester, Clijster's agent said her status for the U.S. Open is still very much up in the air.
Other than that, Worcester is eyeing Li, the French Open champ, who also won at Sydney (beating Clijsters), reached the finals at the Australian Open (losing to Clijsters) and is 28-11 this season. And Kvitova, who won at Brisbane, Paris (beating Clijsters), Madrid and reached the finals at Eastbourne. She's 44-9 this season.
"Both Kvitova and Li are in the same position, they both only have two U.S. Open series tournaments this summer and they both only got two matches under their belts last week," Worcester said. "So they are prime candidates for wild cards if they do not go deep in Cincinnati.
"I've got three [wild cards] left. Two of the three have to go to a Top 20 player at the end of last year but all these players are on that list, so we'll see."