pilot pen tennis

Around the corner: Baghdatis is the top seed in New Haven

Only a week to go before the final Grand Slam of 2010 and there is one last stop on the tour before we get to Flushing Meadows. This week offers the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament in New Haven where Marcos Baghdatis is the number one seed. The ATP World Tour 250 level tourney offers some lower ranked players a chance to get some match play in before the U.S. Open. While it is often a gamble to play so close to the start of the Open, it is a necessary chance that some struggling players must take in order to gain some much needed momentum.

After having a quiet mid-season stretch up until August, Baghdatis has rediscovered the game that brought him to his only Grand Slam final in Australia in 2006. He made the finals in Washington where he lost to David Nalbandian and then the semi-finals this past week in Cincinnati where he was defeated by Roger Federer. I’m a bit surprised that Baghdatis is going to play this week as he has had plenty of matches under his belt recently. Maybe he simply does not want to lose any of the progress he has been making.

Other players in his section of the draw to lookout for are Sergiy Stakhovsky and Taylor Dent. The Ukrainian Stakhovsky has been quiet of late, but did win a grass court tournament in June in the Netherlands. Dent meanwhile, continues to make small improvements in his game and played a tough match against Rafael Nadal in Cincy last week where he fell in the second round. Either one could emerge from this quarter of the draw in New Haven, especially if Baghdatis pulls out.

Mardy Fish is supposed to be the fourth seed but I would be absolutely shocked if he played. Appearing in the finals in Cincy on Sunday and playing six matches in seven days is too much tennis to then push it the week before a Slam. That leaves Germany’s Michael Berrer as the likeliest candidate to emerge from this section of the draw. The big serving Berrer impressed me in Toronto two weeks ago with his powerful game and had promising results on hard courts earlier in the season.

On the other side of the tournament we might get an intriguing second round encounter between rising star Alexandr Dolgopolov and struggling American veteran James Blake. Dolgopolov is the youngest player in the top one hundred in the world and possesses a very diverse game and lethal first serve. Blake has had a summer from hell and most recently was bounced in the first round in Cincinnati by Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-0. I pick Dolgopolov as a good darkhorse selection to be the eventual champion in New Haven

Fernando Gonzalez is also in this quarter, and the third seed is arguably the most talented player in the entire draw. Coming back from a left calf injury, it will be interesting to see how he handles himself.

The final quarter in New Haven has Xavier Malisse and second seeded Tomaz Bellucci as the favorites. I liked Malisse’s chances given his experience and hard-court talent.

Regardless of who advances this week, there will be a new champion in New Haven. Defending champion Fernando Verdasco is not present this year, allowing somebody else to hoist the trophy. While I wouldn’t put any faith in the eventual winner to go deep in New York, it could give them some confidence to at least win a few rounds and trouble some of the big guys.

Sam Querrey Clinches 2009 Olympus US Open Series Men’s Title

August 26, 2009 – Sam Querrey clinched the 2009 Olympus US Open Series men’s title today with a 7-5, 6-3 round of 16 win over Bjorn Phau at Pilot Pen Tennis, the final Series event of the season in New Haven. With the victory, Querrey ties Andy Murray in the Olympus US Open Bonus Challenge men’s standings, but officially wins the overall Series title by virtue of the tie-breaker (greatest number of 2009 Olympus US Open Series matches won in the current year). Juan Martin del Potro finishes the Series in third place.

Since the Olympus US Open Series began in 2004, every Series winner had been, or went on to be, No. 1 in the world rankings. Querrey will now compete for the largest payout in tennis history at the 2009 US Open — $2.6 million ($1.6 million for winning the US Open and a $1 million bonus for winning the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series).

On the women’s side, Elena Dementieva currently holds the lead in the Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge women’s standings. Flavia Pennetta can still capture the overall Series title — by winning the Pilot Pen Tennis event at New Haven — while Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli could finish the Series in second or third place.

Querrey and the women’s winner of the Olympus US Open Series will compete for $1 million in bonus prize money at the 2009 US Open. The second and third place finishers will compete for $500,000 and $250,000, respectively.

Rafael Nadal won the 2008 Olympus US Open Series men’s title and Dinara Safina won the women’s title.  In 2007, Roger Federer collected the biggest paycheck in tennis history — $2.4 million — for winning US Open and the Olympus US Open Series. In 2005, Kim Clijsters also captured both the US Open and the Olympus US Open Series, winning $2.2 million — the largest purse in women’s sports history.

Now in its sixth season, the Olympus US Open Series has established itself as a true regular season of hard court tennis, linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open. In 2008, Olympus became the first title sponsor of the Series. The Olympus US Open Series is also supported by sponsors American Express, Evian and MassMutual Financial Group.