August 25, 2011

Hang with the Champs at the New Haven Open

My very first guest blogger, features editor Marisa Nadolny at The Day - a daily newspaper based in New London, Conn. - is taking the reins today here at Stefcations. She was lucky enough to check out the New Haven Open earlier this week, a tennis tournament held every August in - you guessed it - New Haven, Conn. Interested in tickets? The tournament runs through this Saturday if you still want in.

Be sure to check Marisa out via her blog, "Fear No Recipe," or on Twitter @TheMDesk. A smart and fabulous writer by day, she's also my own personal Twitter guru and, by night, harbors a secret talent as a ridiculously good RockBand drummer. She does not disappoint!

Unlike my colleague Stef, I’m what nice people would call a homebody and what mean people call a shut-in. My Hobbit-like tendency to prefer a quiet evening at home with Netflix is only trumped by truly spectacular food and fun.

Watch the pros from surprisingly good seats
at this week's New Haven Open.
(Photo by Marisa Nadolny.)
The New Haven Open (Pilot Pen, once upon a time; the Volvo-something-or-other even further back) is one of those spectacular events that gets me off my duff. World-class tennis players come to the always-fab city of New Haven for two weeks at a delightfully intimate venue at Yale.

This is no exhibition. These players are on their way to the U.S. Open, and they are most definitely in it to win it.

The stadium at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale is transformed to what I call “Tennis Land,” with a bevy of food and drink booths (a new surprise this year is a crepes stand!), info stands, Pro Shop, and freebies. (When Schick sponsored the tournament, tennis fans could pick up free Intuition razors. Ah the salad days. This year I got some tea, thanks to Steffi Graf's new project.) The stadium itself is not too big, not too small, and there really isn’t a bad seat in the joint.

But what’s even better about a tennis tourney like the New Haven Open is this: Fans must behave. There’s little to none of this unfortunate drop-off in civility one encounters at the movies and at concerts. Ushers, court officials, and other handler types ensure fans keep quiet, don’t move around in the stands during play (therefore no one’s view is blocked), and God help you if a player catches you snapping flash photos (at a recent match, Caroline Wozniacki had the ref call out some dinkus who was shooting with a flash in the stands. She also busted another fool who was making kooky noises from the stands while she was trying to serve. That’s my kind of gal.)

But the super bonus round to an event like the New Haven Open is the chance that you’ll spot a celebrity. This year’s big surprise celeb was golf champ Rory McIlroy, on hand to cheer on his gal, Wozniacki. A few years back, John Mayer was sitting courtside to support his Fairfield pal James Blake. I spotted the Buff Girl herself, Ellen Barrett, another year and nearly went all googly. 

However, this is a tennis tournament, and even if you don’t know a ton about tennis (I learned how to keep score in tennis by playing the Nintendo version of the game as a kid and now as a Wii Tennis champion), the play you get to watch at the New Haven Open is truly thrilling. On Tuesday night, we watched a spectacular match between Slovenia’s Polona Hercog and the clear favorite, Wozniacki, of Denmark. Most folks expected Woz to dispatch Hercog in short order, and while a third set wasn’t necessary, Hercog brought her proverbial A-game and gave us viewers a fantastic match

Thanks to the day’s freak earthquake, the day session between the U.S.’s Christina McHale (yeah, she’s 19 and on her way to stardom) and Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro was delayed into the evening, so we got to watch the end of that match, in which McHale destroyed her opponent. Wozniacki takes on McHale tonight, and I’m beyond annoyed I don’t have tickets for the match.

The cherry on top is that New Haven is so drive-able and user-friendly, it’s super easy to find the Yale Bowl, and while it’s a drag that it’s $10 to park at the venue, everything else is so well organized that most folks become enchanted long before their first courtside cocktail. BUT, to make things even more jolly easy, shuttle service is available from several points in downtown New Haven. Go here for a schedule.

For the complete dizzying spread of info about the New Haven Open and the players, go to

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