After 21 years of women’s tennis, Connecticut Open tournament ending

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After 21 years of hosting some of the biggest names in women’s professional tennis, New Haven will no longer stage a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Premier tournament now that the Connecticut Open sold its sanction on the WTA calendar.

In the five months since the conclusion of the 2018 tournament, the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut (TFC) board conducted an extensive analysis of the financial model of the Connecticut Open and deemed it is not viable without a title sponsor. Following an exhaustive sponsor search — and after careful deliberation — the TFC Board decided to sell the Premier WTA sanction to APG, a leading sports and entertainment company with a footprint in Asia. The tournament will take place in week 37 of the calendar, from Sept. 9-15, 2019, in Zhengzhou City, China.

While the sale means that the tournament — a celebrated event on the WTA calendar since 1998 — will not take place in New Haven in August 2019 and beyond, the TFC board is exploring whether another WTA or professional tennis event can be drawn to the city at a more sustainable level.

The Connecticut Open was the third-best-attended women-only WTA tournament in 2018 and a not-for-profit 501c3 charitable organization that has generated more than $10 million annually in economic impact for the City of New Haven and State of Connecticut. It provides significant philanthropic support for local organizations, as well as attracting the top female players from around the globe to New Haven the week before the U.S. Open.

It has been an amazing 21-year run for women’s professional tennis in New Haven, and we are truly grateful to all the fans, volunteers, players, media and sponsors involved,” said tournament director Anne Worcester. “While we remember our great champions, we are most proud of the benefits the tournament has brought to the local community. In particular we would like to thank the State of Connecticut, City of New Haven, Board of Alders, Yale University, Yale New Haven Health, WTA, USTA and USTA New England, all of whom have supported and contributed to the Connecticut Open for more than two decades.”

In 2018 alone, the Connecticut Open raised more than $20,000 for the Breast Center at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven (it has donated more than $150,000 since 2011). It collected $8,152, plus 25 pounds of food, for the ShopRite Partners in Caring Food Drive supporting the Connecticut Food Bank, and it partnered with Yale University to host the annual Salovey-Swensen Extravaganza fundraiser, which supports Yale’s community-based activities and this year set a record by raising more than $1.6 million ($19 million since 1998).

Since 2004 the tournament has supported year-round tennis education and mentoring programs in the New Haven community and beyond. New HYTEs (New Haven Youth Tennis & Education) will continue to provide programs for inner city youth at the Connecticut Tennis Center, which will remain under the stewardship of the TFC.

Handsome Dan at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.
Handsome Dan at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center during the 2017 tournament. (Photo credit: Michael Marsland)

Yale is fortunate that New Haven has such a rich cultural life, thanks in part to the Connecticut Open,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “It has been an integral part of the city’s summer experience for the past 21 years and has been particularly popular in the Yale community. I commend Anne Worcester for building and sustaining this remarkable event. I also wish to thank the many volunteers who helped make each year a success.”

Mayor Toni Harp added: “The Connecticut Open has had an undeniably positive impact on New Haven over the past 21 years, in terms of economic impact, its commitment to fulfilling its non-profit mission by giving back to local causes, and in putting the City of New Haven, its restaurants, culture, and Yale University on center court in front of a global audience. We remain hopeful that professional tennis will return to New Haven in the very near future.”