NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Feb. 1, 2019) – After 21 years of hosting some of the biggest names in women’s professional tennis, New Haven will no longer stage a WTA Premier tournament after 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 has made the decision to sell the Premier WTA sanction to APG, a leading Sports and Entertainment company with a strong footprint in Asia. The tournament will take place in week 37 of the calendar, from September 9-15 2019, in Zhengzhou City, China.
While the sale means that the tournament - a stalwart and celebrated event on the WTA calendar since 1998 - will not take place in New Haven in August 2019 and beyond, the TFC Board is committed to exploring whether another WTA or professional tennis event can be drawn to the city at a more sustainable level.
The Connecticut Open, the third best attended women’s-only WTA tournament in 2018 and a not-for-profit 501c3 charitable organization, has generated more than $10 million annually in economic impact for the City of New Haven and State of Connecticut and 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 US 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. We have many memories to cherish both on and off the court.”
“Our non-profit foundation is grateful to have had the opportunity to positively impact Connecticut,” said Chris Shackelton, Chairman of the TFC. “As we look to the future, we will remain actively involved in New Haven, leveraging our resources and strong partnerships with Yale University and Yale New Haven Health, to invest in valuable programs and events for the benefit of our State and local community.”
The WTA is looking at several opportunities for new International-level events in the United States in the week prior to the US Open, one such event could begin as early as this year, with a second in 2020.
“The Connecticut Open has been one of the most beloved tournaments on the WTA Tour for 21 years,” said WTA CEO Steve Simon. “We want to recognize and extend our appreciation to the Connecticut Open’s dedicated team and fanbase for their years of commitment and passion for women’s tennis.”
The Connecticut Open is best known for being a launchpad for the WTA stars of tomorrow. The 2018 Connecticut Open title was won by Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who collected her maiden WTA trophy in New Haven and this week entered the Top 10 for the first time. Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep also won their first Premier titles in New Haven. Past champions include Steffi Graf, Lindsay Davenport (2 titles), Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams (4), Justine Henin, Wozniacki (4) and Petra Kvitova (3).
Kvitova, the Australian Open finalist and WTA world No.2, said: “The Connecticut Open was always one of my favorite tournaments and continued to get better every year. On behalf of the players, I would like to thank Anne Worcester, the City of New Haven, Yale and most important the fans who came to watch us, who supported us through the years and who made us feel welcome in their beautiful city.”
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 ShopRite Partners in Caring Food Drive supporting the Connecticut Food Bank and 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.
“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.”
Mark Ojakian, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy and TFC Board Member, added: “The tournament has proven to be of such value to the State and the City of New Haven. It stayed in New Haven due to efforts by many people, when there was almost certainty five years ago that it would leave for another State. Five additional years of economic impact, marketing of the State around the world and year-round community outreach programs is something to be celebrated.”
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."