Tennis Olympians To Battle Each Other, & Cancer
by Allan Appel | Jul 11, 2012 4:27 pm
Posted to: State
“It’s like having a big diamond ring on your finger.”
That’s how up-and-coming tennis star Varvara Lepchenko described becoming a U.S. citizen last year. She said jewel status also applies to representing her new country in the Olympics next month in London. The month after, she’ll be playing tennis in New Haven.
Lepchenko was on hand in New Haven Wednesday afternoon for a light workout on a large pink-ribboned treadmill (more on that later) at a press conference before a crowd outside First Niagara Bank at Church and Elm.
Lepchenko is one of 18 Olympians, including four of the top 10 women players in the world, who have signed up as of the deadline this week. The field is led by Wimbledon finalist and world No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska and returning four-time defending champ and world No. 9 player Caroline Wozniacki. Worcester called it the strongest field ever thus far in the 15 years of women’s tennis in New Haven.
She attributed that to the Olympics this year, where top players hit the ball on grass in July in London and can take advantage of New Haven’s tournament to help transition to the U.S. Open in New York—which, like New Haven’s tourney, is played on hard court. It begins just two days after New Haven concludes.
After longtime New Haven tournament backer Pilot Pen discontinued its sponsorship in 2010, Yale and First Niagara among others rallied to keep the event going. It became a women-only event. Click here for how that big point was won.
After their remarks Wednesday, Lepchenko, Worcester and others speakers pressed “quick start” on the five treadmills on which they had been standing, and began to accumulate miles. They were launching the “pink ribbon run,” by which all miles logged on one big treadmill, to be set up at the tournament, will translate into dollars for breast cancer research at Smilow Cancer Center. Last year $25,000 was raised.
To raise even more money for breast cancer, Worcester also launched a “15-Love Promotion.” To celebrate 15 years of women’s tennis in New Haven and for 15 days only, beginning today through July 26, all middle-tier tickets will be on sale for $15 (up to a 66 percent discount for fans). Additionally, $2 of each ticket sold will be donated directly to Smilow Cancer Hospital’s Breast Center. First Niagara will also make a matching donation of $1 per ticket sold (up to $5,000) to Smilow.
Lepchenko logged .37 miles during the press event. She joked between that and signing autographs and fielding questions about her favorite restaurant in New Haven (Barcelona) and favorite items (empanadas), it was a good multi-tasking workout.
Worcester, a cancer survivor, said that with the disease afflicting so many people, it’s appropriate an all-women’s sporting event benefit breast cancer research. Connecticut ranks highest in incidence of the disease nationwide. However, due to awareness, screenings, and innovative treatments, Connecticut’s mortality of those cases is in the bottom half of states, said Smilow’s Dr. Anees B. Chagpar, while on her treadmill. “We’re picking up a lot of breast cancer, but we’re curing it too,” she said.
Sporting a pink fight-breast-cancer ribbon beneath her broad shoulder and beside her strong bicep, Lepchenko lauded the effort.“I lost a grandmother to cancer, and I never knew her,” she said.
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