The Connecticut Open is heading to China

By Owen Meech

After 21 years of hosting the Connecticut Open, New Haven is forced to say goodbye to professional tennis.

Former WTA world number one Simona Halep at the Connecticut Open in 2014.

Former WTA world number one Simona Halep at the Connecticut Open in 2014.

The WTA Premier tournament, which took place annually at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale, is now moving across the globe to its new home in China.

Since the conclusion of the final tournament in 2018, the Tennis Foundation of Connecticut (TFC) board conducted an analysis of the financial model of the Connecticut Open and deemed it is no longer viable without a title sponsor.

The TFC Board decided after an extensive sponsor search to sell the Premier WTA sanction to APG, a leading Sports and Entertainment company prominent in Asia. The tournament will now take place in September in Zhengzhou City.

The Connecticut Open was the third best attended women’s-only WTA tournament in 2018 and has generated more than $10 million annually in economic impact for the City of New Haven and State of Connecticut.

Taking place every August, the tournament has long served a warmup for the US Open, attracting top female players from around the world, such as former champions Venus Williams, Caroline Wozniacki and Petra Kvitova.

“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,” Tournament Director Anne Worcester in a statement. “While we remember our great champions, we are most proud of the benefits the tournament has brought to the local community.”

Worcester never could find the help she needed to continue funding the tournament, approaching 88 companies about becoming the title sponsor before 2012.

Under Gov. Dannel Malloy, the state eventually purchased the event for $618,000 and turned it into a 501(C)(3) nonprofit, guaranteeing it would remain in Connecticut.

The goal was for the event to become self-sufficient, but instead time and money expired.

Ian Leichter, a senior at Quinnipiac University, is one of many feeling nostalgic about the end of an era, as the Connecticut Open provided him with his first internship experience.

“I met some great people and learned a lot about the real world,” Leichter said.

Despite the event’s conclusion, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp added a glimmer of hope for tennis fans across the state.

“The Connecticut Open has had an undeniably positive impact on New Haven over the past 21 years,” Harp said. “We remain hopeful that professional tennis will return to New Haven in the very near future.”