In a short commercial for the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament featuring stars Caroline Wozniacki and Flavia Pennetta, a familiar Yalie made a cameo appearance on his home ground — the Yale Bowl.
“What’s happening to my field?” Football coach Tom Williams yells in the video. “Where’s the fifty-yard line?”
Armed with giant-sized novelty racquets, Wozniacki and Pennetta inform him that the Yale Bowl has been transformed into a tennis court — the largest in the world — at least for a short publicity stunt to promote the Pilot Pen Tennis tournament that took place on Aug. 21-29. The tennis court produced was four times the size of the normal 36-inch-by-78-inch tennis court, and it required the painting of new lines on the field as well as the acquisition of a net long enough to reach from sideline to sideline. Two weeks and two Yale football scrimmages later, members of Yale athletics hope the brief coverage will keep the spotlight on the University courts.
“I think they tried to get the Guinness Book of World Records people there,” Williams said. “But it needed to be permanent.”
Despite it being a temporary show, many Yalies noted the school spirit that the high-profile event inspired. “It really emphasizes why we have such a great institution — from distinguished professors and alums to world famous tennis players,” Alex Hess ’12 said.
Yale tennis player Connor Dawson ’10 said some members of the men and women’s tennis teams cut their summers short to watch the tournament’s semifinals in the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, which is two miles from the center of campus, in West Haven. Featuring eight courts and accommodations, Yale’s courts are well known as one of the finest indoor tennis facilities in the country.
“It’s definitely helped Yale’s recruiting,” Dawson said of Yale’s high class facilities.
Matt Van Tuinen, media relations director for the Pilot Pen Tour, said that the video segment was part of a promotion for for Sony Ericsson. The goal, Van Tuinen said, was to come up with a stunt that could take place in New Haven.
While the promotions team looked at a range of locations, such as areas on the Yale campus and various buildings around New Haven, the Yale Bowl was ultimately the only venue that allowed them to stage a stunt so large. The creation of the world’s largest tennis court was no easy task, Van Tuinen said.
“It took quite a bit to make this happen,” he said of the process, which was closed to the public. “There were a lot of details for such a small segment.”
Children were bussed in to perform as cheerleaders for the clip, and Assistant Athletics Director for Sports Publicity Steve Conn had to pull Williams away from the practice fields to participate. Media, both local and nationwide, were called in to see the video crew and tennis champions play ball.
Although Williams was not involved in the decision to convert the Yale Bowl as part of the publicity shoot, he said he was supportive of the event and was enthusiastic to get involved.
“Anything to bring attention to Yale football,” Williams said. “It was great fun and they really did a great job with it.”
“As a tennis player though,” he quipped, “I think I would have been a little intimidated to play on a court that large.”
Dawson explained that the size and the surface would have made playing on the world’s largest tennis court “very weird.”
But playing host to the Pilot Pen tournament has been far from weird for the tennis team. Player Sarah Guzick ’13 said that Yale’s new facilities, which opened last November, along with the recent Women’s Tennis Association event has helped to raise the profile of Yale as a top tennis school.
But, player Victoria Brook ’12 added, the recent professional tennis presence at Yale benefits more than just the University.
“The tournament itself gives great exposure to Yale Tennis,” she said. “But this exhibition … gives great exposure to women’s tennis worldwide.”
The Pilot Pen tournament is held annually just before the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year, the US Open.