Kim Clijsters threw out the first pitch after meeting the Mets team in Queens on Friday in New York. A day earlier, she was the USTA’s guest of honor at the draw ceremony (AP photo via Yahoo! Sports).
RalphLauren.com pulled out all the stops on Thursday afternoon for an event featuring Venus Williams, in which Venus took questions from online submissions from around the world in a live clinic. At the Sportime Randall’s Island tennis center in New York, Venus was on court for the first time in a public setting since her eyebrow-raising loss to Tsvetana Pironkova in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. But instead of thwacking errors and a look of confusion, Venus was all smiles and tennis knowledge in the clinic, which was hosted by the British TV personality (and former player) Annabel Croft.
Venus, who is the no. 3 seed at the US Open and one of the favorites though she hasn’t been on tour in two months, talked fitness, forehands and gave plenty of tennis tips from her 26 years of experience on the court. The event was hosted by Ralph Lauren and Mercedes Benz, based on RL’s homepage for viewers to log in and watch live while Venus answered questions relayed by Croft. (Watch a full replay of the clinic here or click on the image after the jump.)
“It’s good for me to remember the basics when I’m about to play a big tournament,” Venus said, referring to the Open. Venus partnered with Ralph Lauren in the design of the dress she wore, a white number emblazoned with the logo of Eleven, Venus’s clothing line.
Guests were greeted with sweet mint tea, pistachio ice cream sandwiches and caramelized popcorn on the upper deck at Randall’s Island, which hosts the New York Sportimes during the World Team Tennis seasons. Male models clad in red Ralph Lauren polos dished out the goods as Venus strode through the crowd on her way to hair and make up (this was a live, online clinic, after all).
The clinic was a part of a myriad of events happening in New York this week, which all lead up to the big show at Flushing Meadows starting on Monday.
Events have been held every day this week and are hosted by a variety of brands that associate themselves with the Open, like Ralph Lauren, which supplies apparel for ball persons, line judges and chair umpires during the tournament.
Earlier in the week, Evian hosted an event celebrating youth in which Maria Sharapova was present, and parties were put on by Nike (where Serena Williams was in attendance, her controversial boot in tow) and Babolat, the racket maker, which featured one of its stars, Andy Roddick. adidas had stars Andy Murray, Ana Ivanovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Justine Henin in downtown Manhattan Friday night to cut the birthday cake of the Barricade shoe, which turned 10 this year.
While Venus was busy instructing, defending champion Kim Clijsters was the guest star for the US Open draw ceremony inside a media room at Arthur Ashe Stadium. The ceremony has become something of a March Madness-themed event for the USTA, which reveals the draws (brackets) and TV analysts break them down in a one-hour special.
Over the weekend, parties will be hosted by Dunlop and the USTA itself, which is highlighted by the Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day that will be attended by the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, not to mention kid-famous pop stars Demi Novato and the Jonas Brothers.
“Obviously the US Open is most desirable for Maria’s sponsors,” said Sharapova’s agent, Max Eisenbud at a Cole Haan event Thursday night at the New Museum in the Lower East Side. “The sponsors get one hour, which always has to be in the evenings since she’s doing something during the day. She has practice and treatment, so we’re lucky to have these partners to be flexible with us.”
But for the players, striking a balance between living the New York life for a week and preparing for the year’s final slam can be a delicate situation.
“You know, balance with practice for the event,” Venus concluded. “It’s fun to have opportunities like this.”
Eisenbud agrees, but thinks that only a few players – Sharapova and Venus included – have to deal with such a crazy pre-Slam schedule.
“When you become that successful, it’s part of it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad, whether or not it helps the players take their minds off the court or what. But only a handful of them actually have to deal with it.”
Click on the image to watch the full Venus clinic, or select exactly what you want to see via the options once on the RL page.