After last year's helicopter entrance by Elton John, tennis fans are looking forward to this year's Advanta Tennis Championship, which is returning to Villanova for the second straight year next week.
This year the women will be in the spotlight, though "the women aren't quite as flamboyant as the men; most will be showing up in Porsches," Barbara Perry, executive director of the tournament, said. Some of the stars expected to play are Venus Williams, Alexander Stevenson and Lisa Raymond of Wayne, ranked No. 30 in the world. There will be 25 other top players from the Women's Tennis Association tour.
The draw to determine the matches took place earlier today, with play set to begin Monday. The finals will take place on Sunday.
Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport were planning on competing but both withdrew due to injuries: Williams has been out of commission for the past two and half months due to surgery she had this summer on her left knee; defending champion Davenport had foot surgery Wednesday and will miss the remainder of the season.
"I really miss playing tennis and I can't wait to come back and compete, however I feel that I need more time to prepare and get myself in the best shape possible. I'll be back ... better than ever," Williams said at a press conference earlier this week. Doctors advised her to withdraw from the tournament and skip the remainder of the season as well. Williams and Davenport are ranked No. 3 and 4 in the world, respectively.
"We wish both Lindsay and Serena all the best as they recover from their injuries and while we will miss them, we are very excited about the events return to the Philadelphia area," Peter Fishbach, tournament chairman of the Advanta Championships, said.
The tournament will take place in the Pavilion. According to Perry, the tournament started in 1991 and was held in the old civic center. Tournament directors decided to move it to Villanova. "I've always liked the area and facilities," said Perry, "the facilities are in the perfect location and the perfect size."
In 2001, the WTA final was moved to Germany, and tournament organizers decided an event the week before the final in the United States was unnecessary. When the final moved to Los Angeles last year, organizers brought the Advanta back.
Tickets for the matches are available online, by phone, and at the door. Prices for general admission range from $10 to $60. On the first day of play, tickets for grandstand seating will cost $10, rising to $40 by the end of the week. More expensive tickets are available in the better seating areas. The tournament finals will also be shown on CN8.