Let the (tennis) games begin!

With the start of qualifying rounds today (Aug. 17), the New Haven Open at Yale has officially begun. Here’s some last-minute news about the tournament, which is presented by First Niagara and will continue through Aug. 25 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale on Derby Avenue.

A legacy of tennis

Tournament officials unveiled refurbished tennis courts at New Haven’s McClain Park on Aug. 16. The project is part of the Fresh Courts program, established in 2010 by American Express and the U.S. Tennis Association to support local tennis in communities throughout the nation.

McClain was chosen for the renovations, in part, because of its close proximity to seven schools in and around the Hill neighborhood. Truman School, which is across the street from the park, has already partnered with the New Haven Open and Yale Athletics to create an after-school program called TEaM (Tennis, Education and Mentoring). The newly refurbished courts at McClain will give local youths a chance to practice tennis in between sessions at Yale’s Cullman-Heyman indoor courts.

Among those on hand for the unveiling ceremony was top-10-ranked player Andrea Petkovic, who who hosted a free clinic for local youth from the New Haven Boys’ and Girls’ Club.

Two more Americans join the field

Rising American star Sloane Stephens has moved into the main draw after a withdrawal of Kaia Kanepi due to injury, and fellow American Bethanie Mattek-Sands — known as the “Lady Gaga of tennis” because of her sometimes-audacious outifits — has been granted a wildcard into the main draw of the 2012 tournament.

In addition, four other Americans were granted wildcards into the New Haven Open qualifying tournament, including reigning NCAA singles and doubles champion Nicole Gibbs; University of Florida athlete Lauren Embree, who helped her school capture the NCAA team championship this year; 2011 Orange Bowl semifinalist and 17-year-old Sachia Vickery; and Lena Litvak, who received an automatic wildcard with her victory at the Yale Summer Championships.

A top-10 wildcard

2011 Wimbledon Champion, 2012 Olympian and World No. 6 Petra Kvitova has also been granted a wildcard into the 2012 New Haven Open at Yale.

Kvitova had a breakout year in 2011, winning seven titles including Wimbledon and the World Tennis Association (WTA) Championships. As a member of Czech Republic Fed Cup Team, the 22-year-old also helped her country win the international competition, going 6-0 in her singles matches throughout the year-long tournament.

Kvitova will be making her second career appearance at the New Haven Open, having last competed in 2010. She joins World No. 2 and 2012 Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska, World No. 8 and four-time defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, World No. 9 and French Open finalist Sara Errani and World No. 10 Marion Bartoli as the five players in the New Haven Open field ranked in the WTA Top 10.

Reminder: Yale discounts

The tournament is offering discounts to members of the Yale community. Faculty, staff, and students will receive 25% off individual box seats, with preferred seating on the north baseline. These seats regularly go for $55 for session 1 (Aug. 19) and rise in price throughout the tournament, peaking at $91 for the final round. Yale community members can also purchase middle-tier seats for $15 during sessions 1-12 (Aug. 19-25). These seats normally begin at $19 and peak at $44. In addition, $2 of every middle-tier ticket that is purchased will be donated to the Smilow Cancer Hospital Breast Center at Yale-New Haven.

The exclusive discount is valid whether purchasing tickets online or by phone. To order online, visit the tournament’s ticket website and enter promotion code 2012YALE; to purchase by phone, call 855-464-8366 and reference Yale University.

For more information about these and other events at the New Haven Open at Yale, visit the tournament’s website.