Yale trio to join Martina Navratilova in Opening Night exhibition matches

Young woman playing tennis
Samantha Martinelli, a member of the Yale College Class of 2021, is a top-ranked U.S. junior player and a blue-chip recruit to the Yale women’s tennis team. She is among three Yalies who will compete in an exhibition match featuring Martina Navratilova on Aug. 21. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Martinelli)

When sports legend Martina Navratilova takes to stadium court on Monday, Aug. 21 at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale, she will have the distinct edge in experience — but not the home-court advantage.

Martina Navratilova standing on court with hands on hips
Martina Navratilova

Navratilova — who holds 59 of professional tennis’ coveted grand slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles — will headline the Connecticut Open’s opening night in a pair of exhibition sets that also features a trio of Yalies.

Following the Opening Night Ceremony Presented by Yale and a marquee match of the tournament’s WTA singles main draw starting at 7 p.m., Navratilova will team with Cameron Lickle, a former captain of the United States Naval Academy tennis team, against Lickle’s business partner, the seven-time grand slam men’s singles champion Mats Wilander, and a WTA player to be named. Next up will be what tournament director Anne Worcester described as “a Yale extravaganza,” in which Navratilova will appear with and against former Yale men’s tennis No. 1 players Marc Powers ’13 and Jeff Dawson ’09 — joined by Yale’s newest tennis star, Samantha (Sam) Martinelli, a newly minted member of the Yale College Class of 2021 and a blue-chip recruit to the women’s tennis team.

As a freshman, it is such an honor to be able to represent Yale at such an esteemed event so early in my college career,” Martinelli said. “I look forward to competing hard and embracing this amazing opportunity. Go Bulldogs!”

Martinelli, who comes to Yale from Denver, Colorado, won both the Asics Easter Bowl and the National Clay Court Singles Championship in 2015 in the 16-and-under division, in which she rose to No. 2 in the national rankings. She also will compete as a “wild card” entry in the Connecticut Open qualifying singles, giving her a chance to earn a slot in the tournament’s main draw — all before she takes part in the Aug. 25 move-in day for first-year students in Yale College, where she will be a member of Jonathan Edwards College.

A composite image of two men playing tennis
Marc Powers ’13 (left) and Jeff Dawson ’09, both veterans of the Yale men’s tennis team, will be part of a special exhibition match on opening night of the Connecticut Open. (Photographs courtesy of Business Insider Singapore [left] and Jeff Dawson.)

Rounding out the mixed doubles exhibition will be two veterans of the Yale courts. Dawson, a political science major in Morse College who graduated from Yale in 2009, was team captain and the No. 1 singles player for the Bulldogs. He and his brothers Connor and Kyle (also former Yale tennis captains) recently launched the online tennis coaching platform rhabit.com. Rhabit’s mission is “to spread the game of tennis and make top-level coaching accessible to the world,” Dawson explained.

Powers, also a political science major, was in Ezra Stiles and graduated in 2013. After a junior career in which he held the No. 1 ranking in New England for seven straight years, he was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles at Yale. Like Martinelli, he had the chance to go toe-to-toe with the professionals as an undergraduate: He appeared in the qualifying singles draw in New Haven (at what was then the Pilot Pen International, a men’s professional tournament) in 2009, and in the doubles main draw a year later. Powers now is a hedge fund research analyst at Samlyn Capital.

Martinelli, Dawson, and Powers will also be on hand earlier in the evening of Aug. 21 to meet fellow members of the Yale community during a reception at the stadium hosted by President Peter Salovey. The gathering will take place in the courtside club overlooking the stadium and is open to all Yale faculty and staff members, students, alumni, and their guests who purchase tickets for the Connecticut Open evening matches (tournament session 3). Gates open at 5 p.m., with Yale musical entertainment on the tournament grounds beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the reception opening at 6 p.m.

Tickets are still available, and Yale affiliates can benefit from discounts and special offers for all sessions of the tournament. Use the code CO17YALE at the Connecticut Open website to purchase discounted tickets in a special section reserved for members of the Yale community. The code qualifies for “buy one, get one free” on all gold- and silver-level tickets for opening night and may also be used for a 25% discount on gold- or silver-level tickets for any other session.

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Media Contact

Alison Coleman: alison.coleman@yale.edu,