Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wozniacki partnership a win-win deal for Yale

Yale football players look on as Caroline Wozniacki greets her boyfriend Rory McIlroy after her semifinal match at the New Haven Open Friday night.
(Photo by the New Haven Register's Melanie Stengel)

When loading up the Yahoo page yesterday afternoon, the first photo to appear on my computer screen was of a group of beaming Yale football players watching Caroline Wozniacki, the world's top-ranked women's tennis player, kissing reigning U.S. Open golf champion Rory McIlroy.

Talk about your free publicity. Following Monday's practice, I asked Yale football coach Tom Williams about the benefits from similar photos appearing on website and newspapers from not only coast to coast but on various points around the world.

"Any time you get any type of exposure from a recruiting standpoint it helps you," Williams said. "We can be on ESPN (ESPN2 televised Wozniacki's New Haven Open semifinal match in which the Yale squad was in the stands cheering her on), you have the U.S. Open champion and you have the No. 1 tennis player in the world wearing your colors, wearing our jersey. It helps your team because it is a great bonding event to be able take an evening off, go to a world-class tennis match and rub elbows with two superior athletes."

The relationship began back in 2009 when Williams and Wozniacki took part in a WTA publicity stunt at the Yale Bowl. Williams asked Wozniacki, then ranked eighth, to come over and speak to his team about life as an elite professional athlete. Wozniacki also spoke with the team in 2010 and the Bulldogs reciprocated by attending one of her matches. After the match, the team surrounded Wozniacki on the court with television cameras rolling and countless newspapers snapping photos as well.

Wozniacki was originally scheduled to play in the New Haven Open final at 5 p.m. on Saturday and was planning to come over for Yale's intrasquad scrimmage. But those plans fell through when the women's singles final was moved to 1 p.m. because of the rain heading into the area.

Williams said that there's a chance that Wozniacki could return to Yale after the U.S. Open to speak to Yale students.

"We are kind of mascots and she supports us," Williams said. "She follows us on our twitter page. It is just great from a team building standpoint and we definitely can use it to our advantage."

There had been rumblings about Wozniacki's relationship with McIlroy. Obviously, the fact that he was in New Haven all week and sitting next to Wozniacki's father in Caroline's players' box made it clear that there was something to those rumors. When Wozniacki and McIlroy exchanged a kiss on Stadium Court after Wozniacki's win over Francesca Schiavone, there could be no questioning the nature of the relationship.

Williams joked with Wozniacki that there are a lot of broken hearts on his football team although there are obviously no hard feelings as Yale gave McIlroy a Yale No. 96 jersey to wear after the match.

"Now Rory is one of us," Williams said. "He put on a Yale football jersey so we said he is a bullpup right now. I told her when I talked to her on the court that there are a bunch of broken hearts out there. She laughed but she said 'Coach, I like him A LOT.' I said 'OK, as long as you both continue to support Yale football.' She said 'absolutely."



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