Buzz set to open; Serena seen as big draw

The New York Buzz could be facing a Wimbledon singles champion as soon as their fifth match next wee

The New York Buzz will go quietly about their business starting on Thursday, while the tennis world points its attention to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where a pot­ential Wimbledon women’s singles final between Venus and Serena Williams is looming.

By the time the Buzz get on their new home court at the Washington Avenue Armory in Albany next week, there’s a good chance they’ll be greeting a newly minted Wimbledon champion as an opponent.

“Serena’s going to win the tourn­ament,” Buzz general manager Nitty

Singh predicted on Tuesday.

Williams, already a two-time Wimbledon singles winner and eight-time Grand Slam champ, will play for the Washington Kastles against the Buzz on Wednesday, July 9, in what will be the highlight of the Buzz’s 14-match season.

New York will have four matches under its belt by the time Will­iams arrives, playing at Delaware this Thursday and at St. Louis on Saturday before its home opener against Boston on Sunday. Next Tuesday, the Buzz will play at the New York Sportimes.

After 13 seasons playing outdoors at Central Park in Schenectady, the Buzz abruptly decided in May to move to the

Armory, where the team won’t have to worry about rainouts.

Besides a new home, the Buzz also have a new coach, Jay

Udwadia, and three new players, with doubles specialist Gabriela Navratilova as the only holdover from the team that lost in the World TeamTennis championship match last year.

Udwadia, who has coached the Fresno State men’s team for the last four years, replaced Jolene Watanabe, who has rehabilitated a hip injury and wants to go back on tour.

Williams is not new — as a Buzz opponent — nor is Anna Kourn­ikova, who will face the Buzz in

Albany on July 22 as a member of the St. Louis Aces. As the reigning U.S. Open champion fresh off a Wimbledon doubles championship with her sister, Williams played in front of a sold-out Central Park crowd in 2000. Kournikova played against the Buzz in 2004.

As of Tuesday, there were still tickets available for the Williams match, and it will be interesting to see how the Buzz draw at the Armory, which seats 3,500 for basketball.

Udwadia said it doesn’t matter who shows up on the other side of the net; the Buzz, one of the few WTT teams without a designated marquee player, are just trying to win and give the fans a good show.

“That’ll [Williams’ appearance] be exciting, but we’ll treat every match the same, whether we’re facing Serena Williams or someone with a lower ranking,” he said. “We’re professionals, and that’s how we’re going to handle it.”

Besides Navratilova, the Buzz lineup includes 20-year-old Russian Yaroslava Shvedova, 28-year-old Australian Nathan Healey and Patrick Briaud, a former University of California-Berkeley player who was signed on Monday to replace Vladimir Obradovic. Obradovic was injured during a tournament in Italy recently.

Shvedova won her first WTA Tour singles title last year in Bangalore, India. As of June 23, she was ranked No. 121 in the world in singles and No. 61 in doubles.

Navratilova is No. 79 in


“I think we have some great players,” Udwadia said. “Shvedova is ranked highly in both singles and doubles. Gabriela is probably the most experienced player we have. She’s played WTT and has been around the block. Nathan plays a big game. He likes to come in a lot, so we’ve got a lot of firepower on our roster. Patrick’s been doing solid on the doubles tour, and he’s real energetic.

“The way the format works, you’ve got to be your toes and try to get the crowd involved early. I know things can change right away, that’s why it’s important to focus on each individual point. Our goal is to win the matches and get the fans excited in the community. The marquee players are nice, but we want the W’s on the board.”

Buzz tickets can be purchased online at or through the Armory box office at 694-7160.

Individual match tickets are $39, $49 and $59 for the Williams and Kournikova matches, and $20 and $25 for all other matches. Season passes are available at $99 for adults and $69 for those 18 and under.


All matches 7 p.m.

July 3 — at Delaware; 5 — at St. Louis;

6 — BOSTON; 8 — at New York Sportimes;

9 — WASHINGTON (Serena Williams); 11 — at Washington; 12 — at Boston;

13 — PHILADELPHIA; 15 — at Kansas City; 18 — SACRAMENTO; 19 — at Philadelphia; 20 — NEW YORK SPORTIMES; 22 — ST. LOUIS (Anna Kournikova); 23 — DELAWARE.

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