By Jennifer Tuohy, Island Eye News Contributing Editor
Photos courtesy Volvo Car Open
“If you love tennis, this is the place to be,” said a Tennis Channel commentator last Sunday afternoon. And he wasn’t wrong. Thanks to the Lowcountry’s erratic spring weather, Charleston tennis fans were gifted a spectacular day of tennis at the Volvo Car Open on Sunday, April 8. After a washed out Saturday, eight top-level matches were played on the green clay at Daniel Island’s Family Circle Stadium, starting with the men’s legend’s event featuring Andy Roddick, Mark Philippoussis, Tommy Haas and Michael Chang. The men were followed by two women’s singles semi-finals, a doubles semifinal and then the two finals. It was a whirlwind day and this time the weather cooperated.
The only thing missing was an American to root for in the championship match.
Fan favorite Madison Keys fell at the semis stage in a spectacular three-set match that saw two tiebreaks and each player with match point opportunities. Keys lost in the final set tiebreak to eventual winner Kiki Bertens, a 26-yearold from The Netherlands, who played Juila Georges of Germany in the final.
Keys will be back though, in part because of the warm reception she receives here. “Charleston fans are always amazing,” she said. “It’s always so great to have kind of the home crowd whenever I come here. And it’s definitely not going to be the last time I’ll be here.”
Bertens, ranked 27th in the world, beat the German Georges, 13th in the world, in straight sets, dropping just 3 games to win 6-2, 6-1. This was Bertens’ third appearance in Charleston, and until Sunday, she had not dropped a set all week. The Dutch No. 1 becomes the first player from her country to win in Charleston, and the trophy is the biggest win of her career so far. Clay is definitely her favorite surface, she’s been a semifinalist at the French Open in 2016 and has won all five of her career titles on clay.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Bertens said of her performance in the tournament. “I think I cannot really realize it yet, but I’m just so happy and proud I think of myself. It’s a great start of the clay court season, and yeah, hopefully still more to come, but this one I have already and I’m really happy with that.”
In the doubles final, Alla Kudryavtseva and Katarina Srebotnik beat Andreja Klepac and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 6-3, 6-3 to take the title.
The nine-day Volvo Car Open (formerly the Family Circle Cup) is the largest women’s-only tennis tournament in North America. While it is in the international spotlight and broadcast on The Tennis Channel, the event has a truly local flavor with hundreds of volunteers from all around the area – including many from the sea islands – helping make the event a success. Additionally, the players really get into the spirit of Charleston when they come here. Last year Sloane Stephens spent time with local school children and this year American Bernarda Pera visited U.S. service members at Joint Base Charleston. A group of players stopped by MUSC Children’s Hospital to spend time with young patients there; and Englishwoman Johanna Konta joined Japan’s Naomi Osaka to play a little makeshift tennis atop The Dewberry – with Charleston views all around them.