Stephens, Bertens Headline Draw that Features 9 Top 20 Stars
By: Nick McCarvel
With nine members of the top 20 and five former Volvo Car Open champions set for play this coming week in Charleston, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will walk away the winner in 2019.
The top eight seeds receive first round byes, including No. 1 Sloane Stephens, the 2016 winner here, and No. 2 Kiki Bertens, the defending champion.
“I’m really excited to compete again here,” Bertens, 27, said. “It’s the first week on clay (of the season). I want to enjoy myself as much as possible. I have to compete hard and we’ll see what happens.”
Fellow top 20 members Aryna Sabalenka, Anastasija Sevastova, Caroline Wozniacki (2011 winner), Elise Mertens, Julia Georges and Madison Keys are seeded 3-8, respectively, in the draw that was made Saturday afternoon at the Family Circle Tennis Center.
Stephens and fellow American Keys are slated to face off in the quarterfinals should their seeds hold, though Keys, a finalist here in 2015, could face No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champ, in the third round.
Eight qualifiers will be placed into the draw once qualifying finishes Sunday evening, including a pair that will face off for the right to meet Bertens in round two.
Twelve Americans feature in the draw in total, including Stephens, Keys, No. 11 Danielle Collins, No. 13 Sonya Kenin and two local hopes in Shelby Rogers, who is on her way back from injury, and Emma Navarro, the USTA National Girls 18 Clay Courts Championships winner last summer, earning herself a wild card into the event because of that win.
Joinin Stephens, Keys and Ostapenko in the top half of the draw is Sabalenka, the Belarusian seeded third, as well as No. 6 Mertens, a Belgian who won the title in Doha a few weeks ago.
Sabalenka could meet Hobart champion Kenin, just 20 years old, in round three, Kenin is set to play 2009 winner here Sabine Lisicki in her first round (Lisicki having been given a wild card), then the winner of Sara Errani (the 2012 French Open runner-up) and 2016 Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig in round two.
Mertens could meet big hitter Kaia Kanepi in round two, while Collins, a former NCAA champion at Virginia, looms in the third round should she make it that far.
Rogers, the Mount Pleasant native, also features in the top half of the draw, coming back to play her first match in over a year having been out with a knee injury and subsequent surgery. She’ll face Evgeniya Rodina to start.
Bertens anchors the bottom half of the draw, with Wozniacki, champion here in 2011, as her projected foe in the quarterfinals. No. 12 Mihaela Buzarnescu and No. 15 Maria Sakkari are in that section of the draw, which also features 2014 winner here Andrea Petkovic of Germany.
Sakkari, a youngster from Greece, opens against Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in what should be an engaging clash.
Navarro, the 16 year old local, makes her tournament debut, and debut at the WTA main draw level. She plays German Laura Siegemund to start, the winner to set to take on Wozniacki.
No. 4 Sevastova is featured in the top part of the bottom half, slated to meet No. 7 Goerges in the elite eight. But standing in their way is Belinda Bencic (a potential third round foe for Goerges), the Dubai champion, as well as No. 16 Petra Martic and American Amanda Anisimova, 17, whom Martic plays first.
Americans in the draw
Madison Brengle plays Collins in an all-American clash to start off, while Taylor Townsend meets a qualifier. Varvara Lepchenko plays Petkovic and Jessica Pegula takes on Irina Khromacheva. Allie Kiick is set to meet Pauline Parmentier of France.
Qualifying finishes on Sunday evening, with main draw play set to begin on Monday at 10am local time. Wall-to-wall coverage can be found on Tennis Channel.