5 Former Champs Chase Another Charleston Crown
By: Nick McCarvel
It was 10 years ago, in 2009, that a bright-faced, big-hitting German named Sabine Lisicki bombed her way to her first WTA title at the age of 19, hoisting the Volvo Car Open trophy with a smile so wide it stretched across the Cooper River.
On Monday, Lisicki (pictured above) joins four other former champions in Charleston as main draw play kicks off and each of them - along with 51 other singles players - vie for the first big championship of the WTA’s spring clay season.
Kiki Bertens is defending champion, as Sloane Stephens (2016), Andrea Petkovic (2014) and Caroline Wozniacki (2011) all look to re-claim the Lowcountry glory they’ve tasted in the past.
And we all get to sit back and watch the wild ride as it plays out over the next seven days.
The Stars are Here
Nine of the world’s top 20 are back on Daniel Island, including the top two seeds in Stephens and Bertens. Third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka is making her debut, as is No. 6 Elise Mertens as well as No. 11 Danielle Collins, one of 14 Americans in the field.
No. 8 seed Madison Keys is another one of those Americans, the Iowa native having made the final here in 2015. Germany’s Julia Goerges rounds out the top eight, a finalist here a year ago.
While Stephens, Keys and Collins are the top-seeded Americans, they are joined by 20-year-old Sonya Kenin (who plays Lisicki first), the No. 13 seed and a host of other must-cheer-for stories from the States.
Local star Shelby Rogers is back on tour after a year away with a knee injury, while 17-year-old Emma Navarro, also a Charleston local, is making her WTA debut, having won her wild card at the USTA clay court championships held here last summer.
Other American names to know: 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, Delaware’s Madison Brengle, lefty Taylor Townsend, Allie Kiick, Lauren Davis, Jessica Pegula, Varvara Lepchenko and Francesca Di Lorenzo.
The top eight seeds get byes and 15 of the top 16 seeds are ranked inside the top 50, but there are no easy matches this week. Belinda Bencic, the No. 9 seed, won the biggest title of her career a few weeks ago in Dubai, while No. 15 Maria Sakkari is a fast-rising Greek player with power and grit.
Petkovic, who captured many hearts here five years ago, could meet Sakkari in round two, while Navarro will play former semifinalist here, Laura Siegemund, for the right to play Wozniacki in round two.
Other names to know: Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig; former French Open finalist Sara Errani; Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi; and Alize Cornet of France.
Will we have a repeat winner in 2019? Or can one of the many talented players here capture her first Charleston title come this Sunday? That’s why we say, “Ready? Play.” to find out.