10 TALKING POINTS FOR THE 2021 VOLVO CAR OPEN

10 TALKING POINTS FOR THE 2021 VOLVO CAR OPEN

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 28: Ashleigh Barty of Australia plays a backhand during her Women's Singles Quarterfinal match against Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic on day nine of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 28, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

KEYS SET FOR TITLE DEFENSE; COCO MAKES CHARLESTON DEBUT

1 | AND WE’RE BAAAAACK!… COVID-19 may have forced the cancellation of the 2020 Volvo Car Open, but the LTP Daniel Island Tennis Center will be busier than ever in 2021. Immediately following the main WTA 500 event (April 3-11), the facility will play host to the new Charleston 250 (April 10-18), featuring a 32-player draw led by American Madison Keys. Both events will be held without spectators due to the ongoing pandemic, but the empty seats don’t mean we can’t follow all the action from home. The Tennis Channel will air first-to-last-ball main-draw matches, providing fans with more than 70 hours of live tennis.

2 | FIELD OF DREAMS… The 2021 Volvo Car Open player field is stacked. We’re talkin’ three past champions (Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens and Andrea Petkovic), five Grand Slam titlists (Stephens, Sofia Kenin, Ashleigh Barty, Garbiñe Muguruza and Petra Kvitova), and two current/former World No. 1s (Barty and Muguruza).

3 | CUCKOO FOR COCO… Coco Gauff, now 17, has been the talk of the tour since upending idol Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2019, the youngest player to win a main-draw match at the All England Club since Jennifer Capriati in ‘91. The Floridian recently broke through to her first WTA 500 semi in Adelaide and first WTA 1000 quarterfinal in Dubai, and is trending upward in the WTA rankings as she prepares for her Volvo Car Open debut.

4 | THERE’S A NEW STADIUM IN THE WORKS… Volvo Car Stadium will be out of action in 2021 as the two-decade-old, multi-use facility undergoes an extensive overhaul. Don’t worry: The Daniel Island gem will reopen in 2022, complete with a new façade and concourse, as well as a host of other upgrades. In the meantime, matches will be played on the Althea Gibson Club Court.

5 | KEYS TO SUCCESS… It must be odd for Madison Keys, tasked with defending a title she won two years ago (def. Caroline Wozniacki, 7-6(5), 6-3). But the green clay of Charleston will surely be a welcome sight for the 26-year-old American, who’s played some of the best tennis of her career on these courts. She’s now reached the quarterfinals or better on four occasions at the Volvo Car Open, including finals in 2015 and 2019.

6 | IS ANYONE PLAYING BETTER BALL THAN GARBIÑE RIGHT NOW?… Former No. 1 Garbiñe Muguruza is headed for the Palmetto State having played some of the most consistent top-flight tennis of 2021. The 27-year-old Spaniard has already reached three WTA Tour finals and charted Top-10 wins over the likes of Sofia Kenin and Aryna Sabalenka (twice). She took home the trophy at the WTA 1000 event in Dubai, downing Czech Barbora Krejcikova in the title match, 7-6(3), 6-3.

7 | ASHLEIGH’S ON THE ROAD AGAIN… South Carolinians got their first main-draw glimpse of her in 2018, when she crashed out of the Volvo Car Open in the Round of 16 (l. to Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3, 6-4). But the Ashleigh Barty of 2021 is a whole different player. She returns as the World No. 1, having won her first major at Roland Garros in 2019. After sitting out the bulk of COVID-clouded 2020 out of precaution, she didn’t waste time returning to her winning ways, taking the Yarra Valley Classic title on home turf in Melbourne and winning back-to-back Miami Open titles.

8 | LOCAL GIRL MAKES GOOD… Charleston native Shelby Rogers remains the hometown favorite, a US Open quarterfinalist who in 2020 charted her best year-end ranking at No. 58. She reached the elite eight here in 2017, taking out both top seed Madison Keys and future Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka in the process. The heavy-hitter is off to another strong start in 2021, with a pair of WTA 500-level quarterfinals in Melbourne and Adelaide to her credit.

9 | SOFIA’S JOURNEY… 2021 has been a bit surreal for American Sofia Kenin. Not only has she had to adapt to a COVID-complicated world, but a year after winning her first major title at the Australian Open, she experienced a health scare of her own. In February, she landed in the hospital with stomach pains, eventually undergoing an emergency appendectomy. “It’s quite a long journey”, said the 4th-ranked Kenin, who returned to the court at the Miami Open “Definitely wasn’t the journey that I expected, but I’m grateful they caught it on time.” The talented 22-year-old is making her fourth main-draw appearance at the Volvo Car Open.

10 | A FOXTENN FIRST… The 2021 Volvo Car Open will be the first WTA Tour clay-court tournament to feature Foxtenn technology, an electronic line-calling system that utilizes 40 ultra-high-speed cameras to capture more than 2,500 images per second.

Ashleigh Barty Madison Keys