Sunday, April 5, 2009

Familiar faces missing from Charleston playing field

There are certain players I associate with the Family Circle Cup because of their long-standing participation, and some of them have not entered this year. Chief among those are 2007 champion Jelena Jankovic, 2007 finalist Dinara Safina, clay specialist Anabel Medina Garrigues, and Gisela Dulko. Flavia Pennetta isn't coming to Charleston, either. She didn't play there last year, but in the past, she often did.

Pennetta, Medina Garrigues and Alize Cornet--a semifinalist in Charleston last year--are playing in Barcelona instead. Also playing in Barcelona are Iveta Benesova, Kaia Kanepi, Francesca Schiavone, Sara Errani, Maria Kirilenko, Carla Suarez Navarro, Petra Kvitova, Petra Cetkovska, Lucie Safarova, Julie Coin, Urszula Radwanska, and Anna-Lena Groenefeld. In other words, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario's small red clay tournament has drawn many good players who would normally play in, or be inclined to play in, the Family Circle Cup. Arantxa fan that I am, I'm not happy about this development. I am especially distraught to see both Pennetta and Cornet abandon a premier tournament.

Other familiar faces will be in Charleston. Jelena Dokic is entered, but I expect her to withdraw because of health problems. The Bondarenko sisters are back after a two-year absence, and some young players worth watching--Tamira Paszek, Sabine Lisicki and Sesil Karatantcheva--will be there.

I am eager to see whether Olga Govortsova and Edina Gallovits team up for doubles again, for old time's sake. Last year, they signed up ten minutes before the tournament, never having played together, put on a fabulous show, and made it to the final. I think they have played together only once since then, which makes no sense from a fan's point of view.

Four wild cards are available, so perhaps some of the missing players who haven't entered the Barcelona Ladies Open will take that route. Michaella Krajicek did wonders with her wild card in 2007, so I don't think there would be any disappointment if she took another one. I would also really like to see Agnieszka Radwanska get one; having her there last year was a highlight for me.

Headlining the tournament are defending champion Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Indian Wells champion Vera Zvonareva, Venus Williams, Miami champion Victoria Azarenka, 2006 champion Nadia Petrova, and Caroline Wozniacki.

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