Having both Williams sisters double up in match play and then win all four of their matches in Charleston was probably a unique event. But also of note is that both defending champions--Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova (playing with a new partner)--won the tournament. Safarova's win is especially interesting because she and Kristina Mladenovic had never played together before. Also of interest--the Family Circle Cup is the only tournament Safarova has ever won as a doubles player.
Getting to the final and taking a set off of Serena was yet another sign that Jelena Jankovic has turned some type of comeback corner. She seems like a different player than she was last year, and that's good news.
Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens was given a beat-down by Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and this after Mattek-Sands had played a 3-hour and 42-minute match (which I unfortunately missed) the day before. Stephens seemed barely "there" for the match. Mattek-Sands' career has been constantly hampered by injury, but when she's healthy, she's dangerous. Stephens didn't seem to know what to do against her.
The unseeded player who impressed me the most overall was Mallory Burdette. Burdette is intelligent and very articulate, and she has a wonderful attitude. She fearlessly played Serena Williams, and for most of one set, she kept up with the world number 1. Burdette beat Kristina Mladenovic in the first round, and upset 2009 champion Sabine Lisicki in the second round. The last set was a real thriller, with Burdette hanging in to win on her sixth match point.
Melanie Oudin played what she said was her best match of the year, pushing Jankovic to three sets. Mona Barthel was an error-prone mess, looking about the same way she did this time last year. Venus Williams looked good, but obviously didn't have the energy left to seriously compete against her sister in the semifinals.
Ashleigh Barty once again impressed in doubles play, and she and Anastasia Rodionova made it to the semifinals. Laura Robson went out too early for those of who can't wait to go to her press conferences. Thankfully, we were treated to plenty of JJ!
Stefanie Voegele was the breakout player, defeating Caroline Wozniacki and playing really aggressive tennis. She looked pretty anxious in her semifinal, which was no surprise. Still, fans were impressed with her game.
I wasn't able to get out much, but I did eat at Five Loaves Cafe, a downtown Charleston favorite. Both the food and the service were great.
As always, the Family Circle Cup was a great experience. The weather was mild this year, if you don't count the wind that whips through the stadium from time to time. The players are especially fond of the tournament because they are given really special treatment by the staff, and it's easier for them to relax in Charleston than it is in some other venues. Charleston fans are very enthusiastic and enjoy watching a variety of players, not just the stars.
On my way home, I saw Kadir Nouni board the plane I took from
Charleston to Atlanta. I was absorbed in a book during the flight, and
didn't even bother to look around until we were about three-quarters of
the way to Atlanta. When I did look up, I realized that Venus Williams
was sitting across the aisle from me.