|The Great Lawn (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)|
held on Hilton Head Island), would have begun today. Instead, it is yet another victim of COVID-19.
|View from Althea Gibson Club Court (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)|
The decision to cancel the tournament was a necessary one, and—while no cancellation comes at a “good” time—it is especially unfortunate that this one came during a major year of commemoration. Entered to compete were the likes of world number 1 Ash Barty, Kim Clijsters, Simona Halep (her first time to enter), defending champion Madison Keys, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, Garbine Muguruza, Kiki Bertens, and many more stars.and many other WTA stars and rising stars.
The tournament had also introduced a new website, a new mobile app, a new sustainability initiative, and electronic line calling.
I’ve attended the Charleston tournament—formerly the Family Circle Cup; now the Volvo Car Open—for fifteen years, and I sometimes still struggle to explain to people what makes it so wonderful. Yes, the grounds are beautiful, with the pond and the palmetto trees and the iconic Althea Gibson Club Court. And yes, the event is run with great care and precision, thanks to Tournament Director Bob Moran and Tournament Manager Eleanor Adams and a great staff. Also, the weather is generally just right for tennis and tennis viewing.
|Althea Gibson Club Court (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)|
And there are the fans, who—unlike fans in most venues—find the humor in everything, including things that trigger boos from “normal” fan crowds. Charleston is the proud location of what is surely the greatest WTA racket break of all time, performed—of course—by Vera Zvonareva. It was 2010, and Zvonareva contested the final against Sam Stosur, who trounced her, 6-0, in the opening set, then went up 3-0 in the second set. The Russian player then destroyed her racket with great style, both smashing it and throwing it, and once it was done for, kicking it while the crowd cheered.
A few years ago, Yulia Putinseva began yelling in the middle of her match on Billie Jean King Court. What did the fans do? They enthusiastically yelled along with her, in a kind of wild woman call-and-response. Because that’s how Charleston fans are. And they love doubles; there is usually standing room only at the doubles courts.
|Patty Schnyder (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)|
Also burned in my mind was watching Schnyder dismantle Aga Radwanska on green clay. It was a tricky, masterful performance (against a trickster in her own right), in which the Swiss star slid from the baseline to the net, in an “only Patty” twist on clay court sliding.
And then there was Jankovic. JJ was always at her best in Charleston (she won the tournament in 2007), whether she was doing hilarious joint interviews and stunts with her pal Andrea Petkovic, playing some hilarious doubles with Petko as her partner, or giving press conferences that had me in tears, I laughed so hard.
|Andrea Petkovic & Jelena Jankovic (photo by Diane Elayne Dees)|
It was in Charleston that Jankovic announced, without emotion, that “My hair is like concrete.” and it was in Charleston that she draped a large towel around her shoulders, entered the press conference area, and declared herself a superhero.
The players always look forward to playing at the Volvo Car Open because they are treated like the special people that they are, and they also get to explore the city’s outstanding restaurants.
Normally, on this day, I'd be frantically checking off my list of things I have to do before I leave for Charleston on Sunday. Today, though, I'm checking off my list of chores that will keep me busy while I'm trapped in my house during the national health crisis. The weather is beautiful, which helps. And this, too, shall pass--but, for me, it just isn't April without Charleston.