Saturday, April 5, 2008

Looking forward to Charleston--the good and not-so-good

There is a lot to be excited about regarding the upcoming Family Circle Cup. The 35th anniversary celebration going to be great, and having some of the past champions (we don't know which ones yet) hang around for a few days sounds wonderful. Also, we are expecting Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Anna Chakvetadze, and Charleston's favorite, Patty Schnyder. Also entered are favorites like Katerina Srebotnik and Anabel Medina Garrigues, as well as a number of hot young players.

The down side is that there is now uncertainty over whether Elena Dementieva, Venus Williams, Sybille Bammer, and Vera Zvonareva will be there. All of them have withdrawn from Amelia Island. And of course, Nadia Petrova, Tatiana Golovin and Sam Stosur cannot be there because of injury and illness; all of them have withdrawn from Amelia Island. Unfortunately, Julia Vakulenko has also withdrawn.

Another disappointment for me is that, for the second year in a row, the Bondarenko sisters will not be in Charleston. And Flavia Pennetta, generally a delightful fixture at the Cup, has decided to play in Estoril this year instead. We will miss her; Pennetta's presence adds so much.

The weather forecast for the tournament has not been very good, but today, it changed, and if the current, revised forecast stays in place, the courts should be dry most of the time. However, if you plan to come to Daniel Island, you should know that the weather is very, very unpredictable. The first year I went, the nights were unbearably cold (because none of us had the appropriate clothing). The last couple of years, it has been quite chilly, but not freezing cold.

But it does get unbearably hot during the day, and for the last two years, there have been tornadoes in the area. In 2006, a tornado hit the stadium and bounced off of the Justine Henin banner--Justine saved the tournament! Last year, tornadoes hit the day of the finals, which were almost cancelled. Power went out, trees were blown down, and court conditions on Daniel Island were next to impossible, with all the wind and moisture. So if you plan to attend, please bring several layers of clothing, and make sure you being rain wear.

The tournament is expertly run, by the way, and very fan-friendly. The food is good, the bars are good, there is a lot of player access, everything runs on time, and even when things go wrong, tournament director Robin Reynolds finds a way to turn them around, as she did by organizing last year's "exhibition" match.

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