Monday, April 30, 2012

"Because Dreams Matter"--Victoria Azarenka

Toward the end, Azarenka comes out of what appears to be a video-induced trance. (Good thing, or she might have said something like, "Boy, you're my match point.")

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sharapova wins Stuttgart championship

World number 2 Maria Sharapova won her first title of the season today, as she defeated world number 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-4 for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix singles title. It was Sharapova's 25th title, she got the keys to a new Porsche, and she sent a pretty strong message to her peers. The former world number 1 could do no wrong today as she served up a storm, hit precise groundstrokes--confounding her opponent from both sides--and showed off some deft volleying.

Azarenka, for her part, had to deal with a wrist injury, though it was unclear how serious the problem was.

Sharapova quickly went up 3-0 in the first set, and at 3-1, she emerged the winner of a mutil-deuce game by hitting two consecutive aces. She hit a total of eight aces, and made only thirteen unforced errors, while hitting 31 winners.

After the beat-down Sharapova received from Azarenka in the Australian Open final, today's win had to feel especially good.

"I had lost the last few previous encounters with Victoria, so I was extremely motivated today," Sharapova added. "When I got the chance to go out and play her again I knew I had to change a few things. Before I was maybe a little bit impatient and went for a bit too much sometimes, but this time I was really patient. I was aggressive but consistent when I had to be against her."

Czech tennis, I should add, is alive and well, despite Petra Kvitova's loss in the semifinals. Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova won the doubles title. The Czech team, seeded 5th, defeated Julia Goerges and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 6-4, 7-5. This is the tenth title for the Benesova-Zahlavova Strycova team.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bertens wins Fes title

A first-time WTA title was in the making, regardlessnof who won the final in Fes today. Neither Laura Pous-Tio nor Kiki Bertens had ever won a WTA title. In fact, up until this tournament, Pous-Tio had won only one match in 2012, and Bertens had never gotten beyond the first round of a WTA event. Bertens defeated Pous-Tio 7-5, 6-0 to claim the Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem champtionship.

Petra Cetkovska and Alexandra Panova won the doubles title. They defeated Irina-Camelia Begu and Alexandra Cadantu 3-6, 7-6, 11-9.

In Stuttgart, both Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova won their semifinal matches. Azarenka defeated Agnieszka Radwanska (yet again) 6-1, 6-3, and Sharapova defeated Petra Kvitova 6-4, 7-6. Sharapova served her way out of ten of eleven break points. The Russian player served for the match at 6-5 and held a match point, but was broken. Kvitova was able to win only three points in the tiebreak.

By winning today's semifinal, Sharapova broke Kvitova's impressive indoor court win streak (27 matches not counting Hopman Cup). The Czech star had not lost an indoor match since 2010.

The top four players in the world played in the Stuttgart semifinals, and now the top two will play for the championship.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sharapova beats Stosur and advances to Stuttgart semifinals

Sam Stosur served for the match today in Stuttgart, but was broken, and her opponent, Maria Sharapova, went on to win a very well-fought three-hour quarterfinal. Sharapova's 6-7, 7-6, 7-5 victory was about as good as it gets, and the fact that she claimed it on red clay made it even better.

Sharapova's opponent in the semifinals will be none other than Petra Kvitova, who was at her scary-best against Angelique Kerber in a very late night match. Kvitova defeated Kerber 6-4, 6-4 in just over an hour, and she hit 32 winners. She did get broken twice in the first set, however.

Agnieszka Radwanska won her quarterfinal match, too, and will once again face Victoria Azarenka in the next round. Radwanska defeated Li Na 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, and Azarenka overcame a very strong Mona Barthel, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5. Barthel, who has a wild card in Stuttgart, saved a match point, but when she served at 5-6 to stay in the match, she collapsed, double-faulting twice. The match lasted almost two hours and 49 minutes.

Meanwhile, in Fes, qualifier Kiki Bertens has reached the final. Bertens defeated Simona Halep in the semifinals today. She has also taken out Urszula Radwanska, Chanelle Scheepers and Garbine Muguruza Blanco. Bertens' opponent in the final will be Laura Pous-Tio, who defeated Mathilde Johansson 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 in the semifinals.

Friday cat blogging--Hanging together edition

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Kerber and Barthel advance in Stuttgart

Porsche Tennis Grand Prix defending champion Julia Goerges lost her second round match to Sam Stosur today. Last year, Goerges beat Stosur on her way to the final. German star Andrea Petovic went out today, too, after an ankle twist forced her to retire against Victoria Azarenka. Petkovic had only just returned from a lengthy rehab for a back injury.

Other Germans did better. Mona Barthel defeated 7th seed Marion Bartoli 6-3, 6-1; Barthel beat Ana Ivanovic in the first round. Also advancing to the quarterfinals was Angelique Kerber, who defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-1, 6-2. Kerber defeated Roberta Vinci in the first round. Wozniacki had advanced to the second round after getting a retirement from Jelena Jankovic, who sustained a back injury.

Akgul Amanmuradova, who upset Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, lost today to Li Na.

Here is the quarterfinal lineup for Stuttgart:

Victoria Azarenka vs. Mona Barthel
Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Li Na
Angelique Kerber vs. Petra Kvitova
Sam Stosur vs. Maria Sharapova

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Czech Republic to meet Serbia in Fed Cup final

"Every Fed Cup I'm playing, I'm nervous. Francesca played unbelievable tennis. I'm very happy I won."

That's what Petra Kvitova said after she won her Fed Cup match against Francesca Schiavone. Kvitova was down a break in both sets, but won 6-4, 7-6. The stats for the match are worth examining, by the way.

Kvitova's win put the Czech Republic back into the final, though the Czech Republic lost the fourth rubber (Errani def. Hlavackova). Italy had to retire during the doubles rubber because Flavia Pennetta injured her wrist again.

Kvitova's indoor win streak has now increased to 29 consecutive matches.

The Czech Republic's opponent in the final--which will be held at home--will be Serbia. This is the first time that Serbia has ever reached a Fed Cup final. The team went into today's rubbers tied 1-1 with Russia. Ana Ivanovic then defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and it was up to Jelena Jankovic to seal the big win. She did, though--toward the end--she made it hard for herself, giving up repeated game points. But she did defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-1, 6-4. The dead doubles rubber was played, and Russia won it.

Here are the results for the World Group playoffs:

USA def. Ukraine, 5-0
Japan def. Belgium, 4-1
Slovak Republic def. Spain, 3-2
Australia def. Germany, 3-2

And the results for the World Group II playoffs:

France def. Slovenia, 5-0
Switzerland def. Belarus, 4-1
Sweden def. Great Britain, 4-1
Argentina def. China, 4-1

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Czech Republic a match away from Fed Cup final

Petra Kvitova was down 4-4, 15-40 in the second set of her Fed Cup semifinal rubber against Italy's Sara Errani, and--since Errani had sustained a high level of play throughout the match--it looked as though a third set might be in the making. It was at that point, however, that Kvitova turned on that switch (why can't she always find it?) that causes gasps from spectators. The Czech number 1 won the match 6-4, 6-3 in great form at the end.

Earlier, Lucie Safarova beat an injured Francesca Schiavone 7-6, 6-1. Schiavone's neck injury makes her questionable for the remainder of the semifinal.

In the semifinal played between Russia and Serbia, it was probably easier for Svetlana Kuznetsova to serve out her match against Ana Ivanovic because she didn't realize she was serving for the match. Kuznetsova won 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, and after she hit match point, she remained on the court, waiting for the next shot. Finally, she realized she had won the rubber, and later acknowledged that not knowing she was serving for the match may have been helpful to her.

Russia is now 1-1 with Serbia. Jelena Jankovic defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-3.

Here are some more results:

World Group

Ukraine--0, USA--2
Japan--2, Belgium--0
Spain--1, Slovak Republic--1
Germany--0, Australia--2

World Group II

France--2, Slovenia--0
Switzerland--1, Belarus--1
Sweden--2, Great Britain--0
Argentina--2, China--0

Of interest is the 2-0 first-day defeat of Germany by Australia. The tie is being played in Stuttgart, which means that Samantha Stosur is considerably more relaxed than she would be if she had to play in Australia. She beat Angelique Kerber 7-6, 6-4. Jarmila Gajdosova then defeated Julia Goerges 6-4, 6-4. Presumably, on Sunday, Stosur will play Goerges, and Kerber will play Gajdosova.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

More on Fed Cup

Though we tend to focus on the World Group and the World Group playoffs, more than that will be occurring this weekend at Fed Cup venues. The World Group II playoffs will also take place, and here is a breakdown of those ties:

France vs. Slovenia
The two countries have never played each other before. They will compete on an indoor hard court in Besancon, France.

Switzerland vs. Belarus
Timea Bacsinszky, of whom we haven't seen much lately, will play on the Swiss team, as will Stefanie Voegele. Olga Govortsova will seed the team from Belarus. Notably absent from the lineup is Victoria Azarenka. Competition will take place on an indoor (Rebound Ace) hard court.

Sweden vs. Great Britain
The Swedish team has Sofia Arvidsson and Johanna Larsson, but that may not be enough to overcome the British team of Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson, and Laura Robson, led by captain Judy Murray. The matches will be played on an indoor hard court.

Argentina vs. China
The team from Argentina, without Gisela Dulko, will play on red clay against a Chinese team that does not include Li Na, Peng Shuai, or Zhang Shuai.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Clijsters out of French Open

Kim Clijsters will not play at the French Open, she has announced. This is hardly a surprise. The top Belgian player continues to recover from a hip injury. Clijsters said today that "I really look forward to starting a long training to be ready for the grass court season, (when) I will pursue two main goals at Wimbledon and the Olympic Games."

I like The Pink, too!

So Petra Kvitova and I--we are like sister.

Anyone wondering why so many of us can't get enough of Petra Kvitova need only look at this video, which Women Who Serve found courtesy of Beyond the Baseline (and while you're there, check out 'Pova's new haircut!)

Kvitova to lead Czech team in Fed Cup play this weekend

Petra Kvitova will return to an indoor court--a surface on which she excels--this weekend for the Czech Republic's Fed Cup World Group semifinal against Italy. The Czech Republic is 3-4 against Italy in Fed Cup; however, Italy has won the last four time the two teams have met. In 2010, in fact, Italy beat the Czech Republic 5-0 in the semifinals.

Kvitova is currently on a 27-0 indoor match streak.

The upcoming semifinal will be played at the CEZ Arena in Ostrava. In addition to Kvitova, Czech team members include recent Charleston finalist Lucie Safarova, Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hvlavackova. What is best known simply as "the Italian team" will play for Italy--Francesca Schiavone, Flavia Pennetta, Sara Errani, and Roberta Vinci. Vince is 17-0 in Fed Cup matches, and Pennetta is known--at least on this blog--as the Queen of Fed Cup because of her ability to win Fed Cup matches even when loss appears inevitable.

The Czech Republic is the defending champion. Italy last won Fed Cup in 2010, and also won it in 2009.

In the other semifinal, Russia will play Serbia on red clay (Russia's choice) in Moscow. The 4-time Fed Cup champions' team will consist of Maria Kirilenko, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Elena Vesnina. Playing for Serbia are Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Bojana Jovanovski, and Aleksandra Krunic. Jovanovski and Krunic won the crucial doubles rubber against Belgium in the first round in February.

In the World Group playoffss, it's Ukraine vs. USA, Japan vs. Belgium, Spain vs. the Slovak Republic, and Germany vs. Australia. Here are the teams:

Ukraine: Lesia Tsurenko, Elina Svitolina, Lyudmyta Kichenok, Nadiya Kichenok

USA: Serena Williams, Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens, Liezel Huber

Japan: Ayumi Morita, Kimiko Date-Krumm, Kurumi Nara, Rika Fujiwara

Belgium: Tamaryn Hendler, Alison Van Uytvanck, Ysaline Bonaventure, An-Sophie Mestach

Spain: Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Lourdes Dominguez Lino, Arantxa Parra Santonja, Nuria Llagostera Vives

Slovak Republic: Dominika Cibulkova, Daniela Hantuchova, Magdalena Rybarikova, Anna Karolina Schmedlova

Germany: Andrea Petkovic, Angelique Kerber, Julia Goerges, Anna-Lena Groenefeld

Australia: Samantha Stosur, Jamila Gajdosova, Casey Dellacqua, Olivia Rogowska

Obviously, there are some names missing. The Russian captain decided against using Vera Zvonareva in this tie, and both Kim Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer opted not to play for Belgium. Anabel Medina Garrigues was not chosen for the Spanish team.

Krajan to start coaching trial with Jankovic

Zeljko Krajan, the Croatian Davis Cup captain who has most recently coached Dominika Cibulkova, is reportedly engaged in a two-week "tryout" period with number 18 Jelena Jankovic. Krajan previously coached Dinara Safina and saw her rise to number 1 in the world. Jankovic is a former number 1, but has not had good results for a while.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Passing shots

Kirsten Flipkens has withdrawn from Fed Cup play because of blood clots found in her calf muscle. Belgium's top players, Kim Clijters and Yanina Wickmayer, are not participating in the upcoming Fed Cup matches, either.

Some of Caroline Wozniacki's comments have already been taken out of context and criticized, but here--in the interest of accuracy--is her entire interview about money with The Telegraph.

Matt Cronin writes about Mary Joe Fernandez's challenges as the USA Fed Cup captain.

Martina Navratilova says that her experience on Dancing With the Stars has inspired her to continue to take dance lessons.

Here is a photo of Amelie Mauresmo working with Victoria Azarenka.

Thanks to The Slice for this article in The Telegraph on Laura Robson and Heather Watson.

Errani and Kerber win titles today

Sara Errani won both the singles and doubles titles today in Barcelona. Errani defeated 3rd seed Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2 in singles, and she and partner Roberta Vinci defeated Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone 6-0, 6-2 to win the doubles title. Errani had also defeated the event's 2nd seed, Julia Goerges, in the quarterfinals.

This is the fourth year in a row that an Italian player has won the Barcelona title, and this is the second time this season that Errani has won both titles at the same tournament; she also both won singles and doubles in Acapulco. This is also the thid time that Errani has won the Barcelona Ladies Open.

Errani, who was seeded 7th in Barcelona, dedicated her win to Piermario Morosini, the Italian football player who collapsed on the field yesterday, and later died of cardiac arrest. "This tournament is for him," Errani said. "It has been very hard. The images have impacted me a lot. It's amazing that these things can happen. It really makes you think. It brings you back to reality and makes you realize many of the things we complain about are pure nonsense. You have to enjoy every minute of life."

In Copenhagen, Angelique Kerber won her second tour title by defeating defending champion and top seed Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-4. Wozniacki was up 4-2 in the second set, but Kerber then proceeded to win four consecutive games.

Kerber, who did not drop a set in the tournament, was seeded 2nd.

The doubles title went to Kimiko Date-Krumm and Rina Fujiwara, who beat Sofia Arvidsson and Kaia Kanepi 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Capriati to be inducted into Hall of Fame

Jennifer Capriati will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 14. Capriati, whose comeback story is one of the most dramatic in professional sports, was the youngest player to ever reach the final of a women's professional tournament. She went on to win 14 singles titles, a doubles title and an Olympic gold medal. Capriati won the Australian Open in 2001 and 2002, and she won the 2002 French Open. Capriati was ranked number 1 in the world for 18 weeks.

Kerber to take on Copenhagen task

Last year, it was Lucie Safarova. The year before that, it was Klara Zakopalova. The e-Boks Open, known among fans as the Wozniacki Open, is in its third year, and Caroline Wozniacki is about to go for her third title at the tournament. In this year's final, Wozniacki's opponent will be Angelique Kerber, Germany's second-highest ranking player.

2nd seed Kerber defeated 3rd seed Jelena Jankovic 6-2, 6-1 in today's semifinals, and top seed Wozniacki defeated Petra Martic.

Wozniacki defeated Kerber last year in the second round.

In doubles, Sofia Arvidsson and Kaia Kanepi will play Kimiko Date-Krumm and Runi Fujiwara for the championship.

In Spain, 3rd seed Dominika Cibulkova will face 7th seed Sara Errani to determine the champion of the Barcelona Ladies Open. Errani and her partner, Roberta Vinci--the top doubles seeds--will play Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone for the doubles championship. This means that what we consider to be the Italian Fed Cup team--one of the finest Fed Cup teams of recent years--will split itself in two to play in the doubles final. Errani and Vinci are considered the doubles experts, though Pennetta is no stranger to doubles strategy.

Reunion of The Original 9 in Charleston

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Passing shots

It was reported in this blog that Taylor Townsend is turning pro this year. It turns out that she has not yet made a decision, but was incorrectly reported as having made one.

Also, by way of correction, Nadia Petrova says she has not applied for citizenship in the USA.

Aravane Rezai qualified for the main draw in Barcelona, but is already out. She was defeated in the first round today by Julia Goerges. Also out is wild card Francesca Schiavone, defeated by Olga Govortsova.

Neither Kim Clijsters nor Yanina Wickmayer will play on the Belgian Fed Cup team April 21-22, when Belgium plays Japan in the World Group playoffs.

The All England Club has hired English rugby league chairman Richard Lewis as the new chief executive of Wimbledon.

The recent victim of a viral illness, a stomach flu (probably also a viral illness), a sore stomach muscle, and asthma, Petra Kvitova says she needs to "improve my fitness part a lot." Kvitova is participating in sand-running and hill-running, and is working out in the gym.

Svetlana Kuznetsova has once again fired Olga Morozova as her coach, and has hired Amos Mansdorf. This time around, Kuznetsova stayed with Morozova only four months. Stay tuned--Kuznetsova tends to change coaches on a frequent basis.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Serena Williams wins 40th title in Charleston

She won the championship at the 35th anniversary of the Family Circle Cup, and yesteday, Serena Wiilliams won the championship at the 40th anniversary. The 2012 Charleston win is also her 40th  singles title. Williams beat Lucie Safarova 6-0, 6-1 in less than an hour. She said after the match that "I never realized how well I play here....It's such a nice place to come to, and I don't want to miss out on the banana pudding again."

Lucie Safarova, like Elena Vesnina in 2011, received some compensation for her loss by winning the doubles championship with partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Pavlyuchenkova and Safarova defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yaroslava Shvedova 5-7, 6-4, 10-6. The wild card team also defeated the tournament's defending champions and the tournament's top seeds on the way to the final.

Runner-up Lucie Safarova
Billie Jean King watches the final

Medina Garrigues and Shvedova
The winners celebrate
 The doubles final was a well-played, very entertaining affair, and special recognition goes to Pavlyuchenkova, whose down-the-line forehand winners and well-placed volleys did a lot to bring about victory for her team. This was Safarova's first WTA doubles title.
Safarrova hits balls into the stands

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Passing shots

World number 1 Victoria Azarenka has hired Amelie Mauresmo to be a coaching consultant.

The stadium court in Charleston is now named the Billie Jean King Court. King and The Original 9 were honored last night at an exhibition match at the Family Circle Cup. King was instrumental in founding the WTA.

Aravane Rezai has qualified for the  main draw in Barcelona. (Shouldn't be news, but it kind of is.)

You can now get to know Paula Ormaechea.

Here's one of my favorite Family Circle Cup photos.

From Irina Falconi's Charleston blog: "The biggest obstacle for U.S. players is the rest of the world, really."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Williams and Safarova to play in Charleston final

Lucie Safarova
Though she's especially good on clay, Lucie Safarova probably wasn't picked by many fans to advance to the Family Circle Cup final. But the transition from hard courts to clay courts--which officially takes place in Charleston--isn't easy, and the unexpected happens. Safarova has played at a high level all week, taking out Mirjana Lucic, Aleksandra Wozniak, Vera Zvonareva, and Polona Hercog.

Now the Czech player faces a big challenge. Her opponent in the final is Serena Williams, whose path to the final included wins over 2011 finalist Elena Vesnina, Marina Erakovic, 2009 champion Sabine Lisicki, and 2010 champion Sam Stosur.

Williams leads Safarova 4-0 in their head-to-head. The two have never before met on a clay court.

Safarova will also play, with doubles partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, in the doubles final. The wild card pair took out both the defending champions and the top seeds this week. Their opponents in the final will be Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yaroslava Shvedova.

Safarova advances to both finals in Charleston

Lucie Safarova high-fives partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after their doubles win
Czech player Lucie Safarova advanced today to both the singles and doubles final at the Family Circle Cup. Safarova had an unusual day, by any standard. In her singles semifinal, she defeated Ponlona Hercog 6-0, 6-0. After she got some rest, Safarova returned to the court and--with partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova--won a thriller tiebreak against top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. That 11-9 tiebreak gave Safarova and Pavlyuchenkova not only the second set, but the match; they won the first set 6-4.

In the other doubles semifinal, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yaroslava Shvedova defeated Natalie Grandin and Vladimira Uhlirova 6-1, 6-3. 

Safarova and Pavlyuchenkova received a wild card into the tournament. In singles, Safarova is seeded 9th. She will play 5th seed Serena Williams for the 2012 championship.

Last year, Elena Vesnina of Russia also made it to both finals in Charleston. Vesnina lost the singles final, but--with partner Sania Mirza--won the doubles championship.

 Safarova prepares to hit autographed balls into the stands

Medina Garrigues and Shvedova embrace after winning today

Whatsoever you do unto Zvonareva....

Serena Williams beat Sam Stosur 6-1, 6-1
That also shall be done unto you.

In the 2010 Family Circle Cup final, Sam Stosur so dominated Vera Zvonareva that Zvonareva was led to take some serious non-tennis action with her racquet. The whole thing was over in 52 minutes, with Stosur winning 6-0, 6-3. Today, the Australian star learned what it feels like to be the victim of that kind of domination, as Serena Williams beat her 6-1, 6-1 in the first of two Charleston semifinals.

There was good reason to believe that Stosur was at least mentally tired, having played four and a half sets of tennis yesterday. But her real problem was Williams, who played as close to perfect as one could imagine. Losing  only two points on her first serve, Williams began her domination immediately, breaking Stosur at love at the beginning of the match. The 2008 Family Circle Cup champion then held at love.

When Stosur hit three aces in a row--two at 107 mph. and one at 112 mph.--it looked as though the crowd was in for a contest. But that wasn't to be. Williams won the first set, 6-1, then opened the second with a love hold that included two aces. Stosur didn't hold until she served at 0-5.

Stosur reacts to the Williams serve
Stosur saw only two break points in the entire match, which lasted just under an hour, and she was unable to convert either of them. She said later that she did try to change her strategy during the match:

"On the return, I tried standing back a few times instead of being up on the baseline, and tried to go with more of a heavy ball, maybe play through the middle a bit more, and then I did come back up to the baseline and tried to be aggressive, but yeah, it's hard, when you're not really getting into that many rallies, to get that much rhythm. It's hard to really break into something until you can maybe extend the points. And I tried doing that, but it wasn't to be."
Williams autographs tennis balls

Williams said this was the best match she's played in a long time. She described today as "just one of those days that I could have done anything today against anybody."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Stepping into the unknown

Venus Williams may have lost her match in Charleston today, but it's clear that she hasn't lost any of her spirit or her champion's attitude. Finally diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome after suffering for years with symptoms of the  disorder, Williams took several months off. She then began treatment and learned how to manage her illness.

"My whole mentality is so different now," Williams said earlier this week. "Like before, I knew I could win matches, and now I just don't even know what's going to happen when I walk on the court....So I always feel like I'm stepping into the unknown." Williams said that the physical part of her rehab has been more difficult than the mental part: "It's definitely something I live with every day, and every day I have to be stronger mentally than the next player," she said after today's match. "I have to push myself a lot more."

Williams has set a goal of competing at the 2012 Olympic Games, and said today that she believes she will meet that goal.

The five-time Wimbledon champion acknowledged that finally having a diagnosis means "I'm not in the dark anymore."

The Original 9--women with spine

Back in the 70s, when women actually took a stand against sexism and misogyny, nine women risked their careers (such as they were allowed to have) in order to give female professional tennis players an opportunity to really be professionals in their sport. Gladys Heldman paid each of nine women $1 apiece, and a tour contract was created. The nine women were: Peaches Bartkowicz, Rosie Casals, Judy Dalton, Kristy Pigeon, Nancy Richey, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Julie Heldman, Kerry Melville, and Billie Jean King.

The Original 9 will be honored this weekend at the Family Circle Cup. It's the first time they've all been together in 25 years, and it's fitting that they should all meet again in Charleston, where women's tennis has been important since the official founding (the tour was actually put together in 1970) of the WTA in 1973. Casals won the first Family Circle Cup, which offered significant prize money, and was the first women's tournament to be shown on national television.

Stosur wins two matches in one day

I am Sam
Would you? Could you?
In a car?
Beat them! Beat them!

Here they are.

She didn't have to play in a car, but Sam Stosur had to play in the cold and the wind, and she had to play five and a half sets, for a total of four hours, 20 minutes and 21 seconds. Stosur's quarterfinal against Galina Voskoboeva had to be postponed last night because of rain. Play resumed today with Stosur leading 4-2 in the first set. The 2010 Family Circle Cup champion took that set easily, but her level of play went down in the second set and she made enough errors to allow Voskoboeva to make a serious challenge. Stosur got back on track in the third, however, and won the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

Stosur's next match was scheduled to take place after the Serena Williams-Sabine Lisicki quarterfinal, but that match was cut short because of injury, so--before you could say "Would you, could you, in the rain?"--the Australian star and Family Circle Cup 2nd seed was back on the court. It was still windy and cold, and Stosur had an extra challenge to face--Venus Williams. In four attempts, Stosur had never beaten Williams, and three of Williams' victories had occurred on clay courts.

The 2nd seed served at an extremely high level in the first set, winning it 6-3. But in the second set, she had problems with her second serve. She was close to going up 3-1, but Williams broke her, took over the momentum, and won the set 6-4.

There was some talk that Stosur might be tired at this point, though she certainly looked fresh. She regained her serving poise, and forehand winners exploded off her racquet as they had throughout the match. Williams had break points in the final set, but the momentum was clearly with Stosur, who raced through the final two games and won the set 6-3.

Sam I am!

This was the best match of the tournament so far, with both players going after almost all the points aggressively. And even though she lost, Williams had a lot of fire for someone who had not set foot on a clay court since 2010. She said afterwards that "The court is not that easy to play....I don't know if I got the hang of it before I...exited the tournament, this court." She also said that "...I think a lot of the times I was too far away from the ball. I didn't--wasn't quite on my groundstrokes yet this tournament."

Stosur has to come back tomorrow and play Venus's sister, Serena. "I think I'm in a good space right now," she said after the match. "I know exactly what I want to be doing, and if I'm doing the right things, but missing it, it doesn't bother me, because I know that's the way I'm going to win more matches."

Try them and you may, I say.

Serena Williams moves to Charleston semifinals when Lisicki retires

Close observers of tennis couldn't have been surprised this morning in Charleston when Sabine Lisicki hit the ground, saw a trainer, and left the court with an ice pack. Lisicki and Serena Williams were playing the first quarterfinal of the day, at 1-1, deuce, in the first set, when Lisicki twisted her left ankle. The German player, who won the Family Circle Cup in 2009, immediately called for a trainer and was treated, but she retired when Williams went up 4-1. 

Lisicki, who has a history of ankle injuries, said that she would get an MRI done as soon as possible.

Later in the day, Lucie Safarova defeated Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-3. Zvonareva, who was seeded 4th, was the Charleston runner-up in both 2008 and 2010.

In doubles, defending champions Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina lost in the quarterfinals to wild cards Lucie Safarova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The match began last night, but was postponed because of stormy weather. Safarova and Pavlyuchenkova defeated Mirza and Vesnina 6-7, 7-5, 10-7. 

Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yaroslava Shvedova upset 4th seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 7-6, 6-3, and top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond defeated Klaudia Jans-Ignacik and Alla Kudryavtseva 7-5, 6-2.

"Oh, Nadia"--part 2

2006 Family Circle Cup champion Nadia Petrova won three games tonight against Polona Hercog in the last quarterfinal of the day. Hercog, who is seeded 14th at the tournament, had already upset 3rd seed Marion Bartoli, in the third round. She plays Lucie Safarova in the semifinals.

Friday cat blogging--comfort zone edition

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Venus and Serena Williams both in Charleston quarterfinals

Serena Williams serves
For the first time in Family Circle Cup history, both Venus and Serena Williams will play in the quarterfinals. After Serena Williams defeated Marina Erakovic today, Venus defeated Anastasia Rodionova. The sisters are former champions in Charleston--Venus in 2004 and Serena in 2008.

Sabine Lisicki
Also advancing to the quarterfinals today was 2009 champion Sabine Lisicki, who defeated qualifierYaroslava Shvedova in straight sets. It took Lisicki a while to settle down and get her serve working consistently, but when she did, she entered the quarterfinals with a 7-5, 6-4 victory.

Two-time runner-up Vera Zvonareva had a harder time getting to the next round. Zvonareva had to go three sets against qualifier Stefanie Voegele, and she had to serve for the match twice. After over two hours of play, Zvonareva posted a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win.

In the night match, 2010 champion Sam Stosur was up 4-2  in the first set against Galina Voskoboeva, and then lightning appeared in the sky. The same thing happened last night (after all, this is the Family Circle Cup), but the sky cleared and play was permitted to go on. Tonight, though, there was rain with the lightning, and all play was suspended. That included a doubles match in which defending champions Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina had won a tiebreak in the first set and were down 1-2 in the second. Mirza and Vesnina are playing the team of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Lucie Safarova.

Scattered thunderstorms are predicted for the Charleston area tomorrow, with most of the rain expected to come in the morning. Winds could get as high as 20 mph., and there is a high of just 60 degrees forecast. 

EleVen available in Charleston

Venus Williams has re-launched her EleVen line of sports fashion. Here's a look at the collection, on sale at the Family Circle Cup:

Hercog upsets Bartoli in Charleston

Polona Hercog upset world number 7 Marion Bartoli
Polona Hercog was down 2-4 today in the third set of her third round match against Marion Bartoli at the Family Circle Cup. Bartoli, who played a three-hour match yesterday, appeared to be headed for another hard-fought win when Hercog started hitting winners on both sides, breaking Bartoli, and going on to upset her 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.

Hercog, whose forehand is especially effective on clay courts, is ranked number 38 in the world. Two weeks ago, in Miami, the Slovenian player lost a three-set match to Marion Bartoli in the second round. Bartoli, of course, would go on to advance to the semifinals after breaking Victoria Azarenka's 26-match streak.

Lucie Safarova
An upset I thought might occur did  not. Lucie Safarova defeated Aleksandra Wozniak 6-2, 6-7, 6-1. Wozniak's service game declined considerably in the third set.

 In an all-Russian match, 2006 champion Nadia Petrova defeated Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-1, 6-4, and 2008 champion Serena Williams defeated Marina Erakovic 6-2, 6-2.

Passing shots

Agnieszka Radwanska has fired her coach, Borna Vikic. Vikic and Radwanska were working together on a trial basis. The Miami champion said of Vikic that "he did not pass."

15-year old Taylor Townsend of the USA is turning pro this year. Townsend is the 2012 Australian Open champion in both singles and doubles (with Gabrielle Andrews).

Here's the latest on Martina Hingis. Hingis will be in Charleston this week to celebrate the Family Circle Cup's 40th anniversary.

Want a slice with that drink?

Maria Sharapova changes from Sony Ericcson to Samsung.

The Family Circle Cup players' lounge is a good place to relax.

When the match is close

View from my seat at the club court

Barbora Zahlavova Strycova knocks the clay from her shoes
If you're on Daniel Island during the Family Circle Cup--and especially if the weather is mild and a bit breezy--there probably isn't a better place to be than the Althea Gibson Club Court. There is so much green--the court clay, the trees surrounding the court, the view of grass leading toward the Grand Lawn. Look up, and you see palmettos, as well as a few bits of Spanish moss. Or you see the clubhouse itself, where the players' lounge is located.

As attractive as this scene is, however, fans will tell you they are drawn to the club court because of the sense of intimacy they experience there. Every seat is good, but if you're sitting at or near the front, you can easily lose yourself in the rhythm of the match being played. You can see the players' facial expressions clearly, hear them speak, see the twitching of their leg muscles under towels during changeovers.

The sound of tennis shoes sliding across clay is prominent on the club court, and perhaps nowhere else at the tournament is the sound of the ball being struck against the racquet strings as satisfying as it is when you hear it on Althea Gibson.

Sitting in the stands in the club court, I can let my senses take over. The weave of the fabric on the players' skirts, the opponents' increasingly labored breathing, the smudges on the baseline--all of these elements, plus the verdancy of the environment, allow me to absorb the tennis, rather than just watch it. I've never checked, but I rather suspect that the very rate of my breathing adapts to the pace of the ball as it bounces off of the green clay.

It's the rhythm of tennis that makes watching (and hearing) it such a pleasure, and in Charleston, that rhythm is somehow calming and exciting at the same time when you feel it from a seat at the Althea Gibson Club Court.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

And then there were five

Tonight in Charleston, 2007 Family Circle Cup champion Jelena Jankovic became the first of six former champions to exit the tournament. 2004 champion Venus Williams, a wild card in Charleston, defeated Jankovic 7-5, 6-0. Jankovic served for the first set at 5-4 and was broken, and she was hardly able to make any kind of statement after that.

Williams, on the other hand, got better as the match went on, and broke Jankovic a total of seven times. She said afterwards that "...winning a match in straight sets is something I'm not used to yet."

Jankovic was frustrated by her own poor service game, and by the fact that her movement--historically her greatest asset--is not the same as it used to be. "I had problems, you know, moving wide, and then going back to the same side," she said. "I was, in the past, like one of the best movers on clay, and today I was falling all over the place."

Following the Williams-Jankovic match, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Yaroslava Shvedova defeated Vania King and Anastasia Rodionova 7-5, 6-3 in doubles. Also winning in doubles today were top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, 2nd seeds Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, and 3rd seeds Sania Mirza and Elena Vesnina. Mirza and Vesnina are the defending champions.

"Oh, Nadia"--and other Charleston tidbits

2006 Family Circle Cup champion Nadia Petrova, not known for her consistency, faced an early exit today when USA veteran Jill Craybas served for the match against her at the Family Circle Cup. Craybas won the first set 6-2, and at 6-5, made an attempt to move to the third round. Petrova broke her at that point, however, but then Craybas saved three set points in the tiebreak. Finally, after 2 hours and 49 minutes, Petrova won, 2-6, 7-6, 6-2. Oh, Nadia.

Not so lucky was Yanina Wickmayer, who lost in straight sets to qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova. Shvedova's 6-2, 7-6 victory included first and second serve win percentages of 59 and 71. Wickmayer was seeded 12th.

It was announced today that Chanelle Scheepers' November wedding to her coach, Roger Anderson, will be officiated by a Daniel Island clergyman. For the last five years, Scheepers--who is ranked number 42 in the world--has stayed with Mt. Pleasant residents Don and Anita Flowers during the Family Circle Cup. Don Flowers is the pastor of Providence Baptist Church on Daniel Island. Scheepers has become like "another daughter" to them, Flowers and his wife say.

Cut-out of Rosie Casals
Be sure to read Steve Ferber's centerpiece feature on The Original 9, gender equality and Title IX in the latest issue of the Daniel Island News. Included with the story is part of an interview with the great Rosie Casals, one of The Original 9, and the first-ever Family Circle Cup champion. The Original 9 will be honored at the tournament's 40th anniversary celebration this week.

Bartoli wins 3-hour thriller in Charleston

Vera Dushevina's facial expression never changed in the three hours she faced Marion Bartoli on the main court of the Family Circle Cup today. Dushevina, up against one of the hardest hitters on the tour, refused to give Bartoli the pace she so likes, and at times confounded the Frenchwoman with her patience and changes of ball speed.

Fans knew they were in for something special when the first game of the match lasted 21 minutes. Dushevina was broken in that game, and Bartoli went on to win the set 6-2, but Dushevina was far from finished. At the end of 3 hours and 4 minutes, Bartoli emerged the victor in the 6-2, 6-7, 6-4 battle.

Bartoli talked afterwards about how her ability to fight on the court gets her through tough matches like the one she played today. "Overall, even though I didn't play my best, of course, I think it's great for me to kind of go through those matches and mentally stay tough and still be able to win a three-hour battle," she said.

Bartoli also talked about how her 2011 Australian Open injury toughened her mentally. She had to leave Australia  and return home to recover:

"I couldn't go up and down, and I have a four-level house, only stairs, and I couldn't go down the stairs. So I had to stay in one level and stay there for two weeks laying on the couch, couldn't do anything. And it was during the Australian Open, so every time I was switching on the TV, which was the Australian Open, so I was keeping switching off because I just couldn't look at the matches.

"And I remember I felt so sad, and mentally it was so tough for me that when I had the chance to step back on the court, I didn't want to leave. It makes me so much stronger, and sometimes when I go through some rough patches during the matches, I just keep remember those hard times, and it helps me to just keeping going, keeping going...."

Vera Dushevina

Wednesday opener in Charleston a crowd-pleaser

Big-serving Aleksandra Wozniak won her 2nd round match
Fans who showed up at the Althea Gibson Club Court this morning to see Aleksandra Wozniak play Barbora Zahlavova Strycova play their second round Charleston match got all the entertainment and mild weather they could have asked for. They got some great tennis, too. It was a little warm and often cloudy, and a light breeze kept everyone comfortable as the players put on a display of shot-making that often dazzled spectators.

Zahlavova Strycova showed off her speed and her ability to consistently hit successful overheads. The Czech player served for the first set at 5-4 but was broken. The set went to a tiebreak, and at 2-4, Zahlavova Strycova missed a smash for the first time in the match. During the tiebreak, she lunged to return a sharp forehand Wozniak hit into the deuce court, and fell down, her racquet flying into the air. The crowd became very quiet, and Wozniak approached the net to check on her opponent. Zahlavova Strycova recovered quickly, however. It was 4-all.

Zahlavova Strycova saved a set point, but then hit a ball long, which gave Wozniak the tiebreak and the set. In the second set, the Czech player became increasingly frustrated. Some fans, it appeared, had not watched her play before; they seemed a bit surprised to hear her scream, mutter to herself while making dramatic gestures, and throw her racquet. This is how Zahlavova Strycova lets off steam.

Zahlavova Strycova celebrates a point
Wozniak, on the other hand, remained cool and relaxed, just as she did in her first match against Christina McHale. She again served at a very high level, and was able to handle most of what her opponent threw at her. The seventh game of the set went on for a long time and contained multiple deuces, as well as break points that were dramatically saved by Zahlavova Strycova. But finally, Zahlavova Strycova hit a forehand just beyond the baseline, and she was broken. Wozniak won the almost-2-hour match 7-6, 6-2.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More Family Circle Cup news

Yesterday, Lisa Ha became the 1,000,000th fan to enter the Family Circle Cup tournament. Ha and her family entered the gates around 11 a.m., and received a number of really nice gifts.

One of the gifts the Ha family received was an invitation to the Bauer International Box Holder Appreciation Reception, held last night at the Daniel Island Club. Among the attendees was Miami champion Agnieszka Radwanska, who had to withdraw from Charleston because of a back injury. (From all reports, guests escaped  the event safely.)

Today, fans were able to put away their hats and sunblock and enjoy comfortable, cloudy weather. The wind kicked up quite a bit, though, which made it a bit difficult for the players.

Signing autographs today was 2006 champion Nadia Petrova, who defeated Mariana Duque-Marino in the first round.

Vera Zvonareva had her shoulder taped today; the tape appeared to be applied as a preventive measure. Sam Stosur wore an ankle support. There has been only one retirement so far in the main draw; Jelena Dokic had to stop playing because of a wrist injury. In qualifying, Tetiana Luzhanska fell down and turned her ankle at 1-1 in the first set of her first round.

2008 champion Serena Williams began her Charleston play tonight by defeating 2011 runner-up Elena Vesnina 6-3, 6-4. Williams hit 11 aces.

Stosur advances to 3rd round of Family Circle Cup

During the first set of today's second round match between 2010 champion Samantha Stosur and qualifier Jamie Hampton, Stosur didn't have to do much except serve and wait patiently. Hampton was obviously nervous, she was rushing her serve, and she helped hand Stosur a 6-0 first set. But, as expected, Hampton returned to the court a different player in the next set. She broke Stosur when the Australian star served for the match at 5-3. Hampton then held on a second serve that went directly to her opponent's body. But at 5-all, Stosur broke again, and won the second set 7-5.

Two-time runner-up Vera Zvonareva also advanced to the third round, with an easy win over Kateryna Bondarenko, and Yanina Wickmayer advanced to the second round by defeating Vania King 6-4, 6-3. And while she struggled with her shoulder problem, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Eleni Daniilidou.

Venus Williams wins opener in Charleston

Venus Williams, who is playing as a wild card in Charleston, was tested somewhat today by qualifier Iveta Benesova, but Benesova failed to hold her nerve at crucial times, and Williams advanced 6-4, 6-3 to the second round. The first real problem for Benesova came when she served at 4-5 and double-faulted, giving Williams a set point. Then she faulted again, hit the next ball into the net, and walked to her chair with a somewhat rueful smile on her face.

Jankovic watches Williams play Benesova
The Czech player again presented a challenge in the second round, demonstrating her deft touch with the ball. But again, at the business end of the set, Benesova faltered. What also helped Williams was that her service game was superior throughout the match.

"She had hands like feathers," Williams said of her opponent
Williams will play Jelena Jankovic in the next round. Jankovic beat Williams in a very exciting semifinal in 2007, and then went on to win the championship.

Family Circle Cup facts you may not know

Here are some Family Circle Cup facts:

200 members of the media from around the world attend the tournament each year.

1,500 hats and 2,000 T-shirts will be sold to fans this week.

2 1/4 miles of string will be used on players' racquets.

7,200 tennis balls will be used.

The 1973 Tournament was the first women's tennis event to be broadcast on national television.

Chris Evert won the Family Circle Cup 8 times.

Passing shots

World number 1 Victoria Azarenka is scheduled to play in Stuttgart later this month, but says that she may not play until the Madrid tournament in early May. Azarenka is getting some rest after winning 26 straight matches. Her streak was ended by Marion Bartoli in Miami.

Kim Clijsters, who has a tear in her hip muscle, says she hopes to be able to play in Madrid.

Canadian player Rebecca Marino is taking an indefinite leave from tennis because of mental and physical exhaustion.

Melanie Oudin's two qualifying match victories in Charleston over the weekend marked the first time in 17 months that she has won two consecutive matches. She lost to Anabel Medina Garrigues in the first round of main draw play.

Bobby Chintapalli reminds us of the significance of Natasha Zvereva's words at the Family Circle Cup trophy presentation in 1989.

And finally (don't read this if you're alone in the dark and the wind is howling), don't say Maria Sharapova didn't warn you: The Radwanska may be coming to get you. All you can do is try to be prepared.

Monday, April 2, 2012

4 former champions to play in Charleston tomorrow

Cut-out of 2010 champion Sam Stosur
2008 Family Circle Cup champion Serena Williams will play the headline match in Charleston tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Williams' opponent will be 2011 runner-up Elena Vesnina. Also playing tomorrow are 2010 champion Sam Stosur (vs. Jamie Hampton), 2006 champion Nadia Petrova (vs. Mariana Duque-Marino) and 2004 champion Venus Williams (vs. Iveta Benesova).

Two other champions, Sabine Lisicki (2009) and Jelena Jankovic (2007) will play later in the week.

Top seeds talk in Charleston

Vera Zvonareva
The top seeds were all on hand today as main draw play began in Charleston. Here are some of the things I learned from them:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova's favorite book is Eat, Pray, Love.

Serena Williams' role on Drop Dead Diva will be a recurring one. Williams will play Kelly Stevens, an attorney.

Marion Bartoli is continuing to paint landscapes, though she shows them to only a few individuals.

The person who inspires Jelena Jankovic the most is her mother, Snezana.

Vera Zvonareva is continuing to get treatment for her hip injury, but is feeling fine now.

Pavlyuchenkova is about to get a full-time coach. The Russian player said that she hasn't been able to serve well because of her shoulder injury and that her shoulder is still weak, "but it is getting stronger." Pavlyuchenkova also talked about becoming more psychologically mature and realizing, in full, how difficult it is to be a professional tennis player.

Jankovic, also, is getting closer to hiring a new coach. "To be honest," she said, "it's very difficult to be without a coach....I need someone to push me." Jankovic said that, at her age, motivation doesn't always come naturally to her: "I can be lazy at times; that's my weakness." The former world number 1 said that she likes to have someone around to push her and to be the "voice in my head."

I spoke with Bartoli about the sad reality that she will not play in the Olympic Games, a fact which she has been handling with her usual sense of humor. "I think that's my way to handle it," she said. "If I'm just beating myself on the wall with my head every day, then I'd just kill myself." Bartoli acknowledged, however, that her approach may not work as well as time goes by: "I'm sure, when I'm gonna see everyone playing the Olympics at Wimbledon, it's gonna hurt," she said, "but, so far, I'm not there."

Wozniak prevails over McHale in Charleston

Aleksandra Wozniak served her way into the Family Circle Cup second round today, at the expense of crowd favorite Christina McHale. The two played for over 2 hours and 48 minutes, and Wozniak won 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. Both players had all kinds of problems at the net, which became the depository for several intended smashes. But other than that, it was a high quality affair.

Wozniak looked a bit tired in the third set, and her level of serving decreased, but she turned it on again to come through at the end. There were lots of twists and turns throughout the event, and it really was impossible to predict the winner until the very last ball had been struck. The Canadian star, whose ranking fell considerably because of tendonitis in her forearm, recently held a match point against Venus Williams in Miami.

Wozniak hits a ball into the stands after her victory

Another local favorite, Melanie Oudin--after going through two qualifying matches--fell to Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0. Chanelle Scheepers, who usually performs rather well in Charleston, was beaten by qualifier Paula Ormaechea. And a tired-looking Kimiko Date-Krumm was defeated, 6-4, 6-3, by Polona Hercog. Date-Krumm left the court without even being acknowledged by spectators.

Jamie Hampton played Sloane Stephens in the last match of the day. Hampton took the first set 7-5, and then Stephens went up 5-1 in the second. Stephens served for the set at 5-2 and was broken, and she wasn't the same after that. Hampton, constantly moving forward and also utilizing an effective backhand slice, took the set to a tiebreak, which she won easily; Stephens scored only one point. Hampton will play 2010 champion Samantha Stosur in the next round.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Radwanska withdraws from Charleston

World number 4 Agnieszka Radwanska, who won Sony Ericsson Open in Miami yesterday, has withdrawn from the Family Circle Cup because of a back injury. Radwanska was seeded number 1 in Charleston. Seeds 2, 3 and 4 are Samantha Stosur, Marion Bartoli and Vera Zvonareva.

The sun shines in Charleston

There was no rain today on Daniel Island. In fact, we had blazing sun as we watched the second round of Family Circle Cup qualifying. This was Family Weekend, and there were lots of children watching matches, getting their faces painted, practicing their tennis strokes, and participating in a yoga workshop. Children 10 and under got in free, and many of them went straight for the cookie decorating, magic shows, jump castles, and custom-designed hula hoops.

shopping was a popular activity--for everyone

They're here!

Both Serena and Venus Williams practiced today on the grounds of the Family Circle Cup. Serena is seeded 5th and has a bye in the first round. Wild card Venus will play a qualifier in her opening round.

Oudin moves through Charleston qualifying

Melanie Oudin serves for the match
After her big win against Heather Watson last night, Melanie Oudin was ready for Petra Rampre, whom she defeated 6-3, 6-2 in the second round of qualifying. Watson is joined in the main draw by top qualifying seed Iveta Benesova (who had to overcome a breakdown of her serve in today's second set against Krystina Pliskova) and Yaroslava Shvedova (who served superbly against Andrea Hlavackova).

Camila Giorgi, who was so impressive yesterday against Grace Min, had to go over two hours and 44 minutes today against Chan Yung-Jan. Giorgi prevailed, 6-7, 7-5, 6-3.

Iveta Benesova