Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Some final thoughts on Charleston

2022 champion Belinda Bencic (photo by Daniel Ward)

The 2022 Credit One Charleston Open was special for several reasons: It was the first time since 2019 that fans (and media) were permitted to attend, it was the first year of Credit One's sponsorship, it was the tournament's delayed 50th anniversary celebration, and it was the unveiling of the new Credit One Stadium. 

The new stadium has so many enhanced features--additional seating, more bathrooms, better lighting, a new shade canopy, a new players' lounge, and a new media center. The already-lovely landscaping around the stadium has also been enhanced.

2022 champions Andreja Klepac & Magda Linette (photo by Daniel Ward)

Several past champions--including Charleston's first champion, Rosie Casala--were on hand to help celebrate, and the beautiful Althea Gibson Club Court was re-dedicated to the memory of Althea Gibson.

past champions Rosie Casals, Tracy Austin, Arantxa Sanchez (photo by Daniel Ward)

There's nothing quite like the Charleston Open. The palm trees, water views and irises....the beautiful club court....the good-humored, tennis-savvy crowd....the unpredictable weather--it's an event unlike any other.

photo by Diane Elayne Dees

Last year, I covered the tournament virtually, and that, too, was a laid-back, pleasant experience. This year, I experienced the new media center, which was comfortable and well-furnished, with plenty of space for interviews and press conferences. I have to confess, though, that I miss the old "media tent," the temporary building which used to shake during thunderstorms, and from which we were once evacuated (while wearing garbage bags) during a hail storm. I will always miss it; I can't help it. For years, we sat in there, hearing the sometimes-violent weather, and waiting for the players to arrive in golf carts for their press conferences and interviews.

I also really miss the coffee bar, where I used to pick up various hot drinks--what happened to it? Of course, for many years, I've missed the veggie hot dogs that used to be sold in the stadium. 

Magda Linette (photo by Daniel Ward)
There was a lot going on this past week, so the exploits of one particular player may have been lost in the flood of news stories and interviews that were made public. That player was Magda Linette, who probably had the most unusual--and stressful--experience of anyone in the field--and she walked away with a trophy.

On Tuesday, Linette defeated Katie Volynets in a three-set match in the first round. She then played her second round match against Leylah Fernandez, but it began to rain, so that match resumed on Thursday. It, too, went to three sets and ended in a tiebreak, which lasted 17 minutes. During that time, Fernandez saved six match points before Linette won on her seventh match point.

Later that day, Linette defeated Kaia Kanepi in another three-set match. On Thursday, Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated her 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals. After the match, Alexandrova said: "...I also knew that she played yesterday like two three-set matches, and I think she finished like super late, and for her it would be extremely tough to play today. I knew that, but still, I was trying to play every single point, because I know, like you don't know when, but she can start to play like just amazingly and it will be super tough."

But that's not all! The same day that Linette played both Fernandez and Kanepi, she and her partner, Andreja Klepac also played their first round doubles match, defeating Alicija Rosolska and Erin Routliffe (and yes, there was a super tiebreak). 

If there were a trophy awarded for stamina and resiliance, Magda Linette would be holding it. Instead, she's holding the doubles championship trophy, and that feels like a happy ending.

It was great to attend the Credit One Charleston Open in person again, to see all of lovely enhancements and additions, and to enjoy the presence of a number of past champions. I learned a lot about the creation of Alize Cornet's book, and about Jelena Jankovic's new life as a mom. The players, as always, were open, insightful, and often very funny. For them, the Charleston tournament is a place where they can relax a bit and get the kind of personal attention that keeps them coming back.

all photos by Diane Elayne Dees

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