Monday, April 10, 2023

Some final thoughts on Charleston

photo by Daniel Ward

Tennis is nothing if not filled with surprises, and that reality was on display over and over this year at the Credit One Charleston Open. Historically, the tournament has dodged most of the big storms (except for a few big ones at night, one of which included hail) in the area, but this year, its luck ran out. Constant rain delayed play on semifinal day, and only one semifinal was completed. On finals day, therefore, the schedule had to be adjusted.

None of this appeared to bother the crowd, but--as I've written many times--the Charleston crowd is special. They are sophisticated, knowledgeable (including about doubles) and possess empathic good humor. Players who might get booed at other tournaments get encouraged or applauded in Charleston. In other words, the crowd knows the difference between bad sportswomanship and the quirky behaviors of a wide span of personalities. 

Ons Jabeur (photo by Daniel Ward)
"I'm happy to be part of the champions here in Charleston. It was nice when they show, you know, the names. I always wanted to have my name there. Definitely the crowd, they're amazing, and just amazing because they're not just following me from this tournament, but all over the other tournaments, and they told me that they watch also the Netflix show. So that's really amazing to hear that I have support and not just for one tournament, but the whole season."
--Ons Jabeur

Belinda Bencic (photo by Daniel Ward)

"It's really like a different vibe. I feel like more attached to this tournament than maybe I feel to other tournaments....I think it's no secret that everybody really loves this tournament. After Indian Wells and
Miami, you are very tired, you just want to go home, but for me, like this has always been a very nice stop, even like this--like tired like this, I mean. And, yeah, it just has different vibe really. Like it's not just a tournament for me."
--Belinda Bencic

Danielle Collins & Desirae Krawczyk (photo by Daniel Ward)

"The atmosphere was amazing, and I think all of our matches we've had a great crowd, and for everyone to come out, it's so cold today, and everyone came out and supported, and it really gave you some motivation, you know, being both Americans and playing at home, you know, on home soil. So it was so much fun, and I really appreciate that, because as a doubles player who plays week to week, you don't get those crowds and you really want to relish it and really appreciate that. So it means a lot."
--Danielle Collins

The rain delay was the least of the special things that occurred during the event. For the first time in 23 years, the top four seeds played in the semifinals. And for the first time ever, the same two women competed in the final in consecutive years. Last year, it was Belinda Bencic who received the champion's trophy; this year, it was Ons Jabeur. Or, as Ons said to her friend, Belinda--"We both have one big trophy and one small trophy."

Eleanor Adams (photo by Daniel Ward)
And while it wasn't a total surprise, Tournament Manager Eleanor Adams' announcement of her retirement elicited a very emotional reaction (also not a surprise) among staff, volunteers, members of the media, and--perhaps most of all--players. Adams, working alongside Tournament Director Bob Moran, has long been the force behind the event's extreme popularity on the tour. Her attention to detail, and her ability to anticipate the players' needs--and to fulfill them--is well known on the tour. Bob and Eleanor know how to run a tournament, and they do it with thoroughness and kindness. Eleanor Adams has worked for the Charleston Open for 23 years, and she has left a mark on the event that can never be erased.

It was a busy week, filled with great tennis, as well as other enjoyable fan activities. Players will tell you--there's no tennis experience quite like Charleston.

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