The grandmother of women’s tennis tournaments begins in just ten days time. The Family Circle Cup is not only the longest running tennis event with the same sponsor, it is also the first women’s professional tennis tournament to have offered $100,000 in prize money.
East Coast tennis fans have been fortunate to have such an event for forty years. So much has changed in that time (Virginia Slims, anyone?), but the Family Circle Cup is still the premier women’s event on the East Coast.
The Family Circle Cup’s stadium on Hilton Head Island was the very first tennis stadium that I ever saw, way back in 1989. Since 2001, the Cup has resided on Daniel Island in the City of Charleston.
The qualifying draw was expanded from 32 to 48 for 2012, with 12 women qualifying for the main draw.
That means a very exciting first weekend, with 24 saturday matches and 12 on Sunday. Also on Saturday, the main draw will be selected from the grounds of the tournament. It will be open to the public and held during a match day, which is unusual and very welcome news to fans.
Agnieszka Radwanska is expected to be the top seed. 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur, Grand Slam Queens Serena and Venus Williams, and former world #2 Vera Zvonareva headline a very competitive main draw. Venus was the recipient of a wild card as was Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Three wild cards remain for the main draw.
On the qualifying side, Americans Sloane Stephens, Jill Craybas, Julia Cohen, Coco Vandeweghe, Jamie Hampton, Varvara Lepchenko and Alison Riske are expected to compete. Riske, who lives in Hilton Head, should be a crowd favorite. We can’t say she’ll be a bigger crowd favorite than 16 year-old Hayley Carter from South Carolina, who nabbed the first qualifying wild card. Five more qualifying wild cards are up for grabs.
You can check out the entire field in this handy police-style photo array compliments of the Family Circle Cup. Click on the Family Circle Cup logo at the top of this article to purchase tickets.
Last month in Atlanta, eight women competed for a Main Draw Wild Card for the Australian Open. It turns out that three of those competitors will be in the Big Kangaroo Dance after all. Jamie Hampton and Alison Riske both advanced in straight sets yesterday in final qualifying rounds at Melbourne Park.
Up next for Hampton will be Mandy Minella of Luxembourg. Riske will face Urszula Radwanska for starters. Madison Keys will open against Zie Jheng.
Other first-round American women’s matches include Christina McHale taking on Lucie Safarova, Irina Falconi against Alberta Brianti, Betthanie Mattek-Sands against Agnieszka Radwanska, Serena vs. Tamira Paszek, Sloane Stephens against Silvia Soler-Espinosa, Vavs Lepchenko starts against Daniela Hantuchova and Vania King will meet Kateryna Bondarenko.
Falconi and Hampton should definitely be in a position to advance, so Atlanta should have more than one reason to celebrate.
McHale! Keys! Falconi! Oh Yeah! Kvitova? Oudin? Oh, My!
Madison Keys, Irina Falconi and Christina McHale all advanced yesterday at the US Open. Who will be this year’s darling and go deep? 2010′s Trice Capra made the third round and Melanie Oudin made it to the Quarters in 2009. At this point, we could have co-Cinderellas. They’re all battle-tested and hungry.
Meanwhile, Melanie Oudin continued her crash and burn season and has now earned the nickname Melanie Oud-out. And Petra Kvitova’s recently-uninspired play caught up with her.
Then there was the sister act. Agnieszka Radwanska drew her little sister, Ursula in the first round.
As with the Williams, we never get tired of sibling rivalry. As usual, big sis took the first round, but hang in there, Ursula. Remember that the youngest Williams sister has the most trophies in Father Richard’s Trophy House. Your time will come.