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Family Circle Cup Tournament Hits Full Stride
4/2/2014 3:25:26 PM

Sloane Stephens in a moment of reflection before answering questions at the All Access Media Day at the Family Circle Cup Tennis Tournament. Photo by Hakim Abdul-Ali
By Hakim Abdul-Ali

Springtime is a very idyllic time of the year. And in the Lowcountry that reality hits home big time when the Family Circle Cup Tennis Tournament rolls around.

Beginning this past weekend on March 29, 2014, this spectacular extravaganza featuring some of the world’s best professional women’s tennis players was already in full bloom with spirited and anticipated competition. The finale is on Sunday, April 6, 2014, when this year’s champion will be crowned.

With world No. 1 and Family Circle Cup reigning champion, superstar Serena Williams, headlining this year’s showcase of stars, the tennis tournament figures to be one of the very best ever. Serena’s presence brings the fans of tennis out to see her because of her dynamic and potent approach to the game, setting the bar so high very few know what to do with her on the tennis court.

You name it and Serena Williams has done it all on the tennis courts of the globe. The women athletes’ all time money winner (more than 55 million dollars earned), this celebrated queen of tennis has won multiple Grand Slam single titles at Wimbledon, the U. S. Open, the Australian and French Opens among her numerous other single and doubles honors added to her splendid professional athletic resume.

Thus far the crowds at the Family Circle Cup have been a buzz over the 32-year-old Ms. Williams, who’s also a four time Olympic gold medalist (three times in doubles to go along with a single title, possibility of capturing her third in a row title. She previously won in 2012 and 2013. The expectation is high for Serena Williams who, naturally, entered the tournament listed as No. 1 and is the tournament’s top seed.

It’s to be noted that Serena also won in 2008, and the main competition for “this fast becoming a marvel in her own time” luminary’s Family Circle Cup throne comes from a hungry and talented group of challengers, including Ms. Williams’ famous sister, Venus Williams, the 2004 Cup victor and the tournament’s No. 2 seed for this year, Jeleena Jankovic, who won the event in 2007.

This year’s tournament is loaded with more past Cup champions including Nadia Petrova, who won in 2006, and Jellena Jankovic, the 2007 champion, who lost to Serena in last year’s championship match. Completing the former champion brigade’s list and ready to reclaim the 2014 Cup are Sabine Lisicki, 2009’s Cup winner, and Sam Stossur, who won in 2010.

Seasoned pros like Sorana Cirstea Sara Errani, and Sloane Stephens are ready to do battle in their quest to win the Cup also. Add to those stellar pros the names of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni and Barbara Zahlavova Strycova among many other durable contenders, and you have a powerful glimpse of what’s been happening on Daniel Island since last weekend with many more tickets available for the remaining events and final tournament matches. The action is electric.

According to the Cup’s advance announcements, this year’s event features several eager newcomers who are more than willing to ascend up the ladder of professional tennis stratum and seeded rankings. Among them are (and were) Kiki Berten, Victoria Duval, Shelby Rogers, Eugenie Bouchard, Christina McHale, Grace Min, Alison Riske, Taylor Townsend and Madison Keyes. There are several other highly skilled players who are and were in attendance for this event competing to their heart’s content for the sake of victory.

As of Monday’s action, Grace Min beat Zarina Diyas, 6-1, 6-2, in what many considered a mild upset. Madison Brengle lost to Michelle Larcher DeBrito,6-4, 7-5. Taylor Townsend was defeated, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, by Jarmila Gajdosova. All these winners qualified to advance for further play in the week’s future main matches.

Others players who advanced through the allotted qualifying rounds into the main draw were No. 3 Alla Kudryavteva, No. 7 Belinda Bencie, No. 12 Saisai Zheng and Lesia Tsurenko. After these qualifying early matches, during which the first selection qualifying seedings were done, the excitement now begins for the next level of truly big time tennis thrills to begin in earnest.

You still have time to check out some of the best tennis played by anyone, male or female, you’ll ever see. These ladies are “baaad,” and you can be assured that that’s definitely good. Come see for yourself why they are called the world’s best.

The Family Circle Cup is quite an exceptional and professionally run affair. The Daniel Island setting and the stadium location are matchless entities unto themselves, and the professional players all seem to speak very highly of Charleston, the Family Cup staff and, of course, the challenging event itself as a key to the total success that makes the Family Circle Cup Tennis Tournament such a ballyhooed festivity.

It’s one of a kind and the Cup’s officiating personnel, along with all who are associated with this glamorous activity, take care of business again and again, year after year. The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has to be proud of this event. It’s one of its very best.

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