Sunday, April 15, 2007

2007 Family Circle Cup--an overview

The 2007 Family Circle Cup player field was scheduled to be one of the best in history, and wound up disappointing. Justine Henin and Amelie Mauresmo withdrew because of illness, and Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis and Svetlana Kuznetsova withdrew because of injury. I was deeply disappointed about Mauresmo's and Hingis's withdrawals, but I did not share the opinion some had that the tournament was "ruined." For me (and for the people of Charleston), as long as Patty Schnyder was there, it was good enough.

Unfortunately, Schnyder went out in the second round, a victim of humid conditions and Peng Shuai. But my second favorite, Jelena Jankovic, went on to win the whole thing. I have become more and more of a Jankovic fan in the last couple of seasons, and it was a real pleasure to see her hold the Family Circle Cup high. Her victory took a lot of the sting out of Schnyder's loss.

Once again, the Family Circle Cup was well-organized and well-run. The tournament was totally enjoyable, despite the withdrawal of the top five seeds, and the retirements, through injury, of Serena Williams, Tatiana Golovin and Vera Zvonareva. What with the withdrawals, the retirements, Schnyder's early exit, and the bad weather on the last day, the tournament probably sounds like it was a total disaster, but it wasn't. We all dealt with the multiple disappointments and focused on the healthy players.

Highs and lows:

First, the lows:

  • The withdrawal of the top five seeds
  • The retirement of Williams, Golovin and Zvonareva
  • The cancellation of two doubles quarterfinal matches because of retirements
  • Patty Schnyder's second round loss to Peng Shuai (probably my biggest disappointment)
  • The match announcer's consistent mispronunciation of the players' names
  • The tournament director's mispronunciation of a finalist's name
  • Michaella Kracijek's terrible choke in her quarterfinal match against Zvonareva
  • The absence of player interviews on the Grand Lawn
  • The substitution of Murphy Jensen for Luke Jensen as Grand Lawn event emcee

The highs:

  • The consistently great work done by Family Circle Cup volunteers
  • The nice variety of food available at the food court (but will they ever bring back the falalfel?)
  • Great access to the players
  • Michaella Krajicek's stunning victory over top seed Nicole Vaidisova
  • Anabel Medina Garrigues's straight set victory over Li Na. Medina Garrigues is a player I like a lot (I like Li, too), and this was a really big win for her.
  • The first-rate comedy show, billed as an exhibition match, put on by the hilarious Liezel Huber, Katarina Srebotnik, Gisela Dulko, Flavia Pennetta, and chair umpire Lynn Welch
A final fashion note...I choose Venus Williams' orange halter dress as the outstanding tennis outfit of the tournament. Because it was so chilly, we also saw some very nice warmup apparel, but my favorite was Patty Schynder's "vacationland" style Miami jacket.

Players worth mentioning:

Michaella Krajicek: She broke everyone's heart when she choked her entire quarterfinal match against Vera Zvonareva, but prior to that awful moment, she provided the most thrilling tennis of the tournament. Here's hoping Krajicek finds a way to live up to her potential. Who wouldn't want to see more of her?

Peng Shuai: We all know how talented Peng is, but--like Krajicek--she hasn't found a way to develop that talent. In her match against Patty Schnyder, we saw how well she can play, and then she and her doubles partner, Sun Tiantian, took out the number one doubles team in the second round. (We also got to see Michael Chang, who is now coaching Peng.)

Katarina Srebotnik: Srebotnik has a nice game, and we always enjoy watching her play. At this tournament, she showed some amazing endurance. After winning a really tough three-setter against hard hitter Aravane Rezai, she had to rush off the court to play doubles. Early the next morning, she was practicing, and then beat Zheng Zhi in another tough three-set match. And when her doubles partner, Dinara Safina, retired from their quarterfinal match, Srebotnik stuck around to entertain us as part of the deadly funny five-woman show in the doubles exhibition match.

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