Finals at the Family Circle Cup seemed a bit lackluster after the big battles of the quarter and semifinals. The weather was gray and cool, but perfect for tennis, with no wind and no glare. Huge ESPN cameras flanked the on-court wicker players’ couches and live playbacks were streamed onto the Jumbotron for our line-calling pleasure.
Caroline Wozniacki was where everyone expected her to be, on center court validating her current ranking as No. 1 in the world. Her competition, however, was quite a surprise. Russia’s Elena Vesnina had upset three of the top 12 seeds on the road to the singles final. Not only had she pulled off that feat but she was also playing in the doubles final later Sunday afternoon.
This was a David and Goliath situation in terms of rankings: Vesnina is ranked 56th in the world and has yet to win a world title in singles. Wozniacki is at the top of her game and has a whopping 14 career titles at the relatively young age of 20. In true Charleston style, the crowd politely applauded for each woman with a winning shot or after a long rally. Wozniacki won the match easily (6-2, 6-3) but not without a valiant effort from Vesnina, who has one of the best backhands on the tour, precise drop and lob shots, and a mean serve in her arsenal.
Mayor Riley was on hand to get another plug for Charleston on national TV (and congratulate the winners) along with the editor of Family Circle Magazine and tournament officials. The ceremony ended with Wozniacki hitting balls to the fans and leaving with her crystal vase and her $111,000 in winnings.
At the press conference after the match, Vesnina said that Caroline was “just too good right now. Sometimes you feel like she is everywhere on the court. She plays smart tennis and she makes you think and play hard.”
After the allotted one hour and 15 minutes of rest, Vesnina was back out on center court with her doubles partner Sania Mirza. They played the American team of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy. The ESPN cameras were gone for this match but the sun came out and the audience was much more chipper, busting out a steady clap and a low breaking wave at times.
The doubles match was equally merciless, but this time the play was dominated by Vesnina/Mirza. Elena has a Martina-like finesse and placement of her ground shots to go with her 100 m.p.h. serve. Sania boasts a powerful forehand and a fearless net game. They put away winners with ease and grace, ultimately beating Mattek-Sands/Shaughnessy (6-4, 6-4).
Daniel Island is the world’s women’s tennis hotspot during the Family Circle Cup each year. This year benefitted from a spell of great weather, a group of new international tennis stars, and fun for tennis fans of all ages. Many of the players claim it’s their favorite tournament on the WTA tour, and that’s more than just lip service. It’s a straight-up ace.