Wrap Up: Another Title for Serena, Americans Shine in Charleston
By: Nicholas McCarvel
The top women's tennis players in the world descended on Charleston for the 41st running of the Family Circle Cup, but it was the world's top-ranked player who walked away with the title: Serena Williams winning her third title on the green clay.
Lucie Safarova won her second doubles trophy in a row, this year teaming up with Kristina Mladenovic for the first time in their careers.
Serena does it - again
Serena was at her best throughout the week, especially when she was challenged Sunday. The 2008 and 2012 winner in Charleston raised her game after losing her only set of the tournament to open the final against 2007 winner Jelena Jankovic, taking the match 3-6, 6-0, 6-2.
It was an exclamation point on what had already been an exciting week for the 31-year-old American, who beat her older sister Venus in a historic semifinal that was the 24th meeting between the siblings, the most storied familial rivalry in sports.
The tournament win by Serena marked the first time a player had repeated at the Family Circle Cup since Conchita Martinez did so in 1994 and 1995 and vaulted Serena into rare company as she joined Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf as players who have won this tournament three times or more.
Good friends Safarova and Mladenovic paired up for the first time in their careers on the doubles court and are batting one thousand after they won four straight matches to win the title, including a 6-3, 7-6 (6) victory over top seeds Andrea Hlavackova and Liezel Huber in the final.
The semifinal between Serena and Venus drew the biggest single-session crowd in the tournament's history with 9,538 fans taking in the first all-Williams match in almost four years on the WTA. Serena won for the 14th time, denying her 32-year-old sister a shot at her second Charleston crown.
A whopping 14 players from the U.S. made appearances in the singles main draw this year, with seven of them marching into the third round, the most in 30 years at the Family Circle Cup.
Eighteen-year-old Madison Keys, who lost to Venus in the quarterfinals, grabbed plenty of fans' attention with her three wins in Charleston, including one over wild card Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round after Mattek-Sands had shocked No. 4 seed Sloane Stephens in round two.
Both 19-year-old Jessica Pegula and 22-year-old Mallory Burdette also made waves, each making the third round after qualifying earlier in the week.
Former world No. 1 Jankovic, who won here in 2007, made an improbable run to the final against Serena, winning five matches in six days and playing almost 12 hours of tennis while doing so. The world No. 18 also was a crowd favorite, delighting in the couches on Billie Jean King Court (she loved them) and playfully dusting herself off with a towel during the final (causing a laugh).
After rain nearly washed out play on Thursday, both Serena and Venus played two matches Friday afternoon in a Williams family back-to-back-to-back-to-back session, the first time such an occurrence has ever happened in pro tennis.
Call it a Voegele
Ranked No. 63 in the world, Stefanie Voegele of Switzerland was a party crasher in the semifinals, stunning 2011 winner and No. 2 seed Caroline Wozniacki the round before to make her first-ever WTA final four.
Liezel's long good-bye
Longtime doubles specialist Liezel Huber has played her final Family Circle Cup - she thinks. The 36-year-old American and new mom said during the tournament that she's "transitioning" to a new life of off-court work. She won the title in Charleston in 2010.
They Said It
"That's why she's No. 1 in the world." - Jelena Jankovic on how she gave it her all in the final against Serena Williams
"I can't wait to come back again next year." - Serena Williams during the trophy ceremony
Back for more
Serena – and a host of other women’s tennis stars – will be back on Daniel Island in Charleston for the 2014 Family Circle Cup, which will take place March 29 to April 6 on. See you then!