Charleston Drive: Field Narrowed to Eight
By: Nicholas McCarvel
Eight players, eight dreams of winning the 2014 Family Circle Cup, and eight very different stories on how they each made it to Friday.
The culminating weekend of this year’s Cup gets underway today as the best of the WTA Tour take to Billie Jean King Stadium Court, the four quarterfinals being played through the afternoon and early evening.
Jana Cepelova was the big name early in the week: She beat Serena Williams in the second round in what was the world No. 1’s first loss in Charleston since 2007.
She plays her Slovakian compatriot Daniela Hantuchova, a former world No. 5 who – with well-known coach Peter Lundgren now by her side – is playing inspired tennis in her early thirties.
No. 3 seed Sara Errani is the highest-ranked player alive on the top half of the draw and has earned herself the reputation as the game’s pre-imminent dirt-baller, making the 2012 French Open final and saying she enjoys the fight – and getting dirty a little bit – on clay.
Errani plays Belinda Bencic, the week’s foremost new kid on the block at the age of 17. Bencic, who has two junior Grand Slams to her name, beat No. 10 seed Maria Kirilenko in the first round before denying fellow teen Elina Svitolina a first Premier quarterfinal with a win on Thursday.
On the bottom half of the draw, 2007 Family Circle Cup champion Jelena Jankovic is the assumed favorite with Serena and now Venus Williams out. The Serbian has won twice in straight sets in her opening two matches and has carried her calm and collected – and oftentimes sarcastic – approach from Charleston last year into 2014.
The former World No. 1 meets up-and-coming Canadian Genie Bouchard, a 20-year-old who is well established with an Australian Open semifinal under her belt this year, and this week a player that has continued to come into her own, beating Venus Williams in the third round.
Jankovic and Bouchard have met twice before: once here a year ago in the quarterfinals (won easily by Jankovic) and more recently a win by Bouchard, last fall in Tokyo.
The winner of that match will get either Andrea Petkovic, the German, or Lucie Safarova, a 2012 finalist here who also won the doubles titles in Charleston in both 2012 and 2013. Safarova needed three long sets to beat 2010 champion Sam Stosur Thursday night.
Petkovic, long a fan favorite in tennis circles, has gained steam with each match, scoring a double bagel in the second round before blowing past 2009 Cup winner Sabine Lisicki 6-0, 6-1 on Thursday.
Whose storylines will continue into the semifinals? We’ll find out today.