Charleston | Wozniacki kicks off clay court season with a masterclass

The women’s Tour moves from the hard courts of north America to the long clay court season this week, with a WTA 500 event in Charleston, a WTA 250 in Bogota, and a WTA 125 at La Bisbal d’Empordá in Spain heralding the build-up to the French Open in late May.

On the grey-green clay of Charleston on Monday, former World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, wild-carded into the main draw, cruised past lucky loser McCartney Kessler, while Amanda Anisimova set up a 2nd-round contest with top seed Jessica Pegula.

Wozniacki delivered a masterclass on her return to the Credit One Charleston Open, the Dane dispatching America’s Kessler, 6-0 6-1, in just 61 minutes.

It was Wozniacki’s first win on clay since her last appearance in Charleston in 2019, when she reached the third of her three finals in South Carolina.

In 2011 she landed the title after defeating Elena Vesnina in the 2011 final, but was runner-up to Sabine Lisicki in 2009, and Madison Keys in 2019.

Wozniacki will now have the chance to gain some revenge on No 15 seed Anhelina Kalinina in the 2nd-round, having lost to the Ukrainian from match point up 2 weeks ago in Miami.

Kessler, a University of Florida alumna, has enjoyed a smooth rise up the rankings since turning pro, improving from No 825 this time last year to her current No 122 slot, and winning her first WTA 125 title in Puerto Vallarta in February, but she was unable to prevent a near-flawless Wozniacki from opening and closing the match with two 6-game streaks.

The 33-year old Dane did not allow Kessler to hold serve once, as she motored to her most dominant win since returning from maternity leave, firing 18 winners to 13 unforced errors and winning all 10 of her net points, while the 24-year old Kessler produced 20 miscues to her 4 winners.

Amanda Anisimova returned after a 2 month absence and dismissed Alizé Cornet in a clash between two former Charleston semi-finalists.

Another American, Anisimova, joined Wozniacki in round 2 with an impressive dismissal of Alizé Cornet, 6-3 6-0, in a clash between two former Charleston semi-finalists.

The 22-year-old American has had a superb start to the 2024 season, reaching the Round of 16 at the Australian Open for the third time in her career before falling to eventual champion Aryna Sabalenka.

Anisimova did not play at all in February or March, but hit the clay of Charleston looking like her form from Down Under has been maintained.

After a 3-3 deadlock, Anisimova battled through a gruelling 7th game, converting her 5th break point to lead 4-3 and, from there, she was unstoppable, reeling off the last 10 games in succession against the former World No 11, and finishing the match with 35 winners to 10 from the Frenchwoman, while the American saved all 4 of the break points she faced.

Anisimova will now face Pegula, her fellow American and the World No 5, who won their only previous meeting at the Western & Southern Open in New York City in 2020.

Katie Volynets won the longest match of 2024, edging past Arantxa Rus after 3 hours and 43 minutes.

Meanwhile, yet another American, Katie Volynets, won the longest match of 2024 in dramatic fashion, the 22-year-old eventually closing out 54th-ranked Arantxa Rus form the Netherlands, 6-2 6-7(6) 7-6(6), after 3 hours and 43 minutes.

The American qualifier, ranked 110, saved 2 match points in the process.

Volynets had beaten Rus in 3 sets before, needing 2 hours and 24 minutes to do so at Indian Wells in 2022.

This time around, the pair battled with heavy groundstroke rallies on the green clay of Charleston, with the first set going to Volynets after 52 minutes, and she served for a straight-sets victory at 5-4 in the second, only for Rus to pull back on serve before squeaking out the set in the tiebreak without facing a match point.

There were 8 service breaks in the decider, where Rus served for the match at 6-5, but Volynets broke to send the contest into the climactic tiebreak.

Rus led 6-4 and held double match point in the breaker, but the Dutch left-hander could not close out the match, and stopped play during a rally at 6-5, thinking a Volynets ball had gone wide, but the chair umpire inspected the mark, called the ball in, and play continued.

After the changeover, Volynets earned her first match point when Rus chipped a backhand wide, and the American needed just the one chance as a Rus forehand found the net, giving the qualifier an epic win.

Volynets will now take on a fellow American in the 2nd-round, Charleston’s own Emma Navarro, the 10th seed.

Among other Monday results, French qualifier Varvara Gracheva bested last year’s Junior Wimbledon champion Clervie Ngounoue of the United States, 6-2 6-1; hometown wild-card Shelby Rogers breezed past her fellow American, qualifier Claire Liu, 6-1 6-1, in 73 minutes; and Romania’s Jaqueline Cristian defeated another American qualifier, Sachia Vickery, 6-1 6-4.

Ons Jabeur (L) is the defending champion, having beaten Belinda Bencic in last year's Charleston final

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The top 16 seeds receive byes into round 2, including Pegula, defending champion and World No 6 Ons Jabeur, 3rd-seeded Maria Sakkari and No 4 seed Daria Kasatkina.

Pegula leads the top half of the draw along with Kasatkina, No 6 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova and No 8 seed and former champion Madison Keys. A semi-finalist last year, Pegula will face Anisimova first.

Alexandrova, who is coming off a strong two weeks in Miami, where she defeated World No 1 Iga Swiatek and Pegula in back-to-back matches en route to the semi-finals, will play the winner of a 1st-round match between Sofia Kenin and Taylor Townsend.

Also floating in the top half of the draw are Victoria Azarenka, Wozniacki, and Kalinina.

Defending champion Jabeur tops the bottom half of the draw, having defeated defending champion Belinda Bencic 7-6(6) 6-, last year in a re-match of the previous year’s final, which the Swiss won, 6–1 5–7 6–4.

The Tunisian could face a tough opener against either Miami champion Danielle Collins or Paula Badosa.

Also in the bottom half are Sakkari, No 5 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, No 7 seed Elina Svitolina and No 9 seed and 2021 champion Veronika Kudermetova.

The Credit One Charleston Open is the first WTA 500 tournament of the clay season and the only clay-court WTA tournament in North America.

The tournament is played on outdoor green clay (Har-Tru) at Live to Play Daniel Island, home of Credit One Stadium. The Dunlop Grand Prix Regular Duty ball will be used.

The tournament features a 48-player singles field and a 16-team doubles field.



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