After a month of togetherness—or coexistence, however you want to put it—the men and women go their separate ways this week. While the guys get ready for Davis Cup—yes, Novak Djokovic has found his way to Boise, Idaho—the women are in Monterrey, Mexico, and Charleston, S.C. It’s a special week at the latter event: This is the 40th edition of one of the WTA’s flagship tournaments, the Family Circle Cup. In 1973, when it was held in Hilton Head, the FCC became the first tour event to offer $100,000 in prize money, and the first to be broadcast on national television. Since then the tournament has moved up the road a few miles, but other than that it has remained one of the most stable events on either tour, retaining its title sponsor and its green-clay surface through four decades.
For most of those years it has also retained a strong draw, and that’s true again in 2013. Here’s a look at what we might this week at FCC XL, and its less-famous sibling event in Monterrey.
Family Circle Cup
The 56-player draw is led by Serena Williams. She is, of course, the extreme favorite to win it. Serena is No. 1 and coming off a title in Miami, and she played some of her most dominant tennis of last season when she slashed and burned her way through the draw here. The quality of competition also helps her chances: No Vika, no Maria, no Aga, not even a Petra, Angelique, or a Sara. The second seed is 10th-ranked Caroline Wozniacki.
It’s a familiar question, but once again it’s the only relevant one as this tournament gets underway: Can anyone stop Serena? She starts against Italy’s Camila Gorgi, and could play Sabine Lisicki after that. The up and down German had an up morning on Tuesday, double-bageling Anna Tatishvili. Serena is 2-0 against Lisicki; not all that surprisingly, the oft-injured Sabine retired against her here last year. The next-highest seed in this quarter is Lucie Safarova, who reached the final in Charleston in 2012. She may have wished she hadn’t: Safarovia was beaten 0 and 1 by Serena.
Also in this half is Sloane Stephens, who will start against Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Sloane won their three-setter in Paris last year, and says that clay is her favorite surface. If so, we might get a chance to see her play Venus Williams in a match that didn’t happen last week in Miami. Venus opens against Monica Puig, a 19-year-old up-and-comer from Puerto Rico.
Wozniacki, the 2011 Charleston champ, leads the other half. She starts against Silvia Soler-Espinosa, and will likely play the winner of Andrea Petkovic and Yaroslava Shvedova in the third round. Also on this side are Sam Stosur, a clay lover and the champion in 2010; eighth-seeded Mona Barthel; Jelena Jankovic, who is playing Melanie Oudin as I write this; Laura Robson; and seventh-seeded Carla Suarez-Navarro.
Any of those names sound like Serena stoppers? Stosur has done it before, as has Wozniacki. If they make the final, they’d have a...chance.
Already out: Southern girl Jamie Hampton, in three sets to Olga Govortsova.
$235,000; WTA International
Draw is here
Is Angelique Kerber heading for a sophomore slump at the age of 25? The previously unheralded German moved all the way up to No. 6 last year, but she hasn’t been lighting it up so far in 2013. Plagued by a back injury, she dropped her opening matches in Doha and Dubai and was served a surprise bagel second set by Sorana Cirstea last week in Miami.
Kerber will look to get some momentum on the hard courts in Monterrey, where she’s the top seed. In her way will be second seed Marion Bartoli, Ula Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Yanina Wickmayer, Maria Kirilenko, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and maybe even Croatian teenager Donna Vekic.
Small but not barren of talent, this is a good draw for a world No. 6 to show that she can stay there.