None of this week’s tournaments are as big or important as the just-completed Miami Open, but the stakes begin to get higher in another way. These events mark the start of the clay season—the red variety on the ATP side, green for the women in Charleston. That means we’ve shifted, ever-so-tentatively, into Grand Slam season again. Roland Garros is nearly two months away, but as of Monday, we’re on the road to Paris. Here’s a look at what we might see on the first stop.
Volvo Car Open (WTA)
$565,530; WTA 500
In most years, Charleston offers the women a welcome, off-the-beaten-path respite after a month in the high heat of the California desert and the humidity of South Florida. This year, with Indian Wells canceled, Miami downscaled, and the fate of so much of the tours up in the air, the Volvo Car Open feels a little more essential.
The draw helps. These days, once a player is on the road, it seems she’ll stay on the road. That starts at the top with Ash Barty. Normally, you might expect the Miami winner to take a pass on Charleston, but so far she’s still in the field. So is Sofia Kenin, Petra Kvitova, Belinda Bencic, Garbiñe Muguruza, Elise Mertens, Coco Gauff, Ons Jabeur, Amanda Anisimova, and defending champion (from 2019) Madison Keys, among other well-known names.
Charleston has had a predictive quality in recent years: Sam Stosur, Angelique Kerber and Sloane Stephens all won titles here, and then won their first Slams the following year. Is there anyone who might take that first step here in 2021? The draw is probably a little too deep and experienced for that, but what about Mertens?
First-round matches to watch:
Shelby Rogers vs. Kiki Mladenovic
Gauff vs. Tsvetana Pironkova
Jabeur vs. Martina Trevisan
Anytech365 Andalucia Open (ATP)
$400,000; ATP 250
The ATP heads to Spain and, not surprisingly, the Spaniards return to the courts. Pablo Carreño Busta is the top seed; his countrymen Albert Ramos-Viñolas, Alexander Davidovich Fokina, and Feliciano Lopez are among the Top 8; and the nation’s teen hopeful, Carlos Alcaraz, is a wild card.
Sardegna Open (ATP)
$600,000; ATP 250
Player of Interest: Lorenzo Musetti. If he wins his first match, the 19-year-old Italian will face Evans.
Copa Colsanitas (WTA)
$235,238; WTA 250
Saisai Zheng is the first seed, but the player with the momentum is No. 2 Sara Sorribes Tormo, who is coming off a quarterfinal run in Miami, and looking like a player to reckon with on clay this spring.
Also here: 18-year-old Clara Tauson, who has already won a title this year and is seeded No. 4.
First-round match to watch, and watch, and watch some more: Sorribes Tormo vs. her older Italian doppelgänger, Sara Errani. Will the battle of the Saras ever end?