Women’s professional tennis has never lacked drama. Even back in early Billy Jean King days when the prize money was discriminatorily dismal, the women’s tour was loaded with personality and rivalries (Martina v. Chrissy!) as strong as those ubiquitous two-handed backhands. Today the purse is more than respectable and the competition fiercer than ever. And there’s no better place to get up close and personal with Grand Slam champs like Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Ostapenko than right in our own backyard.

There’s plenty to love about spending early spring days relaxing courtside on Daniel Island, hydrating with a local Dockery’s craft beer or cocktail, and doing nothing but watching some incredible athletes lope around the court, letting an umpire call the shots.

Watching hours of tennis can be like Zen therapy — meditative, low stress, highly entertaining, and a pleasant way to hang with friends on a warm sunny day. Even if you don’t understand the game or find it boring, the permission to simply watch, cheer, and otherwise check out from worldly cares is downright decadent.

For avid tennis aces and fans, this year’s player field promises all the athleticism and finesse that the women’s game is known for. Ten of the world’s top 20 players are in the Volvo draw, including three grand slam champs, five past Charleston champions, crowd favorites like Sloane Stephens and local superstar Shelby Rogers, who’s making her debut return after an extended injury absence.

There’s also local high school phenom Emma Navarro, whose dad bought the rights for the tournament from Meredith Corporation (publishers of Family Circle magazine) last year, but who earned her spot on her own accord, after winning the 2018 USTA Girls 18 Clay Court Championships, not to mention making it to the finals of the Australian Open juniors event.

Navarro’s imprint is evident in this Volvo Car Open’s decidedly healthy focus. There’s a yoga event (Golden, featuring Sarah Frick and Ashley Cebulka) added this year, for example, as well as more healthy (and locally sourced) dining options. Acai bowls will be a welcomed alternative to Chick-Fil-A (though who says you can’t have both), and trusty Hamby’s and Verde will also be on hand.
[image-2] A new elevated — literally — dining experience can be enjoyed at the Rooftop, an indoor-outdoor restaurant on the second floor of the merchandise tent, catered by Vintage/Coastal Crust. There’s even a Gospel Brunch as a pricey ($115) and spirited prelude to Sunday’s championship match.

The upshot of all those hard-hitting shots is that there’s something for everyone at the tournament, including test driving a Volvo. The Family Weekend package is a steal with tickets only $10 and kids under 16 free (that’s the case everyday, actually). I’m a sucker for the early days of the tournament, when you can wander the grounds and stumble on a non-center court match, pick a random favorite, then move on to the next match.

So much talent, even if I can’t pronounce many of the players’ last names. If pickle ball is more your speed, then you’re in luck, too, but if you, like me, are all about watching powerhouse gals play their hearts out, then meet me courtside. I’ll be there, cheering on Shelby.


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