Largest Confirmed Event During Covid-19 Shuttering Coming To Charleston

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Charleston, South Carolina, has been a regular stop on the WTA Tour for the past two decades. However, the 2020 Volvo Car Open was one of the first events cancelled after the coronavirus outbreak shut down professional tennis indefinitely.

Now, 16 WTA players, including Bianca Andreescu and Sofia Kenin, will come together and launch the inaugural Credit One Bank Invitational at LTP Daniel Island in Charleston, June 23-28. It is the largest single confirmed event since tennis started re-opening with regional events in the United States and Europe.

The Credit One Bank Invitational, which will feature 16 singles and eight doubles matches, will raise funds for the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) frontline healthcare workers. The exhibition tournament will be broadcast live on Tennis Channel as part of its (Re)Open Tour and played without fans.

According to Ben Navarro, Owner of Charleston Tennis LLC, “Charleston has proven time and again to be the poster child for resiliency – and in my mind, this special tournament will help accomplish three very critical things,” he said in a statement. “First, it is a tangible way to show the world we are able to bring back live sport for public enjoyment; Second, it allows our community and tennis fans all over to support the tennis professionals whose opportunities to compete this year have been severely limited; Third, it helps us show our frontline medical professionals how much we care, with half of the proceeds going directly to support MUSC.”

Besides Andreescu, the reigning US Open champion, and Kenin, who won this year’s Australian Open, others who will participate in the Credit One Bank Invitational include: Madison Keys, winner of the 2019 Volvo Car Open, and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who will serve as captains. Also: Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, Monica Puig, Amanda Anisimova, Jennifer Brady, Danielle Collins, Alison Riske, Shelby Rogers, Eugenie Bouchard, Leylah Annie FernandezAjla Tomljanovic and Emma Navarro. (Riske, Anisimova, Collins and Tomljanovic are participating in this weekend’s UTR Pro Match Series exhibition in West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Osaka is world’s top-earning female athlete

According to Forbes, Naomi Osaka is the world’s top-earning female athlete. Since June 1, 2019, the former World No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion from Japan earned $37.4 million (£30.74 million, 34.29 million euros) from a variety of endorsements and prize money.

The 22-year-old Osaka, who is ranked No. 29 overall, surpassed Serena Williams (at 33rd) in Forbes’ annual list of 100 top-earning athletes. She out-earned Williams by $1.4 million. Forbes said Osaka’s total is a single-year record for a female athlete and tops the previous mark of $29.7 million set by Maria Sharapova in 2015.

Osaka’s career earnings on the WTA Tour have exceeded $14.6 million. She earned more than $6.7 million in 2019. Among her 15 endorsements, Osaka has deals with Nike, Yonex, Nissan Motor, MasterCard and Citizen Watch.

According to Forbes, the highest-paid female athlete every year since it began tracking the list in 1990 has been a tennis player. Sharapova, Li Na, Williams and now Osaka are the only women to rank among the top 100 top money earners in sports since 2012.

Madison Keys: Kindness Wins Day

At age 25, American Madison Keys has devoted plenty of her time and energy beyond the tennis court as a vocal hero and a tireless champion for the empowerment of young women, first through FearlesslyGirl and now through her new foundation Kindness Wins. Friday was the second annual #KindnessWinsDay, which Keys described via Twitter as “really just a day to recognize someone and say thank you.”

Plenty of Keys’s peers in pro tennis did just that.

At the end of the day, Keys wrote on Twitter: “To all of you who stepped up in our world’s time of need, is thank you even enough? Your kindness, compassion and dedication to your jobs and us is something that deserves all of our kindness in return every day.” 🙏🏽#KindnessWinsDay

Behind The Racquet – Alison Van Uytvanck 

Fifty-seventh-ranked Alison Van Uytvanck of Belgium first took up tennis at age 5 and as a professional has played in the shadows of her more-recognized countrywoman Elise Mertens. The 26-year-old from Vilvoorde, who is fluent in Dutch, English and French, has won four singles titles and been a Top 100 fixture since 2013. She reached a career-high ranking of No. 37 in August 2018.

Last December, Van Uytvanck penned a first-person essay for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet in which she described the torment of being bullied by other kids as she tried to learn the sport while at the Belgium Federation. She described the experience as “the toughest moment of my life.” However, as she grew older, she began to open up and speak out.

“As many know, I came out about three years ago, when I was 22,” Van Uytvanck wrote. “From what I went through it gave me the courage to open up about my sexuality, which I was nervous to do. I have been fortunate to find my girlfriend, Greet Minnen, who I have been with for the past three years now. It was nice to know that my parents dealt with me coming out well, they just wanted me to be happy and healthy. My girlfriend is a huge piece of why I am so happy today. She is one of the first people, outside my family, to give me confidence and tell me I’m beautiful just the way I am, including my hair. I finally felt accepted by someone. We also had the amazing opportunity to play doubles together in this past Wimbledon. It’s so good to know that I am supported by many people now. 

“When I came out I immediately got a lot of positive support on social media, which shocked me. I feel like myself now, doing what I want to do, even participating in Pride Day during the US Open. Through all my experiences I feel like I need to share my story with others to hopefully help them. My girlfriend and I will sometimes train back at the federation and we talk to as many kids as possible. We tell them how important it is to show respect and tell them if they ever need help or have questions that we are there to answer. We have already helped kids get through events in their life. This makes it all worth it. If I ever get down I remember the kids that bullied me, who ‘had more potential’, are not playing tennis anymore, and here I am!” 

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“I was around ten or eleven years old when I first went to the Belgium Federation to train. I quickly realized it was not going to be what I thought it would. I began to be bullied every day by the other kids, who were mostly guys. They would constantly make fun of my hair and it would make me feel miserable. I never felt so alone, having no friends and unable to really talk to parents. I felt like opening up about my bullying, especially to my parents, would just make other people’s lives tougher and I never wanted that. After about a year of dealing with this I finally said something to the coaches. They spoke to the kids about the issue, which only helped for about two days until it went back to ‘normal’. I had no one to lean on for help and found myself crying in my room day after day. It came to an end when I was kicked out. Beyond not fitting in I was consistently injured and the people at the top didn’t believe in me and how my tennis was improving. It was the toughest moment of my life, but has made me the person I am today. It took some time to get passed the experiences I dealt with. My self esteem was very low and I stopped trusting myself. I started to believe the kids that once told me that I actually wasn’t beautiful and it led to my lack of confidence in tennis. I first spoke to many psychologists about my traumas, who really were the first people I opened up to. As many know, I came out about three years ago, when I was 22. From what I went through it gave me the courage to open up about my sexuality, which I was nervous to do. I have been fortunate to find my girlfriend, Greet Minnen, who I have been with for the past three years now. It was nice to know that my parents dealt with me coming out well, they just wanted me to be happy and healthy. My girlfriend is a huge piece of why I am so happy today. She is one of the first people, outside my family, to give me confidence and tell me I’m beautiful just the way I am, including my hair. I finally felt accepted by someone. We also had the amazing opportunity to play doubles together in this past Wimbledon…” @alison_van_uytvanck Read full story at behindtheracquet.com (link in bio)

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What they’re tweeting

Christopher Clarey, New York Times tennis correspondent, writes on Twitter: “Strange to see. The French Open’s Chatrier Court with a roof after nearly 100 years. All 4 Slams now have main-court retractable roofs.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Naomi Osaka’s “Quarantine Pressroom”

This week, Naomi Osaka started a series of Instagram Live chats with fellow tennis pros. On Friday, she shared a lively conversation with France’s Gaël Monfils, whom she identified as one of her three favorite players. Among the topics they discussed were Gaël’s love of comic books (“I’m crazy about the Avengers, so it’s funny”), his favorite dance and his love of Japanese cuisine.