Volvo Car Open: Trio Of Wins By Former Grand Slam Champions

Garbiñe Muguruza (photo: Volvo Car Open/Chris Smith)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 7, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Tuesday’s second day of the Volvo Car Open in Charleston, S.C., was highlighted by a trio of victories by three former Grand Slam champions – Sloane Stephens, Garbiñe Muguruza and Petra Kvitova. Stephens won for just the second time this season, while Muguruza triumphed for the first time in Charleston since 2013, and Kvitova captured her first win on green clay.

Now, as Wednesday unfolds at the LTP-Daniel Island Tennis Club in this WTA 500-series event, there will be two more former Grand Slam winners in action – Ashleigh Barty and Sofia Kenin – as the second round wraps up and the draw narrows to 16 players.

Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, won the Volvo Car Open in 2016 on green clay. She calls it her favorite surface. More recently, her game has fallen on hard times as her ranking has plummeted to No. 57. On Tuesday, Stephens picked up just her second win of 2021 when she beat 147th-ranked lucky loser Wang Xinyu of China, 6-2, 6-4.

“I’m trying to get my season going,” Stephens said during an on-court interview. “I love Charleston and love playing here. I have amazing memories here, so it’s nice to get this win.”

Stephens will be in the spotlight as she faces Volvo Open defending champion and close friend Madison Keys in a featured evening match on Althea Gibson Club Court. The two Americans opposed each other in the 2017 US Open final, won by Stephens, 6-3, 6-0. They’ve played twice since then, most recently in the 2019 Volvo Open quarterfinals, won by Keys, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 6-2, en route to her winning the Charleston title, which was her fifth WTA crown. Stephens leads the career head-to-head 3-1.

“We been friends for a long time and we’ve played a lot of matches against each other,” according to Stephens. “We always play well against each other. It’s always a good battle. We’ve played a lot, so I kind of feel like this is normal for us. You separate your friendship from your professional life and the match, and then you go back to being friends after.”

Meanwhile, the No. 6 seed Muguruza, a Grand Slam champion at Roland Garros (2016) and Wimbledon (2017) and this year winner of one title (Dubai) and a three-time finalist, garnered her WTA-leading 21st victory of the season with her 6-1, 6-3 win over 159th-ranked qualifier Magdalena Frech of Poland Tuesday afternoon.

“Honestly, I’m happy with the win in general because I knew didn’t have a lot of expectations with coming from hard courts and changing quickly [to green clay],” the World No. 13 told Tennis TourTalk. “It’s the first match, it’s not the clay that I’m used to. There are some differences – not big but still some differences. I’m happy I got this win, I fought hard and kept my spirit high throughout the whole match.”

No. 3 seed Kvitova, twice a Wimbledon champion (2011, 2014), completed the trio of wins by the former Grand Slam champions as she hit five aces and struck 21 winners during her 7-6 (4), 6-2 win over 187th-ranked qualifier Storm Sanders of Australia that finished the Tuesday day session. It was the wild card Kvitova’s first win on green clay.

“Obviously, it was my first match on [green] clay. I had a little bit of preparation on it,” Kvitova said during an on-court interview. “For me, the beginning of the clay season is always tough mentally and physically. I always need some time to get used to it.”

Top seeds Barty and Kenin in action Wednesday

Among the featured day matches Wednesday, the tournament’s top two seeds – No. 1 Barty and No. 2 Kenin – will see their first action. Barty will face 77th-ranked Misaki Doi of Japan in a late-afternoon contest. During her pre-tournament virtual press conference on Monday, Tennis TourTalk asked Barty about transitioning to Charleston’s green clay, “I find that green clay is almost a middle-man between hard courts and European red clay,” she said. “Sometimes, the green clay is a little bit quicker. Typically, you can move on it like a hard court if you wish. You can [also] kind of go straight into sliding a little bit more like a traditional European clay court. I think we’ll have to obviously be patient this week and not feel like we’re rushing into trying to play our best clay-court tennis right away.”

Meanwhile, Kenin has enjoyed one great run on clay, last year en route to the final of the French Open. It changed her attitude about the surface. “Obviously, after last year, Roland Garros is one of my favorite surfaces,” she told Tennis TourTalk Monday afternoon. Kenin opposes fellow American Lauren Davis, ranked 79th, in the second match from 10 a.m. on Althea Gibson Club Court.

Wednesday’s order of play includes 13 singles matches featuring 11 seeded players. Three doubles matches complete the first round – including a late-afternoon all-American tussle between Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands against Coco Gauff and Caty McNally.

Navarro earns first WTA tour-level win

Local wild card Emma Navarro, 19, a University of Virginia freshman, won her first WTA tour-level match Tuesday night playing on her home court in Charleston in front of family of friends. (Her father, Ben, is a South Carolina businessman and owner of the Volvo Car Open.) Navarro, ranked 481st, defeated Mexico’s 141st-ranked Renata Zarazua, 6-4, 6-3, winning on her 2nd match-point opportunity. Navarro outpointed Zarazua 69-52 during the hour-and-a-half match on Althea Gibson Club Court that began the Tuesday evening session.

“You always remember your first main draw in on the WTA tour,” said Hall of Famer Lindsay Davenport, who analyzed the match for Tennis Channel in the United States. Indeed, it was a wonderful, memorable moment.

During her virtual press conference, Tennis TourTalk asked Navarro if winning her first WTA main draw match suggests she can compete regularly on the WTA tour and start playing in more events. She said: “I’ve always taken it one step at a time even in juniors. I always played at my level and tried to master that level until I moved on. So, I mean, I take it one match at a time. I’ll be finishing the rest of my college season these next couple of months. I’m hoping to play a lot of tournaments this summer and see where I can go.”

Has Navarro’s level of college competition helped prepare her for playing professionally? “I think it has,” she said. “I played a lot of tough opponents that have challenged me. I think also the practice I’ve been getting at UVA has just really helped me a lot. I couldn’t ask for three better coaches. I’m really grateful.”

Navarro will be back on court Wednesday afternoon against No. 15 seed Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

• In the second half of Tuesday’s evening session, No. 14 seed Coco Gauff of the United States defeated Bulgaria’s No. 113 Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-3, 6-0 in just over an hour. “It definitely means a lot, especially today since I played pretty well,” Gauff said during her virtual post-match interview. “I was able to control the points and find my calmness and pull through. The first match is always the toughest.”

Tuesday’s Volvo Car Open results

Wednesday’s Volvo Car Open order of play

Doubles specialist Vania King retires

What they’re telling Tennis TourTalk

Shelby Rogers is one of 18 American women in this week’s Volvo Car Open singles draw. She’s among the most recognizable faces of an exciting up-and-coming generation of U.S. players, including Sofia Kenin, Jennifer Brady, Madison Keys, Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff and Amanda Anisimova, whom Rogers faces Wednesday night in the second round.

On Monday, Tennis TourTalk asked Rogers how she fits in. She said: “It’s been really fun with these girls, seeing everyone be so successful and that we all genuinely get along and can say ‘hi’ to each other at tournaments and encourage each other. I’m just happy to be a part of that group.

“It would be tough to be on the outside of it watching all your peers do really well. At the same time, you have to focus on yourself because tennis is so individual. It does help having all your countrywomen do well because it makes it more realistic in a way.

“Because it’s an individual sport, you have a different draw every week and there’s so many different variables that go into it as well. It is so exciting and it’s awesometo see U.S. tennis get so much publicity and recognition.”

Errani upsets Sorribes Tormo at Copa Colsanitas

No. 112 Sara Errani of Italy upset No. 2 seed Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, 7-5, 7-5, in two hours and 15 minutes to reach the second round of the WTA 250 Copa Colsanitas on red clay in Bogotá, Colombia Tuesday afternoon. Errani beat one of the most in-form players of the past month in Sorribes Tormo, who won her first WTA title in Guadalajara last month and followed it with a semifinal finish in Monterrey, and last week was a quarterfinalist at the Miami Open.

“It was a tough match,” Errani said after her victory. “We know each other well and I was mentally prepared. Every match we had was always long and even today all the rallies were very long. I’m very happy about the result.

“It’s not easy playing here because Bogotá is more than 2,000 meters above the sea. They key [to victory] was to reduce unforced errors and try to push more with my forehand. … In the second set, I was leading but she raised her level and she reached 5-5. Then, I was able to calm down and win the match.”

While three seeds advanced – No. 3 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, No. 5 Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia and No. 7 Tereza Martincova from the Czech Republic – No. 4 seed Clara Tauson of Denmark, who last month won her first WTA title in Lyon, was upset by 213th-ranked qualifier Daniela Seguel of Chile, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 29 minutes.

Tuesday’s Copa Colsanitas results

Wednesday’s Copa Colsanitas order of play