This year's Family Circle Cup, as usual, was an exciting and beautifully organized event. There were no tornadoes or other storms, and the staff--as always--was very helpful and hospitable. A few things could be improved:
The line calling was terrible. At one point in the Schnyder-Dementieva match, Patty Schnyder walked to the umpire's chair to ask the umpire how the linespeople could possibly do their jobs when their chairs were not even in the right places. What Schnyder may not have known was that--at that point in the match--some of the linespeople had actually stopped calling lines altogether, and were leaving the job to the umpire.
The chair umpires, at the very least, could learn to pronounce the players' names. This is not a Charleston problem, of course, but a tour problem. It's bad enough that television commentators cannot pronounce the players' names. (Credit to the match announcer, however; this year, he got most of the names right.)
The food selection is narrowing. Last year, the falafel disappeared, and this year, the veggie gyros were gone.
My top two favorites, Patty Schnyder and Jelena Jankovic, both made quarterfinal exits, destroying a lot of my pleasure and interest, and my third favorite, Vera Zvonareva, lost in the final.
There are a couple of mysteries I would like to solve:
Why wasn't Richard Williams in the stands during Serena's matches?
What happened to the huge Nadia Petrova banner outside the stadium? Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic were still there, but Petrova had vanished.
What happened to Jennifer Capriati, Mary Pierce and Iva Majoli? They were all scheduled to make an appearance.
Here, in ascending order, is my Charleston top 10:
10. The blessed absence of both loud-mouthed Murphy Jensen and the obnoxious, offensive lawn bar master of ceremonies of 2006 and 2007.
9. The delightful and always-interesting presence of host, interviewer and legend Bud Collins, for the 35th anniversary celebration
8. The exciting, drawn-out quarterfinal match between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova that ended with a big dose of Serena momentum
7. The surprise run of Edina Gallovits and Olga Govortsova, who had never before played doubles together, and who entered the tournament ten minutes before the entry deadline. They knocked out the number 3 seeds, then the number 1 seeds, but were stopped in the final by the number 2 seeds. They were feisty and clever, and made up somewhat for the absence of the entertaining Bondarenko sisters.
6. Serena Williams' championship victory over Vera Zvonareva, who--until an unfortunate choke at the end--made the match intensely competitive
5. Patty Schnyder's stunning clay court magic trick that knocked Agnieszka Radwanska out of the tournament in the round of 16
4. The amazing run of Vera Zvonareva, who beat five opponents, including Marion Bartoli, defending champion Jelena Jankovic and Elena Dementieva. Zvonareva was stopped in the final by Serena Williams and her own mental fragility
3. The magical presence of former champions Rosie Casals, Chris Evert, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Martina Navratilova, and Conchita Martinez for the 35th anniversary celebration
2. The emergence of Alize Cornet as a clay court (at the least) threat. Cornet was graceful, aggressive and high-spirited, and added a lot to the tournament
1. The first round match between Polish countrywomen Agnieszka Radwanska and Marta Domachowska. To quote Mary Poppins, it was "practically perfect in every way." The match had everything, and the quality was exceedingly high every moment of the three-set thriller. I don't know if I will see a better match this year.