Women head to Charelston to hit the clay - NBC Sports

Women head to Charelston to hit the clay
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April 1, 2014, 7:00 pm

There’s no rest for the weary, the wicked, or the legendary this week, as we look ahead to Monterrey and Charleston, where the women begin their shift from hard courts to clay.

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Family Circle Cup

Charleston, S.C.
$710,000; Premier
Green clay
Draw is here

Miami is the tournament that Serena Williams has won seven times, but the last two years, Charleston was where she began a clay-court roll that took her all the way to Paris. In 2012 that roll was stopped by Virginie Razzano in a first-round stunner at Roland Garros; in 2013 it took her to the title.

While clay was once her least-favorite surface, in recent years it has been the spring season on dirt where Serena has really separated herself from the rest of the field. Both times she began that separation with wins in Charleston. 

Serena will begin her 2014 Charleston campaign against either Melanie Oudin or Jana Cepelova. The seeds in her half are Sloane Stephens, Sara Errani, and Sorana Cirstea. Stephens, who will start against the winner between Elina Svitolina and Jarmila Gajdosova, could obviously use a win after her...disappointing performance in Miami. Come to think of it, Errani, who has lost early at her last three tournaments, dropped out of the Top 10, and is a specialist on clay, could use a boost right about now as well.

The event’s No. 2 seed is Jelena Jankovic; last year she made the final here, and won the first set from Williams before losing. This year she’s coming off a rough loss to Varvara Lepchenko in Miami; JJ will try to get back on the right track against Lauren Davis of the United States. The seeds on her side are Sam Stosur, who has won this tournament, Sabine Lisicki, and Eugenie Bouchard.

Already through her opener: Madison Keys

Already out: Alison Riske

Qualifier to watch: Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who upset 10th seed Maria Kirilenko on Monday

Sleeper: Caroline Garcia

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Monterrey Open

Monterrey, Mexico
$500,000; International
Hard courts (Plexipave)
Draw is here

Monterrey is full of surprises, at least to me. First, it’s played on hard courts, not clay. Second, it offers a heftier-than-I-expected $500,000 in cash. Third, it has a stronger draw than I thought it would. The top seed is Indian Wells champion Flavia Pennetta, and the second seed is the woman who beat Pennetta last week in Miami, Ana Ivanovic. Between them are, among others, Garbine Muguruza, Monica Puig, Kirsten Flipkens, and Caroline Wozniacki.

First-round match to watch: Garbine Muguruza vs. the Garbine Muguruza of 2013, Donna Vecic.



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