Five Former Champions Headline Volvo Car Open

Back in Charleston for another year of world-class tennis, five former champions return to Daniel Island to compete in the main draw, as well as eight players inside the top 25.

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It has all the makings of a can’t-miss week of WTA action once again at the Volvo Car Open. Top seed and defending champion, Angelique Kerber comes back to the Lowcountry fresh off her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. It was here a year ago that the German revamped her career, winning the first of four 2015 titles.

Venus Williams is back to compete in Charleston for the first time in two years, and won here in 2004. Other players in our draw that have hoisted a trophy on our green clay include Andrea Petkovic (2014), Samantha Stosur (2010) and Sabine Lisicki (2009).

Good friends and sometimes-doubles partners, Kerber and Petkovic have the potential to meet in the Volvo Car Open quarterfinals – a would-be rematch of the 2015 semifinals. Lucie Safarova, the 2012 runner up, and American Sloane Stephens, the No. 7 seed, also factor in on the top half of the draw.

Top 10 player and teenager Belinda Bencic, who had a breakout performance here in 2014 by reaching the semifinals as a qualifier, anchors the draw as the No. 2 seed. She could face American Madison Keys, a finalist here last year, in the quarterfinals. Williams and Sara Errani, the No. 5 seed, are also in the bottom half of the draw.

With Williams, Stephens and Keys included, a whopping 11 Americans feature in the 56-player draw, including Charleston native Shelby Rogers, a wildcard, who is up fourth on Volvo Car Stadium today.

Doubles star Bethanie Mattek-Sands returns, as does Madison Brengle, Irina Falconi, Christina McHale and Louisa Chirico, another wildcard who makes her main draw debut. Alison Riske faces Frances Altick today, a standout Vanderbilt college star, who won a wildcard into the tournament from the SHAPE Magazine Invitational.

All 16 seeded players are ranked inside the top 50, including Genie Bouchard, a 2014 semifinalist here who was slotted in as a seed after Jelena Jankovic, winner here in 2007, was forced to withdraw due to a right shoulder injury.

The crop of young and dangerous women’s players is represented in full this week, as well, including 14th seed Daria Kasatkina (just 18 years old), as well as No. 12 Daria Gavrilova, No. 11 seed Kristina Mldenovic and Monica Puig, a 22-year-old Puerto Rican baseliner.

Qualifiers are also looking to make their mark, namely the dangerous teen Naomi Osaka, veteran Elena Vesnina as well as small but feisty Aleksandra Krunic.

Monday it all begins: Main draw play on all tournament courts, for the 44th edition of this event that Charleston has come to know and love. Who walks away the winner at the Volvo Car Open? It’s anyone’s game. Ready? Play.