Game, set & match for tournament manager Eleanor Adams: ‘She’s given this place life’

Game, set & match for tournament manager Eleanor Adams: ‘She’s given this place life’

Eleanor Adams, center, with (L-R) Sloane Stephens, Shelby Rogers, Sabine Lisicki, Madison Keys, Belinda Bencic, Daria Kasatkina and Victoria Azarenka. (Photo: Chris Smith/Charleston Tennis)

“The players are people first.”

After more than 20 years as tournament manager for the Credit One Charleston Open, this has always been the mantra for Eleanor Adams, who has heard (and often fulfilled) every request you can imagine from the WTA stars who come to the Lowcountry each year.

“They have lives that in many respects are just as normal as yours and mine,” she said. “We, as an event, have always taken that approach.”

This year is Adams’ last, having joined the tournament when it moved to Daniel Island in 2001, taking on a job in which she said she “had no idea what I was getting myself into.”

Without a template, Adams made her own. She booked blocks of hundreds of hotel rooms, helped manage practice courts, found housing for players who had missed flights, spent late nights (and early mornings) on the phone with agents and – in one instance – helped a player’s ill family member get local medical care.

“We want them to feel comfortable; that they’re in trusting hands,” Adams explained. “The public doesn’t get to see the pain they go through physically, the emotional disappointment they feel, the tears. We try to make it as easy, warm and reasonable as we can.”

It’s a legacy that Adams has built with tournament director Bob Moran that has become well known on the WTA Tour: Charleston is just different.

“Eleanor is everything to this tournament,” Moran said. “There are things I don’t even know of that she takes care of. We need that. When the players are here, we want them to have a good time. Eleanor does every bit of that.”

The players feel the same way.

“Charleston was the first tournament that my mom let me go to alone because she knew that Eleanor was going to take care of me,” 2016 champion Sloane Stephens said at this year’s player party, sending the room into laughter. “We all have experienced your love and warmth, Eleanor. The love and the energy that you’ve given this tournament… you’ve given it life.”

But now it’s time for Adams to step aside, with plans to do nothing more than spend more time with her family – though she’ll be keeping a close eye on the tennis.

“This job gave me tremendous opportunities and friendships – worldwide,” Adams said. “I have loved it very much, but my family has waited long enough.”