Legends return for celebration of 50 years of women’s tennis in South Carolina

Legends return for celebration of 50 years of women’s tennis in South Carolina

Tennis pioneers and former Charleston champions Rosie Casals and Tracy Austin were welcomed back to the Credit One Charleston Open as the tournament celebrates 50 years of women’s tennis in South Carolina.

The girls are back in town.

As the Credit One Charleston Open celebrates 50 years of women’s tennis in South Carolina, some of the legends of the game – and former champions at this event – made a special trip to Daniel Island.

The first winner of the event, Rosie Casals (1973) as well as two-time champ Tracy Austin (1979-80), Arantxa Sanchez (1996), Mary Pierce (2000), Jelena Jankovic (2007) and Sabine Lisicki (2009) were honored on Saturday with a special ceremony on the deck of Credit One Stadium’s Stage House VIP Club.

“It makes me proud to be a part of this family,” Casals said in an interview. “And to continue this tradition in seeing players from the past and the present celebrating 50 years.”

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When Casals won at the Sea Pines Racquet Club at Hilton Head Island in 1973, her $30,000 prize money check was the biggest payday for a female champion in tennis history.

The champions made their rounds Saturday, appearing for special fan-facing Q&As on stage with Austin and her co-host Pam Shriver, as well as with former doubles winner here Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Saturday night the legends were honored at The Charleston Place hotel, and were joined by 2016 champion Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, the winner  here in 2019.

“It’s always been the best women’s players who come here,” remembered Austin. “Anything that has been going on for 50 years shows that it is a huge success. To start in Hilton Head in 1973… it was a terrific springboard. The Southern charm continues today – and the fans here love women’s tennis.”

She added: “I’m sure it’s going to continue for another 50 years.”

It marked the first return to tour for former world No. 1 Jankovic, the 2007 champion, who gave birth to her daughter Una in 2021. Jankovic last played in 2017, but has not officially retired from tour.

“This event is so special. The people here are so amazing – I made so many incredible relationships here over the years,” Jankovic said. “You felt like family. I looked forward coming back year after year after year. I have unbelievable memories of playing here.”

The champions played between the tournament’s two locations in Hilton Head and Charleston, but the feelings were consistent: The felt at home in playing here even if they were far from home, buoyed by the surroundings, the food and – most of all – the collective love for tennis.

“It means a lot, this event,” Sanchez said. “For the WTA, the tradition, to keep it going. I’m a big fan. I’m happy that it continues to have great success.”

Champions in Charleston Charleston Former World No. 1 Grand Slam Champion Madison Keys Sloane Stephens Special Events