Tennis Tuesday features former champs Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys: Preview

Tennis Tuesday features former champs Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys: Preview

Former champions Sloane Stephens (2016) and Madison Keys (2019) will kick off their respective Credit One Charleston Open campaigns Tuesday. Here’s a look at what else to watch out for.

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys are with the rest of us: The last two years have not been easy.

The two former Charleston Open champions are taking lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and viewing life – and their tennis – differently.

“It’s been a never-ending whirlwind of stuff that continues… it gets exhausting,” Stephens, the 2016 winner, told reporters on Monday.

Added Keys, who won here in 2019: “”Last year I really struggled. It was very hard for me. I think that showed on court.”

The two are refreshed as they get set to play the Credit One Charleston Open and what Stephens calls “one of the best tournaments of the year:” Keys started the year with a title win in Adelaide and then semifinal run at the Australian Open.

Stephens, meanwhile, won her seventh career title – and first in four years – last month in Guadalajara. Stephens said she’s made a commitment to experience more of life off court while on tour, something she says helped in her Guadalajara triumph.

Stephens said she’s made a commitment to experience more of life off court while on tour, something she says helped in her Guadalajara triumph.

“I realized I was traveling the world and I didn’t really experience life,” the 29-year-old said. “I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. I was focusing on my tennis… I’m old now [laughs]. I have to live my life.”

Stephens will take on China’s Zheng Qinwen in the second match after 11am in Credit One Stadium, while Keys will kick off the evening session at 7pm against Norwegian qualifier Ulrikke Eikeri.

“I don’t think the beginning of my season could have gone much better,” added Keys, who is now 27. “That was a breath of fresh air to have that after last year. Now it’s about staying committed to that.”

Tuesday Order of Play

Tennis Tuesday: Pliskova, Bencic and Navarro in action
Tuesday is packed with must-see action, including 17 matches overall – 13 of them singles. Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic kicks off the day in stadium, which sees No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova, the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up, play third – following Bencic and Stephens.

While Keys kicks off the action for the evening session, another American – Jessica Pegula – will play Jasmine Paolini of Italy in the late match. Pegula, at a career-high ranking of No. 13, spent part of her childhood in Hilton Head. She also formerly trained at the LTP Daniel Island Tennis Center.

Another player who is familiar with this venue is local hope Emma Navarro, who is set to play the second match on the Althea Gibson Club Court. Navarro, the reigning singles NCAA champion, meets American Madison Brengle.

Another all-American match is third match on Club Court, with Alison Riske taking on Caty McNally.

While Stephens and Keys remain, the other former champ in the draw – 2021 winner Veronika Kudermetova – withdrew on Monday, citing illness. She was replaced by lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe.

Belinda Bencic Charleston Jessica Pegula Karolina Pliskova Madison Keys Sloane Stephens