July 30, 2015

Checking in with the Germans at Family Circle Cup


By Stephanie Neppl

(April 3, 2013) CHARLESTON, SC – A talented German contingency is in Charleston for the 2013 Family Circle Cup, but it has been a mixed week for its top stars.


A year ago, four Germans were in the top 20: Andrea Petkovic (11), Sabine Lisicki (13), Julia Goerges (15) and Angelique Kerber (16). Mona Barthel was also on the upswing and was ranked No. 36. Fast forward a year, and Petkovic is out of the top 100 due to injury, Goerges and Lisicki have seen their form and rankings dip, and Kerber found herself the highest ranked German and cracked the top 5 in 2012.


Rankings – April 2, 2012                             Rankings – April 1, 2013

11 – Andrea Petkovic                                             6 – Angelique Kerber

13 – Sabine Lisicki                                                 29 – Mona Barthel

15 – Julia Goerges                                                 30 – Julia Goerges

16 – Angelique Kerber                                            41- Sabine Lisicki

36 – Mona Barthel                                                  139 – Andrea Petkovic


All but Kerber played in Charleston this week, with mixed results thus far. Barthel and Lisicki were upset early, while Goerges and Petkovic have each survived two rounds. Here’s a look at how the German quartet are looking at the start of the clay season.



In August 2011, Petkovic become the sixth German to ever crack the WTA Top 10 but injury after injury came her way in 2012 and she dealt with a lower back injury and ankle injury last year. Petkovic returned to the tour again in late 2012 at the Hopman Cup and suffered another injury, this time a rupture of the medial meniscus. She started on the comeback trail again at Indian Wells this year, and her ranking has dipped to No. 137 due to her many absences.


She was handed a wildcard for the Family Circle Cup, and she’s put it to good use with two wins, first over fellow wildcard Taylor Townsend of the US, and another over American Vania King. She next faces 2011 Family Circle Cup champ Caroline Wozniacki. The pair have faced each other three times, with the Dane leading 2-1, including a win on their only match on the clay.


Wozniacki said Petkovic is a dangerous opponent. “Petkovic is a good player.  She has been very unlucky with her injuries and she is obviously a player that does play on a very high level.” The two will kick off the day session at 11am Thursday.



Goerges’ two career titles are both on clay (Bad Gastein in 2010 and Stuttgart in 2011) but her 2012 season saw her go 5-5 on the dirt and she’ll be looking to improve that record. On Wednesday in Charleston, Goerges managed to come back after dropping a bagel set to Olga Govortsova to advance to the third round. She’ll next face Stephanie Voegele of Switzerland, who upset No. 7 seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the second round. Goerges said she was pleased to get the win despite not playing her best. “It’s good when you get tested right away on the clay,” she said. “It’s good to have those wins under your belt and when you’re not always playing your best and winning it’s a good feeling.” Goerges and Voegele are second on Althea Gibson Court on Thursday.


Sabine Lisicki

Sabine Lisicki


Sabine Lisicki has also had her share of injuries and illness, and her ranking has dropped from #13 a year ago to its current No. 41. Lisicki made the final in Memphis in February, but retired from the match with illness after dropping the first set to Marina Erakovic of New Zealand. Lisicki loves the green clay of Charleston and it’s where she captured her biggest title back in 2009. In her first match on Tuesday, Lisicki double bageled Anna Tatishvili in just 41 minutes. Today she was a heavy favorite to beat Mallory Burdette of the US, who is ranked #99 but the Georgian pulled out the upset 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 to advance to a contest against Serena Williams.


Mona Barthel photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images AsiaPac

Mona Barthel photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images AsiaPac


Barthel is actually the lone member of the group to have a title in 2013 and the win in Paris is the biggest of her career. Barthel also finished runner-up in Hobart and she has had wins over top 10 players Sara Errani, Angelique Kerber and Marion Bartoli. She’s now the second highest ranked German, with a current ranking of No. 29. She faced the US’ Jessica Pegula in the second round on Tuesday, but the 8th seed was upset 7-6 (4), 6-1.


Stephanie Neppl is in Charleston covering the Family Circle Cup for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. She has worked as Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland’s ATP and WTA tournaments. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.


Jankovic Survives Oudin in Charleston


By Stephanie Neppl

(April 2, 2013) CHARLESTON, SC – Former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic survived a tough three-set battle with American Melanie Oudin in the first round of the Family Circle Cup on Tuesday.

The Serbian had lost her two previous match ups with the American, and admitted Oudin’s style of play gives her issues.

After her 4-6, 7-5, 4-6 win, Jankovic said, “She has this game that I don’t really like and doesn’t really suit me, I always have trouble with her. I mean, it’s just her style of play is just difficult for me to play against.”

Coming off a semifinal result in Miami last week, Jankovic said she felt it was a good match despite it being her first clay match of the season. “I just came from Miami so I was playing a long tournament and took a lot out of me physically, mentally. I’m grateful that I was able to pull this out.”

The crowd was vocally behind Oudin, who has failed to find much success after her run to the 2009 US Open quarterfinals although she’s still only 21 years old. After taking the second set, Oudin fought back from 2-5 down in the third but Jankovic served it out on her second attempt to advance to the second round.

In her post-match news conference, Jankovic said she gained confidence from her run in Miami but struggled to move on the green clay. “I love playing on clay, but today I wasn’t happy with the way I was moving so I have got to improve.”


Later on Tuesday, Jankovic joined Andrea Petkovic in ladies’ doubles, and a large crowd enjoyed the duo’s entertaining match against Lucie Safarova and Kristina Mladenovic. The Czech/French team won 6-4 6-2.

Jankovic, who won the Family Circle Cup in 2007, is in Charleston without a coach, something she says is suiting her well. “I’m here with my brother and a hitting partner, so I don’t have a coach. It’s great. My brother knows me better than anyone.”

The Serbian lost here in the first round last year to Venus Williams so each win will help her ranking, something Jankovic is focused on.

“I’m working hard every day just trying to get to another level and just overall become a better player,” she said. “My goal is to get back to the top rank where I was before.”

Next up for Jankovic is Caroline Garcia of France.

Stephanie Neppl is in Charleston covering the Family Circle Cup for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. She has worked as Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland’s ATP and WTA tournaments. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.


Venus and EleVen Aim to Shine in Charleston

CNote and Venus EleVen Exo

By Stephanie Neppl

(April 1, 2013) CHARELSTON, SC – Venus Williams is ready to return to the place which was instrumental in her qualifying mission for last year’s London Olympics. A year ago, Williams hadn’t played much due to her Sjögren’s syndrome and she was ranked No. 87 when she stepped on the Har-Tru courts in Charleston.


She made the quarters in 2012, losing to Sam Stosur in a three-set battle. From then she successfully improved her ranking, made the Olympic team and walked away with her fourth gold medal, her third doubles gold with little sister Serena.


Venus recalled the battle and says revisiting each of the tournaments which helped her achieve Olympic Gold last year reminds her of her triumphs.


“I fought very hard to get back to where I was – back to the top 20,” she said. “For me last year the triumph wasn’t winning the tournament or anything like that, it was just any accomplishment was a triumph.”


Venus admits that battling back from being ranked No. 134 in the world to No. 24 “was one of the toughest and amazing and most exhilarating things I’ve ever done in my life.”


Despite withdrawing from her second round match in Miami last month due to a back injury, Venus says she is happy to be back and ready to play.


“I really wanted to be here,” Venus said. “I love this tournament and I have really great memories from here last year.”


Also appearing on the courts in Charleston is Venus’ clothing line EleVen.

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Monday night in Charleston, Venus and her EleVen brand were featured in an exhibition match on Althea Gibson Club Court. She was joined on court by her Washington Kastles teammate Arina Rodionova, Tennis Channel’s Danielle Dotzenrod and Sports Illustrated contributing writer Courtney Nguyen, all dressed in the EleVen attire. Several local Charleston women also got the chance to play doubles in a World Team Tennis style exhibition, also dressed in EleVen.


Venus said the EleVen line is going well. “We’re good. We’re small. But we’re growing and I think that’s the best way is to grow strategically and it’s great because more than anything people really like the clothes and that’s more than half the battle.”


Venus was all smiles during the relaxed exhibition and gets one more day off before playing Monica Puig of Puerto Rico on Wednesday.


Stephanie Neppl is in Charleston covering the Family Circle Cup for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. She has worked as Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland’s ATP and WTA tournaments. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.


Serena Williams Returns to the Family Circle Cup

 Serena Day 2 Press Conference
By Stephanie Neppl

(April 1, 2013) CHARLESTON, SC – Two-time champ and defending champion Serena Williams leads a stellar field for the 2013 Family Circle Cup in Charleston this week. Coming off a record sixth title in Miami, there’s no time for the world No. 1 to rest as she kick starts her clay season on the green clay.

Last year’s Charleston win kick started a stellar 12 months for Williams, which saw her win two slams, two Olympics gold medals and the year-end championships plus retain the number one ranking.

Williams said her semis and final last year here were amazing. She dropped just two games against Sam Stosur in the semis before winning the final 6-0,  6-1 against Lucie Safarova. “I really don’t know if I’ve played better, ever. Hopefully I can kind of rekindle some of that fire,” she said.

When discussing her Miami win, Williams said she was happy she was able to solve problems on her own when she was down, and commented that on-court coaching is not for her.

“I don’t do it so much,” she said. “For me I like to solve problems and I think in Miami I solved a lot of problems. I was down in several matches and I was able to solve and figure it out on my own.”

Although Williams doesn’t use the on-court coaching, she says she definitely notices when other players do. “I do think about it and I think like ‘OK, ha I’m in now’ so it makes me feel good,” she said.

Williams will launch her 2013 Family Circle Cup against Camila Giorgi of Italy during Tuesday’s day session.

2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki and 2010 winner Sam Stosur are the 2nd and 3rd seeds, with Sloane Stephens as the 4th seed.

Stephanie Neppl is in Charleston covering the Family Circle Cup for Tennis Panorama News. She spends all her spare funds traveling to tennis tournaments and has played since her teen years. She has worked as Social Media Manager for Tennis Auckland’s ATP and WTA tournaments. Follow her live updates on Twitter at @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal Twitter @stephintheus and her blog  http://ihaveatennisaddiction.blogspot.com.


Chatting with Wozniacki, Jankovic, Bartoli and Peer at the WTA All-Acess Hour at Family Circle Cup

By Rachel Vinson

On Monday at the Family Circle Cup the WTA held it’s All-Access hour where the media had the opportunity to talk to the top eight seeds at the tournament in a round table format.  It is unique to the WTA and really allows for the players’ personalities to shine because it is prior to the beginning of their matches, and the atmosphere is extremely relaxed.  I was impressed with the poise of all the women, but was even more impressed with how approachable and bubbly they were as they answered several on and off-court questions.  During the hour, I was able to speak with four of the top seeds:  Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Marion Bartoli, and Shahar Peer.

The player who received the most attention was No. 1 seed and World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki. I asked her about her recent trip to New York City to attempt to visit US President Barack  Obama, and her fashion choices on the court since pairing with Stella McCartney in 2009:

Tennis Panorama News: You had tweeted after your match in Miami that you left and went to New York and there were some rumors that you wanted to meet the president.  Can you talk about that a little bit?


Caroline Wozniacki: I wanted to stay in Miami actually in the beginning, wanted to relax a few days on the beach and by the pool but my friend called me and asked if I wanted to come to NY and show me a little bit around and also meet the president, and I was like, I’m not sure because it was the night I lost and it was late, and I felt it probably wasn’t going to happen.  Then I am lying by the pool and it is like 11:30 the next day and I’m thinking why not, why not go.  So I called my friend and said that I wanted to come and I go there and it ends up that it is too late to go to the dinner because all the security and everything, but definitely next time.


Tennis Panorama News: Do you follow politics closely?

Caroline Wozniacki: Not too much to be honest.  (Laughter)


Tennis Panorama News: A fashion question:  You’ve been with Stella [McCartney] since 2009. What is your favorite dress that you’ve worn?

Caroline Woznaicki: I think the US Open dress last year was really nice with the bright yellow and the dark, dark grey.


She also received some more “interesting” questions from the media:


Question: You hear certain stories about your love life and do you have a boyfriend or not, so the question that comes up is, do you have any funny stories you want to share with us about your friends trying to set you up with other famous athletes or celebrities?

Caroline Wozniacki: Ummmm.  I feel I’m put on the spot here. (Laughter)  I probably have a few funny stories but I’m not sure if I want that to come out in the media.  But, sometimes I’ve been laughing a little bit because at one point according to the media who is trying to set me up with different guys, I had 6 boyfriends in 5 weeks.  So, I thought that was very impressive.   I have no idea how that happened.  Every week I got messages from my friends, saying, “Oh great you I hear you have a new boyfriend” and the were sending me the magazines where ever I was, and I was laughing b/c there was absolutely no truth to the stories, but you can’t really do anything.  And then they also made a list of guys they thought I should be dating. So that was interesting.

Shahar Peer was part of the upbeat atmosphere as well:


Tennis Panorama: What are some things you like to do outside of tennis?

Shahar Peer: It depends when I am home or not home.  If I’m home I try to be with my friends and my family as much as possible and you know and hang out and do whatever I have to do, and when I am traveling if I have time I go for shopping or sometime I just relax and if there is anything to do like sightseeing or meet people.  It changes.


WTA:  Last question guys.

Question: How are you?


Shahar Peer: That was the last question. (Laughter)


In their interviews, both Marion Bartoli and Jelena Jankovic discussed their renewed desire to be on the court:

Question: When you have a coaching change do you look at it as a period of adjustment or as something fresh and new?

Jelena Jankovic: Coaching change is fresh and new but obviously it is still a new relationship so we are still adjusting to each other, getting to know each other, because it’s different.  He is a new person a new coach and it’s something new to me.  But it is going pretty well right now.  Working hard and giving my best on the practice court and it gives me motivation because when someone new comes on board you really feel like it is a new beginning, get yourself going again, and I feel motivated, and the most important thing is that I am healthy.  I can go on the court and really do my job and enjoy myself, and you know I’ve been 1 in the world and there were times I had lack of motivation I didn’t really feel like working hard, and I kind of fell flat and now I feel like I am back again, and I feel like I can come back and do really well again.  I was injured for the whole last 6 months of last year, I had an ankle problem I couldn’t really play, but now I am just excited and eager to be on the court and really play the game and have fun with it.

Tennis Panorama News: How hard was it to come back from your calf injury?

Marion Bartoli: It the worst moment ever.  I’ve had to deal with some tough moments of course but this one was extremely tough.


Tennis Panorama: Do you feel like you are back where you want to be?

Marion Bartoli: I honestly didn’t expect to be back that soon and that great because even the results went beyond my expectation to be able to do the final at Indian Wells.  [In Miami] I lost in 3 sets in 3 hours to Vera Zvonareva who is number 3 in the world and still have a chance to win this match, and I was feeling tired from Indian Wells so I felt  like if I would have had some normal days of recovery I would have been able to win this match. So really, I came back stronger and in a way it makes me stronger mentally b/c now when I am on the court I even battle harder b/c I am just so happy to be there.

I really enjoyed sitting across from these women to get a sense of what they were like off the court, but on Tuesday the tournament begins for them and the only thing that matters is what is left on the court.  And as fun as it was chatting with them, I am ready for some tennis.  Let the games begin.

Rachel Vinson is the author of Onthegotennis.com and is covering Family Circle Cup  as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tweets from Charleston at @GVTennisNews and follow her on twitter at @Onthegotennis.

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Photos from WTA All-Access Hour at Family Circle Cup in Charleston

CHARLESTON, SC – Rachel Vinson of  Onthegotennis is  at the Family Circle Cup tournament in Charleston this week reporting for Tennis Panorama News. Here is a gallery of Monday’s photos taken by her which include Caroline Wozniacki, Samantha Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Shahar Peer, Marion Bartoli, Yanina Wickmayer in addition to photos from around the grounds and practice courts. Follow her twitter coverage on @GVTennisNews and her twitter account @Onthegotennis.


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