Family Circle Cup

WTA Charleston Friday Gallery: Williams Sisters, Keys, Burdette and more

CHARLESTON, SC (April 6, 2013) — Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy was on hand Friday for all the action at the Family Circle Cup. Players on court that day included Serena and Venus Williams, Madison Keys, Mallory Burdette, Eugenie Bouchard, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Varvara Lepchenko and Sorana Cirstea.

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WTA Charleston Wednesday Gallery: Petkovic, Stosur, Robson, Bouchard and more

CHARLESTON, SC (April 4, 2013) — Tennis Grandstand photographer Christopher Levy was on hand Wednesday for all the action at the Family Circle Cup. Players on court that day included Andrea Petkovic, Sabine Lisicki, Sam Stosur, Eugenie Bouchard, Laura Robson, Caroline Garcia, Mallory Burdette, Anastasia Rodionova and Ashleigh Barty.

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Jelena Jankovic Dusts Off Her Assets, Laura Robson Charmingly Calls Out Her Coach

April 2, 2013 — Tuesday at the Family Circle Cup saw Jelena Jankovic, Laura Robson and Sabine Lisicki blast through to the winner’s circle while Melanie Oudin faltered. All four ladies though gave some memorable quotes.

Jankovic laughed about falling over on her “cushioned” behind during her match, Robson called out her coach for trying to re-quit smoking, Oudin spoke about the flowering friendship among the U.S. ladies and Lisicki talked about the quick transition from hard to clay courts.

Jelena Jankovic dusts off her … assets

Miami semifinalist Jelena Jankovic rallied back after dropping the middle set to take her first career win over Melanie Oudin, 6-4, 7-6, 6-4. Always an entertaining interviewer — and with a bit of a language barrier — Jankovic dished out a few classic quotes as only Jankovic could.

“(Melanie) has this game that I don’t really like and doesn’t really suit me, I always have trouble with her. Playing I didn’t mean it that way, I mean, it’s just her style of play is just difficult for me to play against.”

Trailing in the second set, Jankovic admitted that her frustrations quickly crept in and that she barely kept it together.

“I was just mad at myself. I was just getting mad, and I do something that I don’t like and I had to somehow keep my composure. That was the key for me today because when I get frustrated it just goes downhill.”

Finally, at one point in the match, Jankovic was running for a short ball, rolled and fell over, but thankfully didn’t hurt anything. Her only explanation was the following:

“Yeah, I thought I was going to break my leg or break my back … but I was lucky that I just fell on my butt. And my butt, it is not so small so I got quite a good cushion … If (I) was a bit skinnier, that would be a problem but now I’m okay.”

Oh, JJ.

Laura Robson dishes on her coach and dealing with media pressure

With the British press on Laura Robson ever since she was a junior, she’s had her share of hassles and bizarre requests from the media. And now with so many young American players struggling adjusting to the limelight, Robson imparts her own wisdom.

“I don’t wish (the media) wasn’t there because it’s kind of a give and take relationship I have with them.  They help me.  So, you know, it’s just something that you have to deal with and I’m lucky enough to have a good relationship with the majority of the British press.  And there were times where I lose and they are the last people I want to see, but it’s all part of the whole learning experience as cheesy as it sounds.”

So, what led Robson to play Charleston for the her first time anyway?

“I heard that you get player gifts every day, so that was the main reason.  But no, my coach (Zeljko Krajan) saw the court and the game, he came here a couple years ago and from what he remembered it was really, really nice and it’s been lovely so far.”

And speaking of her coach, she didn’t spare him in the interview either.

“I would say he is scarier than he looks.  He is actually quite nice sometimes … I have a really good relationship with (him) …  But the next thing we are trying to do is get him to quit smoking. He stopped briefly for several years and then he is like yeah, ‘I can quit wherever.’ Within two weeks he was back on it and he blamed it on me, he said because my matches were so stressful that he had to keep doing it.”

Never a dull moment with the easygoing Robson clan.

Sabine Lisicki at home in Charleston

Former Charleston champion, Sabine Lisicki, swept her first round opponent Anna Tatishvilli 6-0, 6-0 in a breezy 41 minutes. After the match, Lisicki commented on how surprisingly good she already felt on the clay.

“I’m feeling good, you know, it’s nice to play on the clay court and the quick turnaround (from hard to clay) is not always easy but I love the green clay so it makes me play well … It’s always great if you play so well in the first round. Gives you lots of confidence.”

Melanie Oudin on friendships on Tour

While some players admit to distancing themselves from others off the court, Melanie Oudin reveals that several of the U.S. ladies are, in fact, quite close. Perhaps that could be why the US claims more WTA players in the top 100 than any other country with 11.

“I think the good thing about the Americans is pretty much we all get along well. I was actually with them other day, (sitting) down at a table at a restaurant and there is always like five or six of us together. I think (it’s) really nice, we do our playing together, hang out … I think Mallory Burdette has been doing really well, I think Stephanie is getting back up there. And then also the young ones like Vicki (Duval) and Madison (Keys) and Taylor (Townsend).

I think it’s really, really good for American tennis that women are doing really well so the men just have to catch up now … (The US men) know that the women have been doing much better than them for a couple years now. But they definitely know that (and that it’s a friendly rivalry). They are working on it.”

WTA Charleston Monday Gallery: Petkovic, Stephens, Bouchard, Cirstea and more

CHARLESTON, SC (April 1, 2013) — The Family Circle Cup kicked off their main draw play today with a few surprise winners, marathon matches and plenty of fans!

Monday’s gallery by our photographer Christopher Levy includes photos of Andrea Petkovic, Sloane Stephens, Tatjana Malek, Sorana Cirstea, Eugenie Bouchard, Kristina Mladenovic, Laura Robson, Varvara Lepchenko, Caroline Garcia and Jessica Pegula.

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“Unmasking Anastasia:” Rodionova, Tennis’ Cartoon Villain

Charleston’s illustrious Family Circle Cup began yesterday, and just off the main stadium, fans were treated to a first round match that had all the drama and suspense of a Saturday morning cartoon. Such an analogy may sound insulting, but in a match between Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Anastasia Rodionova, spectators’ notions of “good” and “evil” were as binary as black and white.

In one corner was Mattek-Sands. With her penchant for knee socks, eye black, and odd fashion choices, the veteran American certainly has the look of a modern-day superhero. Her struggles with injuries and debilitating food allergies have also played a role in endearing herself to the tennis public as she attempts to regain the form that took her as high as No. 30 in 2011.

If Mattek-Sands is the hero, then the Russian-born Australian Rodionova is our unabashed villain. Standing at 5’5”, she has become notorious for her on-court antics and bratty demeanor. A journeywoman who frequents the outer courts of most major tournaments, Rodionova berates umpires and lines people alike for their perceived incompetence and inability to properly officiate her matches. It has been questioned whether those antics have stalled an otherwise promising career; a successful doubles player, Rodionova possesses an all-court game that is often as aggressive as she is.

But to question that is to misunderstand the Aussie entirely. Indeed, she has the propensity to lose her patience, but rarely does that lead to a full-on implosion. In a world where players are concerned with likeability, Rodionova not only embraces, but truly enjoys the villainous role she adopts during matches, and like a WWE wrestler, uses the crowd’s venom against her as fuel for her own fire.

Against Mattek-Sands, she simply refused to be put away in a match that, at three hours, forty-two minutes, was the longest of the year. With the crowd firmly behind the American, Rodionova recovered from a set down to steal the second in a tiebreaker, but quickly fell behind a break in the third. Playing Mattek-Sands tough on break points (she would save 13 of 20 by match’s end), she bounded back to win three games in a row. As our villain was in her glory, our hero was in despair, and called out her husband during the changeover to try and develop a new strategy.

All of this before Rodionova injured her thigh, and here is where the show really began.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nrXHY3LdyU&t=1m54s

For Rodionova, the type who can become enraged by an inconsiderate gust of wind, an injury (and the ineptitude of those attempting to treat her) was simply unacceptable. Dissatisfied with the trainer’s method of alleviating her pain, Rodionova hopped and hobbled away as best she could, throwing a water bottle and gesticulating wildly at the supervisor.

It was as if, after all these years, Rodionova finally had a legitimate excuse for her curmudgeonly behavior, and she planned on making the most of it. When a line call was overturned in her favor, she exclaimed, “Call the freaking ball!” (a veteran move for a player well aware of what counts as an audible obscenity). Holding a match point on the Mattek-Sands serve at 4-5, it would have appeared totally logical for our villain to let out a cackle had she converted.

But she would not convert. The match would go to a deciding tiebreaker (as if it could have ended any other way), and the injury and Mattek-Sands became too much for Rodionova, who faded quickly from 2-2.

From the cartoonish impression many have of Rodionova, one would have expected her to react to this undoubtedly painful loss with a racquet toss or a shriek of disdain: anything in a last-ditch attempt to steal the spotlight. Instead, she reminded us all of her humanity when she met Mattek-Sands at the net in tears. Our hero was gracious in victory, comforting Rodionova as the two approached the umpire.

A lot of this analysis is tongue-in-cheek, but it has been said that parody can be a mirror to the human soul. There is a tendency to turn these athletes, these people, into stereotypes or one-dimensional cutouts based on how they act over the course of a three-hour tennis match. “Mattek-Sands comforted Rodionova because she is always good, and Rodionova yelled at the trainer because she is always evil.”

But just as Mattek-Sands’ jubilation showed us how much the win meant, Rodionova’s tears showed us how much the win would have meant, and before we criticize and name-call, it is essential that we recognize that her desire to win is no less pure (or more offending) than that of a perhaps more subdued rival.

What to Watch in the WTA This Week: Previews of Charleston and Monterrey

In a quiet week for the ATP outside Davis Cup, the WTA features a Premier tournament on the unique green clay and the only Mexican hard-court tournament on the calendar.  An old event and a new event, Charleston and Monterrey feature fields surprisingly strong in view of the two marquee tournaments that filled last month.

Charleston:

Top half:  A moment of silence, please, for Mandy Minella and Camila Giorgi.  These two women, who have struggled in recent moments, battle for the honor of sharing a court with world No. 1 Serena Williams.  Fresh from her Miami triumph, the defending champion in Charleston might face her first meaningful test in 2009 Charleston champion Sabine Lisicki.  The German has struggled to gain traction outside the grass season, though, as her unreliable groundstrokes undo the contributions of her explosive serve.  A rematch of last year’s Charleston final could await against Lucie Safarova in the quarterfinals, although Sorana Cirstea will aim to build upon her fourth-round appearance in Miami, where she upset world No. 6 Angelique Kerber.

The fourth-seeded Sloane Stephens has struggled to profit from the favorable draws that she has received with a ranking inflated by her Australian Open semifinal appearance.  Although she won a set from Agnieszka Radwanska in Miami, she has not won more than one match at any tournament since that Melbourne breakthrough.  In her vicinity stand two compatriots at opposite ends of their careers, the veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands and the teenage star Madison Keys.  The formidable serves of either or both women could threaten Stephens more than Tamira Paszek, a grass-court specialist mired in yet another slump.  Three more Americans will vie to become her quarterfinal opponent, including the first-round winner of a contest between Varvara Lepchenko and Christina McHale.  Both Lepchenko and McHale could use a strong result to boost their confidence, but the real name to note here is Venus Williams.  A finalist in Charleston four years ago, Venus needs to conserve her energy with comfortable wins in the early rounds.

Semifinal:  Serena vs. Venus

Bottom half:  Another former Charleston champion, Sam Stosur, aims to kick off her clay campaign in style as she recovers from an Indian Wells injury.  Her closest challengers range from the aging but still elegant Daniela Hantuchova to Laura Robson, the latter of whom urgently needs some positive energy.  Robson has lost demoralizing three-setters early in each of her last three tournaments, two after winning the first set, in a test of her volatile temper.  Another woman with mercurial tendencies, Jelena Jankovic hopes to prove that her unexpected surge to the Miami semifinals  marked more than a mirage.  Jankovic excelled on clay when at her peak but has landed in a challenging section near March sensation Garbine Muguruza and the heavy-hitting German Mona Barthel.  A surface faster than its red counterpart, green clay has rewarded such power hitters before.

Arguably the weakest quarter of the draw offers Caroline Wozniacki an opportunity to recapture her former mastery of this surface.  A former champion both here and at the defunct companion event in Amelia Island / Ponte Vedra Beach, the second seed probably eyes her last chance to leave an impact until the US Open Series.  Much happier for the clay season’s arrival is Carla Suarez Navarro, well inside the top 25 now and likely hoping to rise even higher on her favorite surface.  Near her lie both the fiery young star Yulia Putintseva and the dormant Julia Goerges, who has recorded several upsets on clay with her elongated but penetrating groundstrokes.  Wozniacki may feel grateful to avoid Goerges, her nemesis more than once, but she could face an even more talented German in her second match.  Still rebuilding her confidence following a series of debilitating injuries, Andrea Petkovic hopes to justify her wildcard in this soft section and string together some victories.

Semifinal:  Jankovic vs. Wozniacki

Final:  Serena vs. Wozniacki

Monterrey:

Top half:  The only top-ten player in the field, Angelique Kerber did not waste the opportunity to collect a few more points on her favored hard courts before the clay season arrives.  Gifted uneventful early matches, she could face top-ranked Japanese woman Ayumi Morita in the quarterfinals.  This double-fister recently reached the semifinals at Kuala Lumpur and delivered a competitive effort against Serena in Miami, not long after she had upset top-seeded Ivanovic in Pattaya City.  While she has split her four previous meetings with Kerber, the German won the last two comfortably and has not lost to Morita since 2007.

Several potential future stars occupy the second quarter, such as USC women’s star Maria Sanchez.  Struggling to emerge from qualifying draws at most of the tournaments that she has played, Sanchez did register a key main-draw victory at Indian Wells.  Halted by Agnieszka Radwanska there, she faces the Pole’s less renowned sister, Urszula, in a match after which the winner might meet Donna Vekic.  Still early in the evolutionary process, this teenager won main-draw matches at the Australian Open and Miami, the latter over fellow rising star Yulia Putintseva.  The question remains whether any of these women can threaten third-seeded Maria Kirilenko, who exited Miami early after reaching an Indian Wells semifinal.  Among the best results of her career, that accomplishment built upon a Pattaya City title and second-week appearance at the Australian Open.  Curiously, Kirilenko never has faced Kerber.

Bottom half:  Accepting a wildcard at the last moment, former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic represents the tournament’s most compelling attraction for fans.  Her early draw looks tranquil, although she sometimes has failed to take care of business in these situations.  The hard-serving Hungarian Timea Babos will pose her most credible pre-quarterfinal challenge, but she has won only a handful of matches since the US Open. A more intriguing series of tests lie ahead for the sixth-seeded Yanina Wickmayer, who could meet Kimiko Date-Krumm in the second round.  The Japanese veteran with the knack for creating uncanny angles nearly stunned Venus in Miami, revealing strong form ahead of a clash with Florianopolis champion Monica Niculescu.  Either of those women could disrupt Wickmayer’s rhythm with their idiosyncratic play but would struggle to protect their serves from Ivanovic.

The woman whom Niculescu defeated in the Florianopolis final, Olga Puchkova, finds herself sandwiched between two talented but slumping seeds.  Despite starting the year by reaching the Brisbane final, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has sunk back into her dismal slump since then with opening-round losses in five of six tournaments.  At a tournament where she has won two of her three carer titles, she will need to draw confidence from those memories.  The second-seeded Marion Bartoli has displayed form more encouraging but has not won more than two matches at any tournament this year as uncertainty has swirled around her coaching situation.  In addition to Puchkova, young Americans Lauren Davis and Coco Vandeweghe lurk in her vicinity, while Pavlyuchenkova may encounter top-ranked junior Daria Gavrilova in the second round.  This event provides an excellent opportunity to catch a glimpse of developing talents like Gavrilova.

Final:  Kirilenko vs. Ivanovic

Williams Wins 40th Title at 40th Family Circle Cup

It was only fitting that Serena Williams walked away with her 40th career today on Sunday at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston. Playing her best tennis in quite some time, perhaps some of her best tennis ever, Williams steamrolled her opponents this week. She lost just fifteen games in five matches, and played the likes of Sabine Lisicki and Samantha Stosur before facing off against Lucie Safarova in the final.

With Billie Jean King in attendance, celebrating the 40th year since the Original 9 helped to found the WTA as well as the 40th anniversary of the first Family Circle Cup, Serena Williams raced to a 6-0 6-1 victory over Lucie Safarova of the Czech Repbulic. After losing to Williams in the semifinals, Samantha Stosur was asked whether anyone could stop Williams the way she was playing this week, to which Stosur responded, “I think if Serena plays her very best tennis, I think anyone would find it pretty hard to stop her.” Stosur may have been right, the final seemed like a forgone conclusion after Serena opened the match with a quick love hold and Safarova opened her first service game with a double fault. Things started to look up a little when Safarova had a break point on Williams’ serve in the third game of the match, which would have put the two back on serve. But Williams would have none of it. She evened things up to deuce and won the next two points.

When Safarova finally managed to get just one hold in the second set, the crowd went wild and Safarova broke into a huge smile. Even though the crowd was pro-Williams, it was clear that the Czech had won a lot of fans in Charleston this week, and it was easy to see why, the way she handled herself in defeat. When it was all said and done, Safarova came to net, still all smiles, and graciously shook Serena’s hand. In her runner-up speech, she very convincingly congratulated Williams and thanks the fans and the sponsors for such a great tournament, saying that the Family Circle Cup was true to its name, making her feel like family. Sunday wasn’t a complete loss for the Lucie. She’ll move up to 23 in the world on Monday, just one spot away from her career high ranking, and she won the doubles final with partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Safarova considers clay her favorite surface and with early exits last year in Rome and at the French Open, there is ample room to pick up points this Spring. She will also continue to play doubles with Pavlyuchenkova after their success in Miami and Charleston.

What’s next for Serena Williams? Even though she’s feeling good, she will continue to play a selective schedule, not playing another tournament until Madrid. It’s really too early to start making predictions about the French Open, but it’s high up on Williams’ list of goals. Having only won the tournament once, Serena said, “that’s my goal every year is to win the French Open, so hopefully this will be another goal, another year. If not, believe me, I’ll be there the next year and the year after, so I’m going to keep trying and fighting and doing the best I can do.”

Serena Williams and Lucie Safarova Roll into the Family Circle Cup Final

A former champion at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, Samantha Stosur is usually pretty comfortable on the tournament’s green clay. She was in fine form on Friday, winning two three set singles matches to set up an exciting semifinal against Serena Williams. Adamant that physical fatigue did not play a role in Saturday’s match, the 2011 US Open champion won just two games against the American, who won the match 6-1 6-1.

Serena Williams seemed to do no wrong in this match. Every serve, every shot just seemed perfect, far too good for Stosur to overcome. Clearly in the zone, Williams seemed emotionless for the better part of the match, just going through the motions, winning point after point. When she won the first set 6-1, there was no fist pump, just a determined walk back to her chair. When she broke early in the second set, she did a sort of spin, but that was more a force of momentum rather than an actual celebration. Asked about Serena’s level of play in post match press, Stosur said, “it didn’t really seem to matter what I did. She came out with the goods every time.” Even Williams was a little shocked at how well she’s been playing this week, given that she only practiced for one day on the clay prior to the beginning of the tournament. In fact, she considered Saturday’s match, “probably the best match I’ve played in my career either in a long time or it’s up there in the Top 5.”

This version of Serena is basically unstoppable. Stosur is an excellent clay court player, a Grand Slam Champion, and in the Top 5 in the world. Williams made her look like an amateur, happy just to have gotten those two games.

Polona Hercog would have likely been equally as happy to win two games in her semifinal against Lucie Safarova. The Czech has been having an excellent week in Charleston, beating Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals before dropping a double bagel on Hercog in the semis. Hercog is no Stosur, and Safarova is no Williams, but it was a pretty impressive beat down nonetheless. Coming back a little over an hour later, Safarova teamed up with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to beat Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber and land a spot in the doubles final. Safarova described the feeling of being in both finals as, “just the dream of the player to be.” Reluctant to call this the best week of her career quite yet, she did put it up there with making the finals in Paris and the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

Safarova is aware Sunday’s final will be difficult, having played Williams four times, all of which she lost. Their most recent encounter was last year in Toronto. Asked about the challenge, Safarova responded, “I’m really looking forward to it, and we had some tough matches in the past, so I never beat her so far, but as I said, I played good here. I feel good, and I’ll try to win tomorrow.” There’s nothing like a 6-0 6-0 victory to boost a player’s confidence, so Lucie Safarova should be going into the final in the best position she could. In all honesty, the key to the match for Safarova will be capitalizing in the event that Serena has an off day or lets her guard down. If Williams plays the way she did against Stosur, there will be little Safarova can do to combat her.

Family Circle Cup: Bad Luck for Lisicki, Two Wins for Stosur, and More

Lisicki Goes Down Once Again

The first quarterfinal match of the day was unfortunately cut short when Sabine Lisicki was forced to retire in the fifth game of her match against Serena Williams. It looked like a tight match after a very long second game, where Lisicki finally managed to hold serve. In a twist we’ve seen far too many times from Sabine, she ended up wrong footed on the green clay and tumbled over on her left ankle. At first, things didn’t look so grim. Lisicki called the trainer and had her foot retaped. She took the court again a little shaken but with no sign of a limp, and then suddenly it was over. The sight of a tearful Sabine shaking her opponents hand is becoming all too common. In a true show of sportsmanship, Williams walked over to comfort the young German. Asked what she told Sabine, Serena responded, “I just told her it would be alright. I’m really in an emotional time in my life, so I told her don’t cry because you’re going to make me cry and I was like my eyes are getting watery.

Obviously not the way either player wanted the match to end, Williams nonetheless moves into the semifinals at the Family Circle Cup for the third time. In a rematch of the 2011 US Open final, Williams will play Samantha Stosur, who defeated Serena’s sister Venus later in the day.

Stosur Wins a Double Header and Prevents an All Williams Semifinal

After rain forced the tournament to stop play during the Thursday night session, Samantha Stosur was first up on Friday morning to finish her match against Galina Voskoboeva, which ended going another two sets, basically a full match. Scheduled to play again in the third match of the day, there was little rest for the weary as Stosur had to go one again to play Venus Williams just after Sabine Lisicki retired in the second match of the day. Looking fresh, Stosur captured the first set against Venus. The next two sets weren’t quite as easily, but the US Open champion eventually managed to pull out her second victory of the day. Ever amiable, the Aussie seemed unfazed by the scheduling, “nobody can pick or choose or predict when the rain is going to come. So unfortunately for me I probably got the rough end of it, but that’s the way it goes.” Playing both matches so early in the day could have been a blessing in disguise. Considering she’s due to play Serena Williams at 1pm on Saturday, she will need as much rest as possible, and she had the better part of Friday to prepare.

Stosur’s victory denied fans the anticipated opportunity to see the Williams sisters face off for the 24th time, but something that hasn’t happened since 2009. Easily the biggest draw at the tournament, fans seemed excited by the prospect of watching Venus and Serena play each other. However, if it couldn’t be an all Williams semifinal, this US Open final rematch is a great consolation prize and should be an excellent match, provided Stosur recovers from her busy day.

Safarova Overcomes Zvonareva While Petrova Falters Against Hercog

The top half of the draw has yielded two quasi-surprise semifinalists, Lucie Safarova and Polona Hercog. Safarova easily conquered the No. 4 seed, Vera Zvonareva, 6-3 6-3. At No. 26 in the world, Safarova is just four spots away from her career high. This is her first semifinal of the year, and an excellent opportunity for her to pick up some extra points. She will face Polona Hercog of Slovenia in the semifinals, who easily defeated the 13th seed Nadia Petrova 6-1 6-2. Overall, Safarova has had a good start to the 2012 season, but she has had some bad losses as well, as recently as Miami. Hercog won her first title last season in Bastad and has been on the rise ever since. While Stosur/Williams will obviously be the more anticipated matchup for Saturday’s semifinals, Safarova/Hercog has the potential to be a very interesting match as well.

Quick Recap: Williams’ Sisters on Collision Course at Family Circle Cup

By Rick Limpert, Special for Tennis Grandstand

When the top-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska pulled out of this week’s Family Circle Cup on Monday because of a back injury, Bob Moran and his team at the Charleston WTA event appeared a little nervous.

It also gave the Williams’ Sisters a chance to come to the rescue and they have delivered on the court and in the stands.

With Venus taking on Jelena Jankovic in Wednesday night’s session, the attendance was a whopping 6,908.  With both Williams’ playing in Thursday’s day session, it could be a record Thursday crowd at the Family Circle Cup Tennis Center.

Serena took the court ahead of her sister on Thursday and didn’t disappoint.  After a slow start, she blitzed Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 6-2, 6-2, for an impressive showing on clay.

As Erakovic double-faulted on match point, Serena pumped her first and booked her spot in the quarters.

Venus was next up and she started slowly as well.  As she did the previous night against Jankovic, the elder Williams found her range in taking down Anastasia Rodionova 7-5, 6-2.  The way Venus is serving, she could compete with any player on tour, right now.

“Sister Act”

A Saturday semi-final featuring the siblings could be in the cards, and with all the hoopla in Charleston this weekend as the “Original 9” are being honored, it could be quite a weekend for women’s tennis.

Here’s to a possible Saturday showdown.

Rick Limpert covers sports, technology and the intersection of sports and technology for the likes of Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, and Examiner.com. He also hosts the popular “The Tech of Sports” radio show and podcast at http://netcaststudio.com/ . You can follow him on Twitter at @RickRoswell