After the conclusion of a fortnight’s festive Sony Open tennis in Key Biscayne, Miami, most of the top male tennis stars went to represent their national teams in the Davis Cup matches at several venues across the world. Despite a huge chunk of professional money in modern tennis, some players are still proud to wear their national colors on their sleeves. Davis cup matches provide them one opportunity to do so.
The top and budding female tennis stars, on the other hand, went to play the annual all-women event, the Family Circle Cup at Daniel Island, Charleston, South Carolina. The tournament began with a bang as three time FCC champion, world’s no.1 player and recently crowned queen at Miami’s Sony Open, Serena Williams was done in by an unseeded player in round two. When the match was over, most people enquired; “Jana Cepelova? who?” As the tournament progressed, there was one surprise after another and the when the semifinal line up was decided, two out of four women were unseeded and three of them were under 20 years of age. 17 year old qualifier Belinda Bencic finished in the top four displaying tennis of high quality against her more seasoned opponents.
It all started with the second round upset of Serena, who played against the unseeded Slovakian Jana Cepelova. Serena had earned a bye in her first round match and it was Cepelova’s first ever encounter with the great Serena. Cepelova didn’t show any signs of being overawed but Serena had no inkling of what lay in store for her as the match began. The 20-year old Slovak girl proved a worthy match as she served well and created some deep volleys to stretch Serena on the court. In the match that lasted an hour and 24 minutes, world no. 78 Cepelova dictated terms in forcing out a 6-4, 6-4 straight set victory over Serena. Cepelova won 55% points on her first serves and 52% overall in the match.
To prove that her win over the defending champion was no fluke, Cepelova kept advancing in the tournament with more upset victories. In the round-of-16, she defeated 13th seed Russian, Elena Vesnina 7-6, 3-6, 6-3. Cepelova’s quarterfinal opponent was her compatriot Daniela Hantuchova, whom she outclassed 6-2, 6-1. In the semifinal, Jana Cepelova met another giant killer Belinda Belcic, who came through the qualifying rounds and created her own waves in this year’s Family Circle Cup. However, Cepelova stopped the 17 year old Swiss girl 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 to enter a maiden WTA final of her career. For Belinda Bencic, the Family Circle Cup 2014 provided a platform for crushing established players. After coming through the qualifications, Bencic beat Russian veteran Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 7-5 in the first round; outplayed New-Zealander Marina Erakovic 6-2, 6-1 in the second, defeated Ukrainian, Elina Svitolina 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 in the third and then stunned tournament favorite Sara Errani in the quarterfinal 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to set up the semifinal clash with Jana Cepelova.
Canadian 6th seed Eugenie Bouchard also created an upset when she beat former world no. 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. The two girls had met in last year’s quarter-finals as well but Jankovic had beaten Bouchard then. The other semifinalist in the Family Circle Cup this year was 14th seeded German Andrea Petkovic, who got past 9th seeded Lucie Safarova in another three-setter 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Bouchard, who had a great run in this year’s Australian Open as well, however lost to Andrea Petkovic in the semifinal but not before she has made a huge impression in the tournament.
Jana Cepelova’s dream run in the Family Circle Cup finally came to end in the final played yesterday, when she lost to Andrea Petkovic 5-7, 2-6. Once ranked 9th in the world, Petkovic was plagued with injuries and it was her first WTA title in three years. Her comeback was marked with impressive victories over 4th seed, Sabine Lisicki, 9th seed Lucie Safrova and semifinal win over Bouchard.