Daniel Island, S.C., April 4, 2016 — After four decades the familiar Family Circle Cup name is gone. But not the friendly atmosphere at the all-woman tournament, which is now called the Volvo Car Open.
Comments from the top eight seeded players at today’s Media Hour verified they still love coming to Charleston, no matter the name of the tournament. They appreciate the soothing atmosphere and, more importantly it seems, the fans and Low Country cuisine. They also have their favorite perfumes, which probably have little to do with the city they’re visiting this week on the WTA Tour.
Angelique Kerber, seeded No. 1, began her climb in the WTA rankings last year after she won the Volvo Car Open for the first time. In January, her confidence reached peak performance mode as she won The Australian Open by beating the toughest of champions, Serena Williams.
“The start of the season was not bad,” Kerber said, laughing. “But today was my second day to play on clay, and it’s a little bit different than playing on hard court. I’m a person who needs two or three days and then I get used to the clay court.”
Kerber didn’t come to Charleston last year on the highest of notes. She was struggling with injuries, a coaching change, and a lackluster record.
“The start was not my best,” she admitted. “I came here with no pressure and tried to just enjoy. And the people here are so nice. It’s like home with everyone so friendly. So when I landed at the airport [this time] it was the same feeling.”
But, and more importantly, what perfume does Kerber like? “I have a lot,” she said, repeating the question … what? perfume? “I like Dolce and Cabana No. 1. I wear it when I am going out for dinner.”
Belinda Bencic, seeded No. 2, first came to Charleston two years ago as a little-known teenager from Switzerland. She battled her way to the semifinals, wowing fans and the tournament. She’s still a teenager at 19, but with a second seed next to her name and a current ranking of No. 10 in the world, the pressure has shifted although she tries to play one match at a time.
“It’s been hard work and I’ve always believed in myself,” she began. “I don’t look so far in the future so I don’t have so big expectations. I’m happy with every win. I’m still as excited as I was when I was 200 in the world; I don’t take it for granted.”
What’s Belinda’s current perfume … “I just generally like aromas, but now I like Jimmy Choo. My mom gave it to me for Christmas. But my favorite is J’adore from Dior. My mom wore that first, before me.”
Venus Williams, seeded No. 3, couldn’t remember the name of her favorite perfume, and we shouldn’t ascribe her forgetfulness to her age — she’ll be 36 in June. Instead, la grande dame of women’s tennis showed off her wisdom about equal prize money, gender-specific or combined men’s and women’s tournaments, and about her visions that go beyond tennis courts.
“Combined tournaments have their place and tournaments like this do really well, too,” Venus began. “People love and appreciate women’s tennis here; it’s such a tradition. So these tournaments need to continue way beyond when I’m old and grey,” she said, laughing.
“There’s always going to be people who don’t think that another person should be paid equally,” Venus began, when asked about equal pay, a topic that was brought to the forefront in Indian Wells when CEO Raymond Moore, who has since stepped down, made disparaging comments about women hanging on the coattails of men such as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. “It’s important for men to get on board because these same men have daughters, they have wives. They should want those same opportunities for those people in their families. They need to realize that when they say these sorts of things that they’re also saying them about the women in their lives. They have to come to grips with what that means.”
In 2007, Williams advocated that Wimbledon should pay equal prize money. The grandfather of all Grand Slams acquiesced. However, nine years later some people still grumble about that decision, some feeling that the agreement is not a done deal.
“At the end of the day we are all human, so can we just leave it at that,” Venus said. “I can’t understand why mankind has to dominate each other. I thought we were further along. In a lot of ways I’m happy it happened. It’s like a wake-up call for me to not sit still. It’s made me examine what I can do more of across the board, and not just for women’s tennis but across the board for women around the world. We’ve rallied and fought for the right things and have women behind us. But, we really need to get men involved. That’s the evolution that I see.”
Sara Errani, seeded No. 5, is very happy to be back on clay. She’s also happy to be here with her coach and his family, along with his children that are 2 and 4. “They are really small and I have fun with them,” she said smiling, her eyes as blue as washed glass.
With women tennis players on the tall side, the five-foot-five Italian can present an image that’s almost childlike. She enjoys the famous restaurants in Charleston, and has a favorite but, “I don’t know the name.” About the foods she eats here, “I’m really simple. I love to eat like the kids. The chicken, the salad, the pasta. I don’t like to try many different things.” And, like a everyone, she indulges in deserts. Her favorite … crab with Nutella.
Errani’s sweet fragrance indulgence is a long-time favorite. “I’m using Creed Silver Mountain Water.”
After doubts as to whether she wanted to continue on her career path Andrea Petkovic, seeded No. 6 and returning 2014 champion, tempered her response when asked whether she would recommend the life of a tennis professional.
“You have to be built for it, definitely,” she began. “I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody. You have to have a certain kind of character. You have to be very independent. You have to love the loneliness not only on court but off it, as well.” She began to laugh, adding, “It’s not that sad, actually. It’s just a part of being a tennis professional that’s not sold on all the commercials.”
And what does this fun-loving German like to wear in fragrances? “I actually have two. I wear Hermes; it’s a very earthy perfume and smells great. I also wear one I bought in New York City. It’s called Bleecker Street. They just sell it in New York. There are different perfumes for different districts there. It’s very unisex; and it’s kind of masculine. I like the balance between the masculine and feminine.” It follows that she also advocates for equal prize money.
Sloane Stephens, seeded No. 7, hasn’t had much success at Volvo Car Open. She’s never made it beyond the second round. However, her results do not deter the American. She returns here with as much enthusiasm as she had in prior years. This year she arrives supporting her new initiative, Soles4Souls.
“Yeah … bring a pair of shoes, you get a general admissions ticket,” she said.
The program began last year in Washington, D.C. “I thought it was just a good idea. We waste a lot of shoes and other stuff. I thought it could be beneficial. A lot of players started dropping off their shoes.”
The shoes are then given to Soles4Souls where they are lightly refurbished and distributed to special organizations.
Sloane likes to wear, and was wearing, Bon Bon by Viktor & Rolf. She doesn’t wear perfume during a match, but always puts it on in the morning. “I like to smell good.”
Madison Keys, the 2015 runner-up and No. 8 seed, can smack a tennis ball as fast as a man. Yet, she keeps her feminine ways fresh with a new perfume selection. “I think it’s Giorgio Armani Si [Eau de Parfum].” Right before a match, though, she uses a Bath and Body Works spray. “But when I go out … it’s perfume.”
Several weeks ago, Keys had asked 7-time Grand Slam champion, Mats Wilander, to be her coach. However, he wasn’t with her in Miami. She said their relationship just didn’t work out, but that there wasn’t any drama in the break up.