WTA Charleston: Volvo Car Open Preview
Angelique Kerber with the Family Circle Cup trophy after the 2015 final against Madison Keys/Photo courtesy: Family Circle Cup

Reigning Australian Open champion and defending champion Angelique Kerber and 2004 champion Venus Williams headline an all-star field as the WTA begins the clay court season in Charleston. Also playing this week is 2014 semifinalist Belinda Bencic, 2012 finalist Lucie Safarova, and Americans Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

WTA Charleston Tournament Overview

The Volvo Car Open in Charleston kicks off the clay court season, giving players a chance to transition from the hard courts of Indian Wells and Miami to the slow, red clay off Europe. Charleston is the only WTA event played on green clay, a faster, lower bouncing kind of clay than the traditional red clay of Europe. The Volvo Car Open is the largest women's only tournament in the world and is played at the Family Circle Tennis Center on Daniel Island in Charleston, South Carolina. The Volvo Car Open has a rich history with many of the all-time greats having won on the green clay. Past champions include Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, and Venus Williams. The defending champion in Charleston is Angelique Kerber who defeated Madison Keys in last year's final in a narrow, three set battle. 

First Quarter

The first quarter is headlined by defending champion and top seed Angelique Kerber and 2014 champion Andrea Petkovic. Kerber opens up against either wildcard and Charleston native Shelby Rogers or Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena. The German could face Japanese 16th seed Misaki Doi in the third round before an all German clash against Petkovic. Overall, the defending champion has a pretty routine path to a second straight semifinal on the green clay, and expect Kerber to do just that and reach the last four.

Semifinalist: Kerber 

Angelique Kerber slides into a backhand at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina/Getty Images
Angelique Kerber slides into a backhand at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina/Getty Images

Second Quarter

The second section is headlined by American Sloane Stephens and defending French Open finalist Lucie Safarova. Stephens opens up against either Cagla Buyukakcay or big-hitting youngster Danka Kovinic. If the American makes it past a potential tough match against Kovinic, she could then play rising star Daria Gavrilova or big-hitting Chinese Zhang Shuai. In the quarters, Stephens could face Lucie Safarova, who has an extremely tough opening match against either young American Louisa Chirico or big hitting Japanese Naomi Osaka. With the Czech's recent form struggling to win matches due to coming back from a long bacterial infection, expect Safarova to crash out early and for a youngster to spoil the party and make the semis. 

Semifinalist: Kasatkina 

Daria Kasatkina hits a backhand during her loss to Simona Halep in the second round of the Miami Open/Getty Images
Daria Kasatkina hits a backhand during her loss to Simona Halep in the second round of the Miami Open/Getty Images

Third Quarter

The third quarter is headlined by 2004 champion and third seed Venus Williams, and 2012 French Open finalist Sara Errani. Williams has suffered a horrific start to 2016, losing first round in all her tournament except Kaohsiung, which she went on to win. The American will look to get her season back on track at an event she's historically played well at here in Charleston. The seven-time Grand Slam champion opens up against either American Alison Riske or another American in wildcard Frances Altick. Though Williams should get through her opening match fairly easily, she has a tough third round looming against potentially big hitting German and 2009 champion Sabine Lisicki or the always feisty Yulia Putintseva.

For fifth seeded Sara Errani, the Italian opens up against either big hitting Kazakh Yaroslava Shvedova or Evgeniya Rodina. Much like Williams, Errani has an easy opening round but a very tricky third round opponent looming in 2010 champion Samantha Stosur. With Williams and Errani both facing tricky draws in the third round, expect a veteran like Stosur to pounce. The Aussie has a game suited for clay, making the 2011 French Open semis and winning here in 2010. Expect the 2011 US Open champion to summon some of her big-hitting game for the green clay and make the last four.

Semifinalist: Stosur 

Samantha Stosur cracks a forehand at the 2015 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina/Getty Images
Samantha Stosur cracks a forehand at the 2015 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina/Getty Images

Fourth Quarter

The bottom quarters is headlined by 2014 semifinalist Belinda Bencic and defending finalist Madison Keys. Bencic opens against a qualifier, either Elena Vesnina or Cindy Burger. The Swiss youngster could face an extremely difficult third round opponent in 2014 Wimbledon finalist and 2014 semifinalist Eugenie Bouchard or American Christina McHale. Bencic has struggled for form lately, so expect the 2014 semifinalist to crash out early. On the other side of this quarter, Madison Keys opens against either German Laura Siegemund or lucky loser Patricia Maria Tig. Keys has arguably the easiest path to the quarters with the a potential third round against Kristina Mladenovic. If last year's finalist can use her big serve and ground strokes to her advantage, expect the American to reach a second straight semifinal in Charleston.

Semifinalist: Keys 

Madison Keys blasts a forehand at the 2015 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina/Getty Images
Madison Keys blasts a forehand at the 2015 Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina/Getty Images

Predictions:

Semifinals: Kerber def. Kasatkina, Stosur def. Keys

Final: Kerber def. Stosur

VAVEL Logo