Charleston Has Two Stars of Big-Time Tennis - UBITENNIS
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Charleston Has Two Stars of Big-Time Tennis

Shelby Rogers and Emma Navarro are representing Charleston at the Credit One Charleston Open this week.




(@CharlestonOpen - Twitter)

CHARLESTON, S.C.  (USA)  — The dream for this Charleston tennis player/columnist in the 1980s and 90s was for Charleston tennis to one day have its own traveling tennis professional.


You know. A real  pro who travels the world playing in big tournaments.

The city and area seemed to have tennis players everywhere, except at the elite level called professional tennis.

This is coming from a guy who was on site in Houston’s Astrodome in 1973 when Billie Jean King won the “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs.


I had covered all but a couple of the newly born WTA Tour’s tournaments at Hilton Head Island’s Sea Pines Plantation. And then in 2001, big-time tennis officially arrived in Charleston with the Family Circle Cup.

The Charleston area already had played host to some of the world’s best tennis players.

Andre Agassi won one of his first ATP Tour titles at the Isle of Palms’  Wild Dunes Resort in 1988 in the U.S. Clay Courts, a tournament that also included a very young Pete Sampras and Jim Courier.

I still remember interviewing the 16-year-old Sampras on the steps of the Wild Dunes clubhouse. Who was this young kid who would become the face of men’s tennis alongside Agassi and Courier?

Courier reached his first tour level semifinal at Wild Dunes in 1988.


Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals and other former greats played in the Lincoln Mercury Tennis Classics at Wild Dunes a few years earlier.

The likes of Grand Slam champions Arthur Ashe and John McEnroe had staged local exhibitions along with new Australian Open champion Roscoe Tanner and doubles great Peter Fleming, who teamed with McEnroe to win 52 doubles titles, including seven Grand Slams.

Lindsay Davenport and the U.S. Fed Cup team took on the Netherlands in 1998 at Kiawah Island.

The area had seen a regular diet of then-called satellite men’s and women’s pro tournaments, along with senior events such as men’s Grand Masters with Hall of Famers Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Cliff Drysdale and others including the great Pancho Gonzalez.

Since the mid-1970s former world’s top 50 player Roy Barth has been as close as nearby Kiawah Island where the tennis complex is named in his honor.


Even with one of women’s tennis’ most prestigious tournaments already having played its first event on Daniel Island in 2001, Charleston still didn’t have its own tour level professional tennis player.

After the Family Circle Cup arrived, there was the Davis Cup semifinals between the United States and Belarus  on Daniel Island in 2004. Andy Roddick had his serve working perfectly, and capacity crowds at then almost new Family Circle Stadium were able to be a part of Roddick hitting the fastest serve ever at that time, 151 mph.

Billie Jean King brought her World Team Tennis finals to Daniel Island a couple of times. It was a great event, but Charleston’s summer heat must have played a role in the event leaving town.


Shelby Rogers was still just 17 years old  when Charleston was named America’s “Best Tennis Town” at the 2010 U.S.Open.

But in the 50th consecutive version of the original Family Circle Cup, the newly named Credit One Charleston Open had two of Charleston’s own players in the tournament’s main draw. Both had been in the main draw before.

Nevertheless, this 2022 event is a little more special. There is only a hint of Covid 19 these days and few masks are on display at the tennis tournament.


Rogers and Emma Navarro are very special to Charleston tennis history. Both grew up in Charleston and both played singles matches in Credit One Stadium this week.

And then there’s the sparkling modern-looking stadium on Daniel Island that shines with its $50 million makeover. The players love the new amenities of the 11,000-seat stadium.

Rogers, now 29 years old, lost in the first round to veteran Kaia Kanepi after leading, 7-6, 5-4, and NCAA singles champion Navarro fell to Ons Jabeur in the second round.

Rogers, of course, is a talented player who has moved up to No. 44 in the WTA Tour rankings. . . and climbing. She has beaten several of the best players in the women’s game.


Navarro, the daughter of Credit One Charleston Open owner Ben Navarro, is preparing to make a run for another NCAA title while playing for the University of Virginia. She already has climbed to No. 194 in the world and is currently ranked No. 201.

Just a sophomore, Navarro hasn’t announced when she will turn pro. But it’s probably just a matter of time for the former world’s No. 1 junior, a junior French Open doubles champion and singles runner-up.

So, Charleston has plenty to cheer about in tennis, especially on the women’s side. Because of the presence and influence of one of the WTA Tour’s brightest and best events, Charleston likely will have other WTA Tour standouts of its own in future years.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award as the tennis columnist for the Charleston (S.C.) Post and Courier newspapers. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at


It’s Unfair, Rafa Is Too Good In Roland Garros Final

James Beck reflects on Nadal’s latest triumph at Roland Garros.




Rafael Nadal - Roland Garros 2022 (foto Roberto Dell'Olivo)

This one was almost unfair.


It was like Rafa Nadal giving lessons to one of his former students at the Nadal academy back home in Mallorca.

When this French Open men’s singles final was over in less than two hours and a half, Rafa celebrated, of course. But he didn’t even execute his usual championship ritual on Court Philippe Chatrier of falling on his back on the red clay all sprawled out.

This one was that easy for the 36-year-old Spanish left-hander. He yielded only six games.

 It certainly didn’t have the characteristics of his many battles at Roland Garros with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

It must have been a bit shocking to the packed house of mostly Rafa fans.


Nadal didn’t miss many of his patented shots such as his famed reverse cross-court forehand. He was awesome at times. Young 23-year-old Casper Ruud must have realized that by the middle of the second set when Rafa started on his amazing 11-game winning streak to finish off a 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 victory.

Ruud is good. The Norway native will win his share of ATP titles, but probably not many Grand Slam titles. If any, at least until Rafa goes away to a retirement, certainly on his island of Mallorca.

Rafa already has his own statue on the grounds of Roland Garros. Perhaps, Mallorca should be renamed Rafa Island.


Ruud displayed a great forehand at times to an open court. But when Rafa applied his usual pressure to the corners Ruud’s forehand often  went haywire.

Rafa’s domination started to show in the third set as Ruud stopped chasing Nadal’s wicked reverse cross-court forehands. 

Ruud simply surrendered the last three games while Nadal yielded only three points. Nadal finished it off with a sizzling backhand down the line. In the end, nice guy, good sport and former student Ruud could only congratulate Rafa.


The great John McEnroe even called Nadal’s overall perfection “insanely good.”

If Iga Swiatek’s 6-1, 6-3 win in Saturday’s women’s final over young Coco Gauff was a mismatch,  Iga’s tennis idol staged a complete domination of Ruud a day later.

It appears that the only thing that can slow Rafa down is his nearly always sore left foot, not his age. He won his first French Open final 17 years ago.

For Nadal to win a 22nd Grand Slam title to take a 22-20-20 lead over his friends and rivals Djokovic and Federer is mind-boggling, but not as virtually unbelievable as winning a 14th  French Open title.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at 

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At The French Open Rafa and Novak Lived Up To A Battle For The Ages




Rafael Nadal (photo @RolandGarros)

Rafa Nadal is simply amazing.


His herd of fans couldn’t have been more pleased with their hero on this day just hours from his 36th birthday. He was never better, his patented reverse  cross-court forehand a marvel for the ages and his serve never more accurate.

The presence of his long-time friend and rival on the Court Philippe Chatrier that he loves so much made Nadal’s victory over Novak Djokovic even more special. The 59th meeting between these two warriors was a match for the ages, marvelous play by both players. Some games seemed to go on forever, with these two legends of the game dueling for every point for nearly four hours in a match that started in May and ended in June.


The 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) victory sends Nadal into his birthday on Friday to face Alexander Zverev for a spot in Sunday’s final of the French Open. Win or lose now, Rafa will remain the all-time leader in Grand Slam singles titles until at least Wimbledon due to his current 21-20-20 edge over Djokovic and Roger Federer.

Nadal played like he could go on forever playing his game, but he is quick to remind that his career could end at any time. The always painful left foot remains in his mind.

But the Spanish left-hander has never played better than when he overcame a 5-2 deficit against Djokovic in the fourth set. Nadal sparkled with energy, easily holding service, then fighting off two set points with true grit, holding easily to get back to 5-5 and then holding serve at love for 6-6.


The tiebreaker belonged to Rafa for six of the first seven points. That was too tough a task for even Novak to overcome.

Rafa’s podiatrist must have felt relieved at least for now. If Rafa was in pain, he didn’t show it for the first time in quite awhile.

If Nadal could pull off the feat of taming the big game and serving accuracy Zverev displayed while conquering potential whiz kid Carlos Alcaraz, and then taking out whoever is left in the battle between Denmark’s young Holger Rune, Croatia’s veteran Marin Cilic, Norway’s Casper Ruud and Russian Andrey Rublev, Nadal might own a nearly unbeatable lead with 22 Grand Slam titles.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at 

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The Next Group Of Hopefuls To Replace The ‘Great Trio’ May Be Beaten Out By Youth




Carlos Alcaraz - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

What is it with this supposedly great crop of newer and younger players groomed to take the places of the “Great Trio” of  Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the top of the men’s game?


Only Daniil Medvedev and Dominic Thiem have won Grand Slam titles, both at the U.S. Open. And that’s about it. Medvedev just fell to Marin Cilic in the French Open round of 16.


You remember the 33-year-old hard-hitting Croatian who won the 2014 U.S. Open. Cilic had hardly been heard from since the 2018 Australian Open where he was runner-up . . . until  Monday when he needed just 45 minutes to conquer Medvedev.


Thiem? He looked like the real deal in 2020 when he won the U.S. Open. The Austrian is now 28 years old and an injured right wrist in 2021 has pushed Thiem far down the ATP rankings.

Then, there was the next presumed superstar: Stefanos Tsitsipas. The aggressive potential superstar came up empty on Monday against a virtually unknown teenager. Holger Rune was fantastic in his four-set domination of Tsitsipas.

The just-turned 19-year-old Rune appears to have it all: speed, quickness, power and touch. A 40th ranking isn’t too bad for a teen-ager, especially when it will zoom higher as the result of his advancement to a Grand Slam quarterfinal.


Maybe Medvedev, Thiem and Tsitsipas aren’t really as good as they once appeared to be. They are certainly not in the category of all-time greats. They have had their chances to become household words.

Maybe the members of this group weren’t meant to be the superstars to replace Federer, Nadal and Djokovic as fan favorites.

Maybe, it’s the next group of younger players, even teenagers. Yes, it appears that Carlos Alcaraz may outshine the likes of Thiem, Medvedev and Tsitsipas in the next few years.


It just happens the 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz may become one of the eventual replacements for Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

Carlos Alcaraz is one week younger than Rune.

Alexander Zverev might have been ahead of the others if he hadn’t blown so many chances for stardom the last few years. Still, he is the Olympic champion and probably has more potential than Thiem, Medvedev or Tsitsipas.


There is a herd of virtually unknown players waiting to make their mark. For instance, take Casper Ruud, 20-year-old Jannik Skinner and Matteo Berrettini. They have the potential to beat anyone.

But Alcaraz and Rune look like the best of the new young guns of tennis.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter who wins the Nadal-Djokovic quarterfinal showdown in Paris. They are two of the greatest players ever. Nothing is going to change that, not in Paris or anywhere else. Their place in history is written in stone, alongside Federer.


The women’s game is even more unpredictable than the men’s game. One reason is because the WTA no longer has superstars the likes of Venus and Serena Williams, and Ashleigh Barty.

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek looked ready to take over the women’s game with her long string of consecutive wins. But in the last two rounds of the French Open, Swiatek has looked like just another good player at times.

That may be due to the fact that the Polish sensation is going for her second French Open title while taking a 31-match winning streak into the quarterfinals. But it happened in the third round against 95th-ranked Danka Kovinic and then again Monday in round of 16 against 74th-ranked Qinwen Zheng.

Swiatek suddenly looked very average, but then bounced back to take both matches in the cool weather once she put on a white jacket in each match. She aroused her game early enough to avoid losing a set against Kovinic, but not against Zheng.


Swiatek now will face newlywed Jessie Pegula in the quarterfinals. Pegula is now playing the best tennis of her career and has rocketed to No. 11 in the world. Like Swiatek, Pegula is a fighter. She won’t go down easily and may be Swiatek’s toughest test remaining in Paris.

The 28-year-old Pegula called Charleston her home while she trained for a couple of years at the then Family Circle Cup complex, which is now the home of the Credit One Charleston Open stop on the WTA Tour. Pegula was married in last October at the famed Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.

Pegula also is having doubles success in Paris. She teamed with Coco Gauff to reach the third round in doubles, hoping for a victory there to advance to the doubles quarterfinals as well.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at 

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