The 2022 Credit One Charleston Open is in the books and what a super week it was! In Sunday’s final, Belinda Bencic won her first title on clay, beating Ons Jabeur, 6-1 5-7 6-4. Charleston had a real buzz this year with the debut of the upgraded stadium and the first edition with fans since 2019. The attendance and atmosphere was fantastic from the first round and this tournament is a real credit to the tour. It’s been one of my favourite watching experiences in a long time. This post brings together some of my highlights from the week.
Finals weekend 🏆
Ons Jabeur and Belinda Bencic were both hit hard by COVID in December having played the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi. Both hadn’t really found their stride in 2022. That is until now and in Charleston.
Bencic, who had just enjoyed her best result of the season the week prior in Miami, had a tough run to the Charleston final which was punctuated by a pair of come-from-behind wins. In the first round, Bencic rallied from a set and 3-5 down to beat Wang Xiyu, 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3. Then in the quarter-finals, Bencic turned the tables on Paula Badosa from a set and 2-4 down to win, 2-6 7-6(2) 6-4. Badosa looked to be easing to yet another win over Bencic. Rather suddenly, Bencic found a way back into the match, and began to dominate with her classic trademark tennis of taking the ball super early. A tenative Badosa had no answers. The Bencic-Badosa quarter-final was one of the most interesting matches of the week…. but, mini rant, for goodness sake why did they have to wear the same outfit?! And why does tennis keep shooting itself in the foot with this?!
The semi-final was Bencic’s most straightforward match of the week, beating Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-4 6-3. I don’t know what it is with Alexandrova – I never seem to catch her on a good day! She clearly had played well to reach the last four as she dropped just six games combined in the previous two rounds to beat Karolina Pliskova and Magda Linette.
Jabeur’s route to the final was much more routine up to the semi-finals where she then had to use all her guile and court craft to get past Amanda Anisimova, 2-6 6-1 6-4. It was a wild ride, a match of dramatic momentum swings. It was a good match and definitely one of the ones that I will remember from the tournament. I’m down for another Jabeur-Anisimova clash soon.
When Anisimova locks in, she’s pretty devastating and can hit anyone off the court. The first set wasn’t close. Anisimova was completely outplaying Jabeur. But the thing is, it’s rarely sustainable and the wheels can come off, as they did towards the end of the third set. Jabeur was super dynamic, driving forward with anything short and taking some pace off with slices which did seem to befuddle Anisimova. Still, i’m encouraged by Anisimova’s form this year and another win over Aryna Sabalenka, the number one seed, was the highlight of her week. Amanda is continuing to put herself in the mix.
The sun shone bright for Sunday’s showpiece which was an exciting final and a fitting conclusion to the week. Just like in the semi-final, Jabeur made a slow start and wasn’t at the races at all in the first set. A quick 6-1 set. Just like in the semi-final, Jabeur was gritty and crafty, and managed to dig in, much to the crowd’s delight.
Bencic had her chances to win the final in straights with break points at 4-4 and 5-5 in the second set. Jabeur held on in those games and then pounced, sealing the second set on a screaming forehand winner. There were flashes of Jabeur genius in the final two sets but it was constantly alternating with errors and erratic spells of play. Bencic was the much more disciplined of the pair and played a very steady match from start to finish. After missing a championship point on Jabeur’s serve, Bencic played a sensational final game to serve out the match to love and seal the win, 6-1 5-7 6-4 in two hours and 35 minutes.
There were some emotional scenes at the end of the match and it was touching to see how much this final clearly meant to both players. Clay is not her thing, as Bencic has widely shared, but this win obviously sets her up well for the red clay. Personally, i’m looking slightly further ahead to the grass where I think both Bencic and Jabeur will be ones to watch.
Best match 🎆
My favourite match of the week was not one initially on my radar. They offten turn out to be the best ones! It was the third round match between Alizé Cornet and Anhelina Kalinina. It was a classic clay court duel, evenly contested, lots of dynamic points and both played really well at the same time which is such a rarity. Kalinina won, 7-6(5) 7-5, in two hours and six minutes. Kalinina fought back from 1-4 down in the first set tiebreak and 0-4 down in the second set.
Kalinina is goood. She’s been on the rise since this time last year when she went on a streak on the clay at the ITF level. With the rise in rankings, Kalinina has managed to transition that form to the WTA tour. In just 2022 alone, Kalinina has beaten the likes of Madison Keys, Sorana Cirstea, Elena Rybakina and Cornet, and taken sets off Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula. Kalinina has big groundies, can defend and move very well, and looks comfortable at the net. One to watch on clay over the next few months.
Hot shot 🔥
Oh I do love a drop shot return winner! This was gorgeous from Ons.
A lovely moment at the end of Sunday’s final.
Funny moment 🤣
Super snaps 📸
Charleston ❤. Definitely on my bucket list.
Recommended media 📺
Nice speech from Belinda.
Recommended reading 📚
JJ!!!!! Enjoyed this piece by Diane Elayne Dees about Jelena Jankovic who attended the finals weekend with a selection of other Charleston champs to commemorate the tournament’s 50th anniversary.
Recommended listening 🎧
I enjoy listening to Jessica Pegula. Always honest and thoughtful.
Hmm it’s been a pretty ropey run of draw chals since Oz. Charleston was a bit better! I had a Jabeur-Fernandez final and Bencic to the semis so not a million miles off.