Playing in back-to-back 96-draw, two-week tournaments on hard courts is challenging enough to make almost any top 20 player want to take a week off from the pro tour. The desert at Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami’s tropical-like setting are about as demanding a four-week stretch as it gets on the men’s and women’s tours.

Just ask Rafa Nadal.

So, what tournament starts the day after Miami’s Sony Open ends? The $795,000 Family Circle Cup, of course, with its 64-draw clay court event that begins April 1 on Daniel Island.

A small $235,000 hard court event also starts April 1 in Monterrey, Mexico.

It isn’t surprising that more than half of the world’s top 20 women are taking the week off. In fact, only seven of the 18 top 20 players who are playing both Indian Wells and Miami also are scheduled to continue playing the first week in April.

Venus and Serena Williams haven’t included Indian Wells on their schedules in recent years. That may be one reason why the superstar sisters are among the six top 20 players currently scheduled to head to Charleston after they complete play in Miami.

This is the third straight year that the Family Circle Cup has followed on the heels of Indian Wells and Miami. That’s a tough act to follow, but the Family Circle Cup has come up with another first class field.

Clay court specialist Sara Errani (No. 8) and 2010 Family Circle champion Samantha Stosur (No. 9) join No. 1-ranked defending champion Serena Williams as top 10 players committed to Charleston. Those names, along with former world’s No. 1 Venus Williams, and former champions Jelena Jankovic and Sabine Lisicki, plus exciting teenager Sloane Stephens (No. 17) are enough to make Family Circle officials extremely pleased with the tournament’s entry list.

Three top 20 players, including second-ranked Victoria Azarenka and Family Circle regular Marion Bartoli, are bound for Monterrey.

That leaves the likes of Nos. 3-7 Maria Sharapova, Agi Radwanska, Li Na, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova along with 2011 Family Circle champion Caroline Wozniacki (No. 10) on the sidelines the first week in April.

LOCAL NOTES

— I’On pro Diane Barker has been selected as a member of the women’s 55 Maureen Connolly Cup team that will compete in the senior world team championships in Antalya, Turkey, March 18-23. Barker, currently ranked No. 5 in the world in women’s 55, has won the last two world titles in her age group.

— The South Carolina “Play Tennis” license plate has finally arrived. The license plates can be purchased online at www.scdmvonline.com or through the local DMV offices. The $30 fee to purchase the Play Tennis license plate will benefit the South Carolina Tennis Patrons Foundation.

— College of Charleston coach Angelo Anastopoulo recently notched his 400th women’s coaching win with a victory over Kansas.

— Coach Kristin Fleming’s Bishop England boys team will open its season Monday at Wando, then plays its Region 6-AA opener the next day against Woodland before renewing its rivalry with Porter-Gaud on Wednesday at the Cyclones’ courts.

— The registration deadline for next weekend’s sixth annual St. Andrew’s Lucky Shot Tournament is Wednesday. Registration is available online (tournament ID 704119613).

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.