That striking couple you might have seen jogging along the Battery this week in downtown Charleston, or along side streets South of Broad — just your average former No. 1 tennis player in the world and 6-foot-9 former NBA player.
“We went down the little streets, by the Charleston Battery,” tennis star Caroline Wozniacki said of her five-mile jog with fiancee and former New York Knick and Golden State Warrior David Lee. “It was awesome.”
Wozniacki is no stranger to the charms of Charleston.
She won the Volvo Car Open back in 2011 when it was the Family Circle Cup, and might be on track to add another Charleston trophy to her sweetbasket of 30 career WTA Tour titles.
The fifth-seeded Wozniacki, now ranked No. 13 in the world, advanced to the quarterfinals with a gritty 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 12 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu Thursday before an appreciative stadium court crowd. The Denmark native has now won 17 matches in six trips to Charleston, more VCO wins than any player in the draw.
Wozniacki and top seed Sloane Stephens survived some serious bracket busting as the VCO reached the elite eight in the quarterfinals. Five of the top seven seeds are gone, and 2017 U.S. Open champ Stephens required three sets and three match points in a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 14 seed Ajla Tomljanovic in the night match.
In the quarters, Stephens will face good friend and No. 9 seed Madison Keys, who was impressive in a 7-5, 6-2 dismissal of 2017 French Open champ Jelen Ostapenkoa. No. 11 seed Danielle Collins also made the elite eight with a straight set win over Kaia Kanepi.
Defending champ and No. 2 seed Kiki Bertens and No. 3 seed Aryna Sabalenka went down on Thursday, joining No. 4 seed Anastasija Sevastoba, No. 6 Elise Mertens and No. 7 Julia Goerges on early flights to Europe for the red-clay season.
Charleston teenager Emma Navarro, who lost Monday night in her WTA Tour singles debut, remains alive in the doubles competition. The Ashley Hall junior and partner Chloe Beck defeated 2017 French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko and Darija Jurak by 1-6, 6-3 (13-11) in the first round.
Navarro and Beck face Lucie Hradecka and Andreja Klepac in the second round. That match is set for 10:45 a.m. Friday on stadium court.
Wozniacki, who won her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2018, looked to have the match in hand with a 3-0 lead in the decisive set against the 30th-ranked Buzarnescu.
But the Romanian rallied to tie the set at 3-3 before Wozniacki won the final three games to close out a 2½-hour match.
"I feel like even I hit good shots, she was passing me at the net, or things were going her way," said the 28-year-old Wozniacki, who got engaged to Lee when he proposed in 2017 in Bora Bora. "And I just took a few deep breaths and I said, 'Okay, we need to start over and start grinding here.'"
Bertens, ranked No. 6, lost to No. 15 seed Maria Sakkari by 7-6 (8), 6-3; Sabalenka, ranked No. 10, fell to 2016 Olympic gold medalist Monica Puig of Puerto Rico by 6-2, 7-5.
Sakkari, a 23-year-old from Greece, is almost as famed for her distinctive hairbun as she is for her tennis, which had her ranked No. 29 in the world last year.
“It's not rocket science,” she said after her win over Bertens. “Make a ponytail first. And then just go around, and then … it's a bun. It's not that tough.”
Knocking off Bertens was a bit tougher for Sakkari, who now has three wins over top 10 players. She came from 1-5 down in the first-set tiebreak.
“I was feeling well on court, so I could see that I was there,” said Sakkari, now ranked No. 50. “It was not like, 1-5 and I had no chance of coming back. So I fought and make a lot of balls, came back with some good shots, and I think that's the winner out there in the third round.”
Bertens, who has eight career WTA Tour titles, said she didn't feel a lot of pressure as the defending champ here.
“Actually, I felt quite okay this week,” said the 27-year-old from The Netherlands. “Of course, I wanted to play better, so we were a little bit searching for why that did not happen.”
Puig, who won Puerto Rico's first gold medal in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, has also been searching this season as her ranking – as high as No. 27 in 2016 – has dropped to No. 63.
“Sometimes you have those weeks like I did at Rio, and all of a sudden you are a Grand Slam champion or Olympic gold medalist,” she said. “And you expect so much more of yourself, to get to the quarterfinals or better every week.
“There's that added pressure, and when (the results) aren't there, you're discouraged, disappointed. And then, losses and confidence issues.”
Former Mount Pleasant resident Jessica Pegula and countrywoman Taylor Townsend were both dismissed by seeded players in third-round matches.
Pegula, who trained as a teenager here at the Family Circle Tennis Center, fought No. 16 seed Petra Martic to three sets before losing by 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Pegula had knocked off No. 4 seed and 12th-ranked Anastasija Sevastova on Wednesday.
Townsend, who upset 2018 VCO finalist and No. 7 seed Julia Goerges on Wednesday, lost by 6-2, 7-5 to No. 9 seed Belinda Bencic.
Check back for updates.
Friday on Stadium Court
Chloe Beck/Emma Navarro vs. Lucie Hradecka/Andreja Klepac
Belinda Bencic vs. Petra Martic
Caroline Wozniacki vs. Maria Sakkari
Sloane Stephens vs. Madison Keys
Monica Puig vs. Danielle Collins