Sloane Stephens Wins Volvo Car Open (copy)

United States Sloane Stephens returns a shot by Elena Vesnina during their championship match at the Volvo Car Open Sunday. Stephens defeated Vesnina 7-6 and 6-2 to win the title in 2016.

It's as defending Volvo Car Open champion Kiki Bertens said Saturday.

"There are all great players here, so anyone can win the tournament," she said.

A year ago, Bertens came to Charleston ranked 27th in the world and seeded 12th in the VCO. This time, she is the second seed and ranked eighth in the world.

So, naturally the 27-year-old 6-footer from The Netherlands is happy to be back on Daniel Island. She's ready for the clay.

She didn't bring it with her, but she still has a year to drive the Volvo C40 she won by winning the 2018 VCO. "The Volvo is at home (in the Netherlands). I'll go for it (another one), but I get to keep the other one for two years, so hopefully I can get another one (by then)."

Berkens is in the same quarter of the draw as two other former champions, fifth seed 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki and unseeded Andrea Petkovic.

"I am feeling great. The year has been really great. I am at my career high (ranking) now. I won the title last year here in Charleston and I am really happy with the way things are going," she said. "I really love it here. I really like to be back here. It's the first tournament on clay. So I am really happy to be back. The organization is really nice. The fans are really nice, so I really like it here. Of course, by winning title here last year, it brings back great memories."

Stephens No. 1 seed

Believe it or not, Sloane Stephens is now 26 years old. Fans can still remember when she stepped on the Althea Gibson club court in 2011 for her first experience in the tournament. She even fought through qualifying that year.

Success was written all over the then 18-year-old as she glided over the clay. And now she's the 2017 U.S. Open champion after winning this tournament the previous year.

Stephens is now ranked sixth in the world and the No. 1 seed in this VCO. It just happens that her old buddy Madison Keys also resides in the same quarter of the draw. Keys has been a finalist here and is the eighth seed this time, making this possibly Sloane's toughest test.

Of course, that might not be good news for Charleston fan favorite and hometown girl Shelby Rogers, who is making her first WTA Tour appearance in more than a year.

Rogers did get lucky in a way by drawing 30-year-old 69th ranked Evgeniya Rodina of Russia in the first round. Rogers is unranked on the WTA Tour after not playing for a full year.

It will be interesting to see how the 26-year-old Rogers performs in this one.

To make things interesting, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko is the 10th seed and located in the same quarter as Stephens and Keys. Ostapenko also was the VCO runner-up in 2017. Keys and Ostapenko could make for an exciting round of 16 matchup.

Deeper looks

The quarters featuring Stephens and Bertens are where the main action should be, but don't forget how a little-known Bertens took it all a year ago.

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus is the third seed, while Elise Mertens of Belgium is the eighth seed, and they are the headliners in their quarter of the draw.

And then there's fourth seed Anastasija Sevastova and 2018 VCO runner-up Julia Goerges, the seventh seed, in the other quarter that also includes ninth seed Belinda Bencic.

Hidden away in the other quarter of the draw is 17-year-old wild card Emma Navarro. If Navarro can get by veteran Laura Siegemund of Germany in the first round, Wozniacki will be well rested from her first-round bye.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on the Grand Slams at ubitennis.net/author/james-beck.

We're improving out commenting experience.

We’ve temporarily removed comments from articles while we work on a new and better commenting experience. In the meantime, subscribers are encouraged to join the conversation at our Post and Courier Subscribers group on Facebook.