A huge year for Charleston-area tennis continues this week with the LTP $100K, a USTA Pro Circuit event in Mount Pleasant.
American player Madison Brengle, who played in both WTA Tour events on Daniel Island last month, is the top seed for the 32-player event, set to begin with qualifying on May 3 and main-draw play on May 4. The final is set for 11 a.m. May 9 at LTP Mount Pleasant.
The event comes on the heels of the Volvo Car Open and the MUSC Health Women's Open, WTA Tour events held at LTP Daniel Island on back-to-back weeks in April. A third WTA event, the Charleston 125, is set for July 26-Aug. 1 at LTP Mount Pleasant, opposite the Olympic Games in Japan.
"We are becoming one of the top places in the world for tennis, I would say," said Patrick Hieber, the director of tennis at LTP Mount Pleasant. "We're doing a lot of special things here, and it's pretty exciting times."
With the game's top players in Europe for the clay-court season leading up to the French Open, the USTA Pro Circuit gives up-and-coming players and comeback-minded veterans a chance to compete on clay in the U.S. LTP Mount Pleasant hosted two $25K events in March.
"It's a very solid field," Hieber said, "comparable to what we had here last November."
Brengle, 31, is ranked No. 86 and has been as high as No. 35 in the world, with a fourth-round appearance in the Australian Open and career victories over Serena Williams and two-time Wimbledon champ Petra Kvitova to her credit.
Other Americans in the field include No. 124 Kristie Ahn, who reached the fourth round of the U.S. Open in 2019; 22-year-old Caroline Dolehide, who is ranked No. 161 and trains occasionally at LTP Mount Pleasant; and 19-year-old Whitney Osuigwe, who got into the main draw at the Volvo Car Open through qualifying.
A comeback story? How about 34-year-old Varvara Lepchenko, who has won almost $5 million in her career and was ranked as high as No. 19 in the world in 2012 and played in the London Olympics for the U.S. that year.
Then there's Allie Kiick, daughter of former Miami Dolphin Jim Kiick.
Allie, 25, was out of tennis for two years due to four knee surgeries, a rare form of skin cancer on her back and a bout with mono from 2015-17. She's in the qualifying draw for the LTP $100K.
The LTP $100K also provides opportunity for some local talent. Hieber said LTP player Kennedy Shaffer will get a wild card into the main draw, while LTP player Sophie Chang is in the qualifying draw along with Piper Charney, an LTP trainee who plays for Lucy Beckham High School and made the All-Lowcountry tennis team.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, no spectators will be allowed at the tournament, Hieber said.
"That's a bit of a bummer, but I'm hoping it's the last event under that format," he said. "I think by mid-May or the end of May, things will start to loosen up."