If 2009 was a breakthrough year for Samantha Stosur, the 26-year-old Australian is consolidating her breakthrough this season.
The 11th-ranked Stosur has advanced to at least the quarterfinals in three straight tournaments, making the quarters at the Family Circle Cup with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 victory over No. 46 Vera Dushevina of Russia on Thursday night on Stadium Court.
Stosur made her first Grand Slam semifinal last year at the French Open, cracked the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour top 10 earlier this year and is closing on $5 million in career earnings.
It's a rewarding advancement for Stosur, who has been working at it since she turned pro at age 15.
"I'm really pleased with the way things are going," said Stosur. "Obviously, the first clay tournament is always a test, and so far I think I'm playing pretty well out here. To try and keep backing up my weeks like I've done at the start of the year is really pleasing for me."
Less pleasing have been her past results at the Family Circle Cup. She's just 1-3 in three appearances, and lost to Venus Williams in the first round during her last trip to Charleston in 2007.
"I think when I played here in the past, I didn't feel as comfortable on the courts as I do now," said Stosur, who faces China's Shuai Peng in the quarterfinals today. "That was probably one good reason, and then one time I ran into Venus Williams. That's never an easy match, no matter where you play."
Schnyder, Rogers step in
Russia's Elena Vesnina withdrew from the Family Circle Cup doubles tournament Thursday night, but never fear -- Patty Schnyder and local star Shelby Rogers are coming to the rescue.
Vesnina's injury, a left abductor muscle strain, forced her and partner Peng to drop out of the doubles, allowing Ekaterina Makarova and Marie-Eve Pelletier to move on to the semifinals. But that left Cup officials without a doubles match to follow the Melanie Oudin-Vera Zvonareva quarterfinal on Stadium Court tonight.
Enter Schnyder and Rogers.
They agreed to take on Makarova and Pelletier in an exhibition match to make sure Cup fans get their money's worth. Schnyder is playing in the Family Circle for the 10th year and is a fan favorite; Rogers is a 17-year-old who lives on Daniel Island and played in the Family Circle qualifying tournament.
"We think this will be a lot of fun for the fans," said Family Circle Cup general manager Bob Moran. "Patty is a fan favorite in Charleston, and it was fantastic for her to agree to do this."
The "Rockin' Racquets" tennis players, a group of Lowcountry Special Olympians, put on an exhibition Thursday following the Aleksandra Wozniak-Nadia Petrova match on the Althea Gibson Club Court.
The 15-member team is coached by Kevin MacFarland and has been practicing every Sunday since 2006 at the Family Circle Tennis Center. The age range for the "Rockin' Racquets" is from 8 into the 30s.
They showcased their skills with hitting drills and match point play, then were able to get autographs and have their photograph taken with the match winner. They also received a Sky Suite to watch the Thursday afternoon tennis sessions.
Also helping out were longtime volunteer Jack Barker and nationally ranked tennis player Diane Fishburne.
'Game, Set, Rock'
Saturday is usually an off-night for the tournament, but there's a new offering this year, "Game, Set, Rock!" Tennis stars John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Anna Kournikova are scheduled to participate in an exhibition at 7 p.m. at Family Circle Magazine Stadium.
There will be a McEnroe lookalike contest presented by Charleston Scene and The Post and Courier.
Tickets for the event are available through Ticketmaster (800-745-3000), local Publix stores and at the Family Circle Tennis Center ticket office. Box Level seating is $35, while Terrace Level is $25 and Grandstand tickets are $15.
A total of 12,443 fans came out to the Cup on Thursday, including 7,511 for the day session and 4,932 for the night matches. That puts the week's total at 55,329, just off the nine-session pace set in 2006, when the Cup drew a record 92,375.