The Sentimental Favorite

Patty Schnyder volleys with Chanelle Scheepers during their match on Stadium Court at the Family Circle Cup Tuesday April 13, 2010.

Grace Beahm

Patty Schnyder struggled during the first set of Tuesday's match against Chanelle Scheepers. But Schnyder was able to smile at the end after she'd posted a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory in Family Circle Cup Stadium.

After the match, Schnyder was honored as one of only two players to play in all 10 Family Circle Cup tournaments since it moved to Charleston from Hilton Head Island. Jill Craybas also has played in all 10. But there is no doubt Schnyder is No. 1 in the hearts of Family Circle Cup fans.

And, the feeling is mutual.

"I feel the support when I step here on the court, even like practicing," Schnyder, 31, said. "I mean people just come and talk to me and say nice things, and the really warm feeling I get all through the week. And especially on the court when you're down, it helps you a lot."

The fans started throwing their support her way as she rallied to win the last two sets of the one-hour, 53-minute match.

Schnyder waved to the crowd, patted her racket and let it all soak in. She's played in 14 Family Circle Cup events and the lovefest with the fans never gets old. But it might be near its end.

"I'm pretty much done," said Schnyder, who is 19-9 in Charleston "I think, because so many years, and I've played here 14 times and no injuries, so I really feel a bit tired at some stages of the year. Here, it's great because I love it, but there's some tournaments you just play because it's great events, but you don't feel really at home. So it doesn't make it easy in those weeks."

So, is this Schnyder's final appearance in Charleston?

"I can't tell you that for sure," she said. "But maybe one more, but not many more."

Schnyder helped the Family Circle Cup make history in 2002 when it became the first Tier I final that included two unseeded players. Iva Majoli topped Schnyder in the championship, but Schnyder remembers that week fondly.

"That was the most amazing run I had, like beating (Jennifer) Capriati, (Mary) Pierce, (Amelie) Mauresmo and Serena (Williams) in a row. So it doesn't happen often, so that was just my breakthrough with the crowd as well."

Schnyder started slowly Tuesday, but picked up steam against Scheepers, the No. 1 seed in qualifying play. Schnyder will play Michelle Larcher Del Brito today.

"My forehand was very uneasy at first," Schnyder said. "And I just need to hang in there and somehow try to find your game and play better and play tough. And I was tough today, running down balls, but I guess the best thing today is that I can come back tomorrow and play better, hopefully.

"Here I am always aiming big and I want to do well here," she said. "So it really wasn't my best today. I'm just happy that I did it. Tomorrow no one's going to talk about how many forehands I missed. It's just going to be tomorrow."

But the tomorrows are numbered. What will be more difficult, emotionally?

Charleston without Patty? Or Patty without Charleston?

"Patty without Charleston," Schnyder said. "I mean I have a lot of respect out there. They love me and my game, but I really love the tournament, and it's just the biggest moment and the greatest I had in my career, so it's very emotional and just always a great, great tournament."

Reach Philip M. Bowman at pbowman@postandcourier.com.