The Volvo Car Open keeps getting better.
Now in its 46th year, the tournament doesn't look anything like it did back in the 1970s at Hilton Head Island.
Sea Pines Plantation was nice.
Daniel Island is even nicer.
But there was a certain atmosphere about Sea Pines back then that made it really a special place to go every April.
Meanwhile, Family Circle Tennis Center continues to blossom along with the tournament that once had its name.
Volvo has made this tournament even more special, and the Tennis Channel is coming along for the ride. It's a great setup and marriage, a great tournament.
This year's field was a little on the lightweight side in terms of participants, especially after U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens withdrew. Exciting young Catherine Bellis also pulled out just before the tournament started. And even Shelby Rogers wasn't around.
Then the seeds started falling: One, two, three.
But when you walk through the gates and around the grounds, you would never know that Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki are not here. The place is excited.
A tingle of electricity is in the air.
It all carries over to Volvo Car Stadium where the fans are excited and into the matches. Attendance is good.
As Varvara Lepchenko said early in the week, "The people are so nice and everyone comes to the tournament, and are tennis fans."
Tennis like life
Tennis is such a complex game. Everyone who plays or watches realizes this.
The game can be completely unpredictable, much like life.
And the personalities involved are even less predictable.
Sometimes, it's only safe to count on the Roger Federers. And, of course, there aren't many of them.
One day, you think a player is great and headed for stardom. The next day, the player decides she doesn't want to be on the court any longer and appears to give up.
In this case, it's bright, young Naomi Osaka when she was in total control early in her loss to Julia Goerges in the round of 16. Osaka probably lost a few fans that day, because some fans may not completely embrace her again, remembering the Tennis Channel moment when she told her coach on the court during the match that she didn't want to be there.
It could happen again. She will have to earn the fans' trust.
Yet, Osaka has superstar skills at her command.
A fearless Goerges
And now, it's Goerges who looks as if she may transition to star status very soon. She looked every bit the face of the game a day after her victory over Osaka.
Goerges did everything well, serving huge and repeatedly hitting the spots, consistently powering flawless ground strokes, delivering precise drop shots and volleying like Martina Navratilova once did.
Goerges was fearless. At 29 years old, she apparently had discovered her game.
And then there she was on Saturday looking vulnerable in the early moments of her rain-stopped VCO semifinal match against Anastasija Sevastova. Of course, that's kind of normal in tennis. Even the great Federer can struggle at the start of matches.
A little later, Goerges might have been saying, "thank goodness for the rain."
She now has time to recharge her superstar dreams and game before resuming play on Sunday.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.