In a day or two, when Bernarda Pera has a chance to reflect on her week at the Volvo Car Open, she knows that she’ll look back on her time in the Lowcountry with fondness.
Pera, ranked No. 101 in the world, advanced to her first WTA Tour quarterfinals, played on a stadium court and even won over some fans during a two-hour, 14-minute match against crowd favorite Madison Keys Friday afternoon.
But after dropping a hard-fought 6-2, 7-6(5), 7-5 match to the seventh-seeded Keys, Pera could only dwell on how she felt immediately after a match she felt like she should have won.
“I feel terrible right now,” Pera said. “Before the tournament if somebody had said you’ll lose to Madison Keys in the quarterfinals, 7-5 in the third, I would have said I’ll take it. But right now, it’s just that I had my chances and I feel like I didn’t do enough.”
Pera, 23, has spent most of her young professional career in Europe playing on the second-tier ITF women’s circuit.
At the Grand Slam events, she has to go through the qualifying event to make the main draw. She made her Grand Slam debut earlier this year at the Australian Open, winning two matches and earning her biggest payday of $108,102.
The Croatian-born American, who lives in New Jersey when she’s not training in Florida, admitted she was a bit intimidated by her surroundings when she first stepped onto Billie Jean King Stadium Court early Friday afternoon to take on Keys – a player she’d never face during her career.
“The first set the court seemed so small because I’ve never played in a stadium this big,” Pera said. “It took me a little while to get used to all the people and how big the stadium is. I think played better in the second and third sets.”
By the end of the match, with Pera battling Keys for every point, she had won over many converts.
"It's nice to get some support," Pera said. "I really liked it. It was nice. Madison is very popular."
Pera hopes that the momentum she built in the Lowcountry will carry over to the rest of the clay court season. She plans to return to Europe and play in tournaments in Stuttgart, Prague, Rome, Madrid and the French Open.
“I’m doing all the big tournaments,” Pera said. “I love playing on clay and I think this another confidence boost for me after Australia.”
With her two victories this week and an additional $18,387 in her pocket, Pera should crack the WTA’s top 100 for the first time in her pro career.
“I knew it was going to happen, but I’m a little relieved,” Pera said. “I have to set new goals. I think top 50 is the next goal for sure.”
Her opponent on Friday has no doubt, Pera will get there.
“I have no doubt that she’ll be doing better and better as the season goes on,” Keys said.
Don’t quit your day job
There’s little doubt that Madison Keys is a superb athlete.
As the 23rd-ranked player in the world, Keys is a world-class athlete. However, she might want to stick with tennis.
Keys posted on her Instagram account her attempt at dribbling a soccer ball. It didn’t go well.
When asked about her soccer talent after the win over Bernarda Pera Friday, she quipped, “Did you see the video? So, I think you can answer that question. It’s not a talent of mine.”
If Keys could play another sport, she said football would be her first choice.
“I feel like I could be a pretty good quarterback,” Keys said.
Watch out, Tom Brady.
VCO officials said Friday that storms forecast for Saturday afternoon could alter the schedule, including Saturday night's Invesco Legends event featuring Michael Chang, Andy Roddick and others.
The priority will be finishing the women's semifinals on Saturday, meaning the Invesco Legends event could move to Sunday night. Full refunds are available for those who cannot attend the event on Sunday.
Chang still competing
It’s been 15 years since Michael Chang has played regularly on the ATP circuit, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost his competitive edge.
Chang, 46, still plays competitively on the Invesco Legends series. Chang along with Andy Roddrick, Tommy Haas and Mark Philippoussis will take Billie Jean King Stadium Court Saturday night in the Legends Charleston event.
“I don’t think any tennis player ever gets tired of the thrill,” Chang said. “Playing and performing is always easy to get up for. It’s something I enjoy very much still to this day.”
Chang and his wife – former touring pro Amber Lui – have three children.