Welcome to the clay swing… As usual we start off these three months on the dirt in Charleston, which is definitely one of the highlights of the clay swing for me because of the special green clay surface! Charleston always attracts a great field and this year is no different with six top 15 players in the draw. Let’s check it out now!
Top seeds’ profiles
*Please note that Sloane Stephens has withdrawn from the tournament, with lucky loser Dayana Yastremska taking her place in the draw.*
 Caroline Garcia (No.7)
Player profile: Everytime I talk about Garcia in a tournament preview I say the same thing – she has yet to play her best tennis this year, and with the clay swing starting in a few days’ time, she will find it difficult to defend all those points as her rise up the rankings started during this time last year. Though clay is not her best surface, the faster green clay should be to Garcia’s liking.
Draw projections: As usual, the top 8 seeds have a bye, so Garcia will start her Charleston campaign in the second round against Varvara Lepchenko or Andrea Petkovic, the 2015 champion. She is seeded to meet Alize Cornet in the third round, then Johanna Konta in the quarterfinals, though from this quarter I see clay court specialist Kiki Bertens causing some issues for the seeds.
Charleston win-loss record: 5-5 (2015 3R)
 Petra Kvitova (No.10)
Player profile: Kvitova is coming off a loss to 16-year-old Amanda Anisimova in Miami, but it does not come as very surprising considering she has never done well during the Sunshjne Double. Aside from March, she has been doing relatively well all season with victories in St.Petersburg and Doha. Kvitova is another player whose worst surface is clay, however she has had many good results on the dirt before, most notably beating Serena Williams enroute to the 2015 Madrid final.
Draw projections: Kvitova will play a pair of Czechs, Kristyna Pliskova or Katerina Siniakova in her Charleston opener. Stat: Kvitova is on a 24-match winning streak against fellow Czechs! The first seed she could meet is Elena Vesnina, but three talented but patchy players in Brengle, Watson and Townsend could take advantage of Vesnina’s bad form.
Charleston win-loss record: First appearance
 Daria Kasatkina (No.12)
Player profile: Kasatkina is having a stunning 2018 season that has seen her rise to No.12 in the rankings, including reaching two Premier finals at Indian Wells and Dubai. Clay has always been Kasatkina’s favourite surface – equipped with a loopy topspin forehand and quick movement around the court that is perfectly suited to the dirt, perhaps we haven’t seen Kasatkina’s best tennis just yet.
Draw projections: Kasatkina will kick off her title defence against Christina McHale or Zarina Diyas, then possibly clay court specialist Irina-Camelia Begu in the third round. It does not get easier for Kasatkina as big-hitter Julia Goerges looms in the quarterfinals.
Charleston win-loss record: 9-1 (2017 champion)
 Sloane Stephens (No.9)
Player profile: We knew Stephens had always excelled playing on home soil, but I wouldn’t have believed you if you picked her as the champion in Miami two weeks ago! Stephens has truly awakened from her slumber and is now playing with a ton of confidence, as she showcased it throughout her stunning Miami run. Stephens achieved a career-high ranking of No.9 with the Miami title and with literally no points to defend up to Wimbledon, we could see Stephens in the elite of the rankings in no time.
Draw projections: If Stephens chooses to play in Charleston, the 2016 champion will play Jana Cepelova or Bernarda Pera in her opener, with Mihaela Buzarnescu her likely third round opponent. This quarter also features a fascinating first round clash in Eugenie Bouchard vs Sara Errani, which hopefully I will have time to preview it on the blog!
Charleston win-loss record: 8-5 (2016 champion)
 Julia Goerges (No.13)
Player profile: All eyes were on Julia Goerges when she had THAT 15-match winning streak, consisting of titles in Moscow, Zhuhai and Auckland, but her year has somewhat been stalled after a second round loss at the Australian Open to Alize Cornet. Goerges’ last match on the tour was a shock loss to compatriot Carina Witthoeft in Miami, though maybe that can be attributed to her injury woes she had in February. Goerges will be determined to prove that her 15-match winning run wasn’t a fluke on the green clay of Charleston.
Draw projections: Goerges could play Charleston favourite Samantha Stosur in the second round, in which she leads the head to head in by 5 wins to 1. Her round of 16 opponents could be Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka, Russian teen Natalia Vikhlyantseva, or clay court specialist Laura Siegemund, who is playing her first WTA event since having a freak accident in Nurnburg last year. Another really packed quarter!
Charleston win-loss record: 5-4 (2011 QF)
 Johanna Konta (No.22)
Player profile: Konta’s miserable year continues on as she was knocked out in the fourth round in Miami to Venus Williams. Having had to defend 1000 points from claiming the trophy last year, Konta has dropped to No.22 in the rankings, her lowest ranking since May 2016. The clay swing has never really been kind to Konta – last year, in five clay court tournaments, Konta only managed to record three wins on the dirt. This means though with every win Konta gets during the next two months or so, she will be moving up the rankings pretty quickly.
Draw projections: Konta will play a qualifier in her first match of the week, but could play Bertens next, which I would definitely classify as an upset alert.
Charleston win-loss record: 0-1 (2011 Q1)
 Madison Keys (No.14)
Player profile: Keys has been unable to bring the form that saw her reach the Australian Open quarterfinals into the US spring – she lost both her openers in Indian Wells and Miami, to Danielle Collins and Victoria Azarenka. This has historically been Keys’ least favourite part of the season – she’s mentioned a ton of times that she finds it really hard to adapt her game to the dirt. Still, Keys has produced good results during this period of the season before, most notably reaching the finals here and in Rome in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Draw projections: Keys’ first match will be against Lara Arruabarrena or Beatriz Haddad Maia, a very tough opener for the American. I’ve gone for the upset in my draw challenge with Arruabarrena beating Keys – I still remember THAT match in 2016 where Arruabarrena pushed Angelique Kerber to the limit in Charleston in a thrilling three-setter. The winner of this small section is projected to play Daria Gavrilova in the round of 16.
Charleston win-loss record: 8-5 (2015 F)
 Anastasija Sevastova (No.16)
Player profile: Sevastova’s March has been typical Sevastova as she produced decent but unspectacular results, reaching the fourth round in Indian Wells and the round of 16 in Miami. While a loss from a set up against Victoria Azarenka would have been disappointing, seeing the clay once more would probably liven up Sevastova’s mood! Sevastova was low key once of the stars of last year’s clay swing as she reached five quarterfinals out of seven tournaments played. I wouldn’t be surprised if she excelled this year on the dirt again given her creative game and improved first serve.
Draw projections: Sevastova will open her campaign in Charleston against Johanna Larsson or a qualifier. If she progresses, she is seeded to face Ashleigh Barty in the third round, and potentially Kvitova next.
Charleston win-loss record: 5-4 (2017 QF)
If you caught my subtle hints from the header image and a name that has been repeated a lot in my draw projections, you’ve probably guessed who would be the finalist from my top half of the draw! I’ve been impressed with Kiki Bertens in both Indian Wells and Miami – she pushed both the Williams sisters really hard but just came short of the win, especially against Venus where she failed to capitalise on match point. All the top seeds in the top half of the draw – Garcia, Konta and Keys are not in their best form and I could see clay court stalwarts like Sara Errani, Daria Gavrilova and Lara Arruabarrena to cause some problems for these big hitters.
In the bottom half of the draw, Kvitova can blow hot and cold often thus I’ve went for her to leave the tournament in the third round to Madison Brengle – Kvitova always finds the lack of pace from Brengle tough to handle plus playing in Charleston for the first time in her career, I wonder if she can adapt to the conditions quickly enough. I’ve gone for Sevastova to make the final here – she loves clay and I think the slightly quicker courts here are suited to her game. Goerges, Begu and Kasatkina also has potential to make the final and I’m hoping for a clay court specialist match-up in Begu vs Kasatkina in the third round.
Charleston Final Prediction: Anastasija Sevstova d. Kiki Bertens
Charleston predictions can be found at the top of the page or by clicking the link here! Thank you for reading!