DANIEL ISLAND, S.C. (WCSC) - Tennis is back in Charleston as the new Credit One Bank Invitational prepares to start Tuesday afternoon. It’s the first live televised professional sport in Charleston in months.
The Credit One Bank invitational has said it will be closed to all media and fans however.
Charleston Tennis LLC President Bob Moran says after the pandemic forced organizers to cancel the Volvo Car Open in April, they immediately started planning their return. He says he’s received lots of feedback from the community about having this event back in Charleston.
“I think you have to balance it, because a lot of people love to see live sport in person, I do. So I think the balance is there’s some disappointment that we’re going to have really great tennis in their backyard, but they can’t come see it in person,” Moran said. “I think everyone just needs to say, ‘OK, at least there’s an effort there to get live sport back.’ We’re going to do it the right way, we’re going to do it the safe way, and hopefully this is the first step in getting live sport and fans back together.”
The Medical University of South Carolina’s “Back to Work” team has partnered to inspect the stadium, club house, and the hotel where the players are staying.
MUSC has been testing all of the players along with providing all of the trainers and doctors for the tournament.
The tournament will include 16 professional women’s tennis players, split up into two teams.
Team Kindness is captained by last year’s Volvo Car Open winner, Madison Keys. Opposing them, Team Peace is captained by Grand Slam title winner Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The Credit One Bank Invitational’s player field includes reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin as well as Keys, Mattek-Sands, Sloane Stephens, Victoria Azarenka, Amanda Anisimova, Monica Puig, Ajla Tomljanovic, Danielle Collins, Alison Riske, Shelby Rogers, Genie Bouchard, Jennifer Brady, Leylah Fernandez, Emma Navarro and Caroline Dolehide.
In support of the community, Charleston Tennis is giving the tournament’s net proceeds to MUSC and local health care workers.
The winning team of women will take 60% of the prize money, and the losing team will get 40%.
Moran says he is not only excited to see these women back in their sport, but also to give back to frontline healthcare workers.
"This was just our way of doing something a little different, to give the players a way of getting back into playing, earning a living," Moran said. "Also a way for us to say thank you to our front-line healthcare workers because MUSC's been a great partner of ours for a long, long time and then they also helped us come in and get back to businesses. Their team has been unbelievable to work with."
During the matches, players will call their own lines, but one umpire will be present to make a decision for final calls. There will also be two ball kids wearing gloves. Charleston Tennis has developed a plan where the ball kids will not have to ever touch the tennis balls, they'll just be rolling them out to players.
Moran says the only other people in attendance at the tournament will be essential staff, the players' coaches, and maybe a few family members of the players.
He says they will be testing out some new things during this tournament too, like drones in the stadium. Each player will have her own lounge, but they are encouraged to show whatever they want on their social media.
While the tournament will be operating without spectators, James Island’s Terrace Theater will be showing the invitational live in the format of a drive-in movie for 26 vehicles.
“It was always important for us to keep the theater open in order to continue serving our community,” the owner of the Terrace Theater, Paul Brown, said. “So when Tennis Channel approached us about the drive-in pop-up, we knew it would be the perfect uplifting remedy for our patrons. We are honored to be working with a wonderful organization like Tennis Channel, and to be their partner in bringing this exciting new event format to life.”
The entire tournament will also be live on the Tennis Channel from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
Organizers will be encouraging everyone to donate to front-line healthcare workers, via their website.