Mount Pleasant Magazine March/April 2023

43 www. ReadMPM. com | www.MountPl easantMagaz i ne. com | www.MountPl easantPodcas t . com feature 2018 the magazine sold it to a group based out of Chicago, then later that year the tournament was acquired by current owner Ben Navarro of Charleston Tennis LLC, according to Credit One Charleston Open (COCO) tournament director Bob Moran. It has undergone a series of name changes over the years, from Family Circle Cup to Volvo Car Open to its present iteration. The impetus for the tennis tournament leaving Hilton Head involved a scheduling conflict with a PGA Tour golf event. It got to the point where it was sharing weekends with the RBC Heritage, using the same property and grounds. “It just became complicated, where it really needed to move,” explained Moran. He credits former Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley, then head of development for Daniel Island Matt Sloan, Lisa Thomas (the tournament director at the time) and the state of South Carolina with their determined efforts in keeping the tournament in our state. “And with Matt and Mayor Riley, they really found a place where this made sense.” Back in 2001 when the facility was constructed on Daniel Island, it was the only stadium built exclusively for women’s tennis. At the time, there was nothing on the park side and only one place to eat near the stadium, recalled Moran. The Daniel Island community has since grown exponentially and so has women’s professional tennis. It has become increasingly globalized; players from 63 different countries have played in the COCO, which is broadcast in 100 countries through their international broadcast partners. “So we’ve seen enormous growth there. It is a global sport,” commented Moran. In 2018, the decision was made to shift television networks from ESPN to the Tennis Channel with the aim of advancing the sport further. “And that was really to grow the sport for us and grow the game for us because we knew we needed tennis to have a destination for people to come find it and Tennis Channel was that destination,” stated Moran. “It allowed us to cover first ball-last ball. Every match is covered.” Television exposure skyrocketed from seven hours of coverage to 60-plus. He described it as a “big difference maker” for the tournament. “Every match is broadcast internationally. We were always a global sport but now we’re a globally-viewed sport.” COCO perennially draws some of the best players in the world, making it must-see TV— or if you’re a local tennis aficionado, a must watch in person. The 2023 tournament field already features five of the top 10-ranked players in the world including Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka. Americans Jessica Pegula, Danielle Collins, Madison Keys and Sloan Stephens have also committed alongside 2021 champion Veronica Kudermetova of Russia. Additionally, 2022 tournament winner Belinda Bencic of Switzerland returns to defend her title. Leylah Fernandez of Canada, a 2021 US Open finalist, is in the mix as well. “The field continues to grow,” said Moran. “Really a strong field of players that we’re excited about.” COCO’s successful run has revolved around working tirelessly to build relationships with players. Moran noted that COCO tournament manager Eleanor Adams keeps up with the players year-round. “No one’s guaranteed to come S l oane Stephens . A l ook i ns i de the s tage house at Cred i t One Stad i um. Photos prov i ded by Ar i e l l e A l p i no.