Mount Pleasant Magazine March/April 2024

28 | | The award-winning Credit One Charleston Open, the largest women’s-only tennis tournament in North America, returns to Daniel Island March 30-April 7. The Credit One Charleston Open (COCO), celebrating its 52nd event this year, has become a favorite among tour players, having been named ‘WTA 500 Tournament of the Year’ two years in a row. It annually draws some of the world’s best players. Current commitments include world No. 5 Jessica Pegula, world No. 6 and defending Charleston champion Ons Jabeur, world No. 8 Maria Sakkari and past Charleston champions Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens. Charleston’s own Shelby Rogers, ranked as high as world No. 30 thus far in her career, has found success at her hometown tournament in recent years. Rogers recorded her best finish to date in in 2023, making it to the Round of 16 against Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, a past champion and last year’s runner-up finalist. Another Lowcountry talent to keep an eye on is Emma Navarro. Navarro, a former No.1-ranked collegiate women’s singles player at the University of Virginia, won her first WTA singles title in January at the Hobart International, one of the lead-up tournaments to the Australian Open. Just a year ago she was ranked No. 149 in the world but has skyrocketed to No. 26. “In my many years of tennis, I have not seen a rise like Emma’s,” proclaimed COCO tournament director Bob Moran. The nine-day event traditionally hosts more than 90,000 attendees on Daniel Island. Moran said it is an honor to be named Tournament of the Year again. “This award is dedicated to everyone who makes our tournament great—our players, fans, corporate sponsors, volunteers, staff and media partners. We cannot host a successful event without them and share this distinction with them.” FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME One longtime volunteer who has contributed to its success is Ava Kusmider, now entering her 14th year of volunteering at COCO. She started out working on ball crews at age 9 and has missed only one year since — when COVID-19 canceled the event in 2020. Since 2019 she has served as the ball crew monitor, overseeing production of the ball crew. She ensures the correct skill level is on the right court and that the crew is placed in the right area of the court. Kusmider quipped that she is basically a “glorified camp counselor.” But she relishes the opportunity. She and her brothers worked ball crew together growing up and all of them played tennis. “It was honestly one of the best times of the year growing up,” reflected Kusmider. She sees the same players, some year after year — “and I still geek out,” she admitted. Kusmider added that the ball crew, linesmen and umpires get a unique perspective. “It still surprises me to see it from that level and be on the court.” Witnessing the speed and power of players and how deftly they move has been impressive. As has watching players use the clay surface to their advantage, such as Jabeur’s drop shot prowess. Her favorite part of volunteering is the camaraderie. Serving Up Aces Credit One Charleston Open continues to wow BY COLIN MCCANDLESS our town Photos courtesy of Charleston Tennis, LLC.