Venus will return to defend title
Cellular South Cup receives upgrade
By Phil Stukenborg
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Reigning Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, winner of last year's Cellular South Cup tournament at The Racquet Club, is making a return of serve, volley and overhead.
Officials at The Racquet Club announced Wednesday that Williams, the eighth-ranked women's player in the world, will participate in the 2008 event, making her the highest-ranked entrant since the lower-level pro event moved to Memphis in 2002.
The Cellular South Cup, a Tier 3 tournament on the women's pro tour, is held in conjunction annually with the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, the long-running men's pro event also played at The Racquet Club's indoor courts.
In addition to the announcement of Williams, tournament officials said the CSC will be upgraded in 2009 to a Series B event, giving the event access to higher-ranked players. The upgrade makes it possible for the Women's Tennis Association event to stand alone, although there are no plans for such a move.
As a Series B event, the CSC will be one of 17 such level events in the world and one of two in the United States.
"As a Tier 3 event, we didn't have access to the top six players in the world," said tournament director Phil Chamberlain. "It doesn't mean we'll necessarily get them, but a top-six player now will have the option to play in Memphis that week if she doesn't want to play oversees."
The 2008 RMKC and CSC will be held Feb. 22 to March 2.
In Williams, the CSC gets a player who, at age 27, has won 14 Grand Slam titles, including four Wimbledon championships. She beat Marion Bartoli in straight sets last summer at Wimbledon, joining Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Billie Jean King as the only players in the Open Era to win at least four Wimbledons.
"She is as big a draw as there is in tennis," Chamberlain said.
Williams made her 2007 debut at the Memphis tournament after having been sidelined by a wrist injury. The CSC was her first event since October 2006.
She reached the Memphis final, as the No. 7 seed, with a win over a qualifier, and beat top-seed Shahar Peer of Israel, 6-1, 6-1, in the championship match.
Chamberlain said Williams enjoyed the week in Memphis and expressed interest in returning, but it didn't seem likely as her world ranking climbed. But the former world No. 1 kept her word.
"She had a great experience here," Chamberlain said. "And when the (Stanford St. Jude Championship) golf tournament was played (in early June), she came to town (to watch boyfriend Hank Kuehne), and while she was here she practiced at The Racquet Club twice. We are just excited about her coming back."
Also on Wednesday, the men's tournament received a commitment from Chile's Fernando Gonzalez, the world's No. 9 player and winner of September's ATP Tour event in Beijing.
Events: Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and Cellular South Cup
When: Feb. 22-March 2, 2008
Where: The Racquet Club
Tickets: 765-4401 or 765-4484