Patty Schnyder's Family Circle Cup Flashback
Published April 17, 2011 12:00
CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Though she hails from over 4000 miles away, she always feels at home in Charleston. But this year Patty Schnyder said a fond farewell to playing the Family Circle Cup, the end of a 15-year love affair.
Schnyder, who has hinted this may be her last season on the WTA, fended off nine match points before falling to Chanelle Scheepers in her first round match. She told the press afterwards, "I feel so good whenever I come to Charleston, but I don't think I will be back as a player - maybe as a fan."
The next night she played her last doubles match in Charleston and was given an on-court farewell. "I've lived through some retirement ceremonies and I didn't want to cry, but it just wasn't possible," she said. "I've had so many emotions here for so many years. It meant so much. It was a painful goodbye but I'm looking forward to everything that comes and for sure I'll be back."
Schnyder, who played the tournament 15 straight years from 1997 to 2011, had strong results in her first five appearances, reaching the quarterfinals in 1998, where she lost a nail-biter to another crowd favorite, Monica Seles, and going one better with a semifinal showing in 1999. But 2002 was the year she truly charmed Charleston, beating a string of WTA legends - Amélie Mauresmo, Mary Pierce, Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati - to reach the final.
"People knew me before 2002 but they didn't know I was capable of playing that well day after day," the Swiss said. "I think they liked the way I played too. It's different from the others and when it's on, it's a very special game. Maybe it gave them as much joy to watch me as it did for me to play for them."
Schnyder was a finalist again in 2006, pulling off a surprise upset over Justine Henin in the semifinals. Henin had won 27 consecutive matches on clay.
"Beating Serena was unbelievable. Being down 3-0 in the third set and coming back to win, especially at that stage of her career when she was really on, it was amazing," Schnyder said when asked to name her Top 3 career wins in Charleston. "Coming back the next day and beating Capriati was also amazing. She was No.1, defending champion in Charleston and at the French Open... I felt like I could strike the ball wherever I wanted. Then Justine - I don't even know how many Frenches she had already and she had never lost here either.
"I'm not a big believer in catchphrases like 'anything is possible' but when I look back, it was all about that here."
Schnyder pointed to something else that was important: "It's full of love here. The fans and crew are so friendly. They have a true passion for the sport. Some tournaments are run like a business, which is fine, but at some tournaments they really put their heart into it. Here you feel the support to go on and on."
And her farewell message to the tournament? "I had a wonderful time playing here. I want to thank everyone involved in the tournament, since 1997 and even before that, who have made this tournament as big as it is now. Hopefully the champions of the future will keep coming and playing the Family Circle Cup.
"It was always my favorite tournament."