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Serena Bids For Charleston Hat-Trick

After her stunning win in Miami, Serena Williams heads to Charleston to defend her Family Circle Cup title.

Published March 31, 2013 07:59

Serena Bids For Charleston Hat-Trick
Family Circle Tennis Center

Twelve months ago, Serena Williams used a flawless title run in Charleston as the springboard for an all-out assault on tennis' major prizes in the second half of the season.

This week, she returns to South Carolina for the 41st edition of the Family Circle Cup back on top of the tennis tree and with one of the season's most sought-after trophies already under her arm.

Her memorable comeback against Maria Sharapova in Saturday's Miami final stretched her lead over the chasing pack in the rankings to a healthy 1000 points, but with a whole host more to defend over the coming months, she will be well aware that there is no room to let up.

The American, seeded No.1 this week, will start as clear favorite to add a third crown to her triumphs last year and in 2008, although she is unlikely to have things all her own way; a strong draw - six of the Top 20 are present - is packed with clay court pedigree, including seven of the past nine champions.

Leading the challenge is No.2 seed Caroline Wozniacki, who, after an inconsistent start to the year, signaled a return to form with a run to the final in Indian Wells. The Dane's unerring consistency, defensive nous and speed around the court has made her a force on the dirt in recent times, winning four titles on the surface, including two years ago in Charleston.

Another former winner sure to be in the hunt is Samantha Stosur, whose big forehand and high-kicking serve combination has proven particularly potent in recent years on the clay. Champion in 2010, Stosur will be playing her first event since pulling out of Indian Wells with a calf injury, and like all the Top 8 seeds will enjoy the luxury of a first round bye.

Completing the leading seeds in the 56-strong draw are Sloane Stephens, Venus Williams, Lucie Safarova, Carla Suárez Navarro and Mona Barthel.

While Williams and company begin the transition to clay, Angelique Kerber and several other big names head to México for the WTA's last hardcourt offering until late July, the Monterrey Open.

Last year, Hungarian teenager Timea Babos defied the odds to defeat Sorana Cirstea and Sara Errani en route to a maiden title. She will have her work cut out defending it, though, with Maria Kirilenko, Ana Ivanovic and former champions Marion Bartoli and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova among those bidding to dethrone her.

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