FLORENCE, S.C. — McLeod for Health Florence Open tournament director Rob Hill said there are more than 300 players on the alternate list for this year’s event at the Dr. Eddie Floyd Florence Tennis Center.
If that doesn’t let one know how much buzz there is about this event, nothing will — especially since last year’s winner, Bianca Andreescu, won the U.S. Open this year.
“It’s really neat,” Hill said. “We have players that have come through and done amazing things. But this time, it seems to be more at the forefronts of people’s minds, because they are able to connect the dots more just because where Bianca was last year, and what she’s done on the national stage since then.”
The 2018 U.S. champion, Naomi Osaka, even played in the Florence Open on her way to tennis superstardom, according to Hill.
And who did Andreescu beat in the 2018 Florence Open final? None other than Osaka’s sister, Mari Osaka.
Now, it’s time to find out who will win this year’s Florence Open. But first, there is the qualifying bracket that starts Sunday. The bracket includes Trinity-Byrnes star McKenzie Davis.
Whoever wins the qualifying brackets reaches the main bracket, which starts Wednesday. Once Wednesday starts, Pee Dee fans are guaranteed to see a local player in Florence native Zoe Cauthen — a Charleston Southern University freshman who will compete in that main bracket in singles and doubles after winning wild-card tournaments in both divisions.
Cauthen’s doubles partner for this tournament is fellow Buccaneers player Madalina Man.
“It’s good to see Zoe in the main bracket,” Hill said. “She seems to be taking the next step forward, and to have herself in the main draw is really neat.”
Players will compete not only for ranking points but also for a $25,000 purse. Play begins at 10 a.m. Sunday through Friday, and it begins at noon next Saturday with the singles semifinals and doubles championship.
Then on Oct. 20, the singles final is at 1 p.m.
Next weekend will also feature several community events, such as a college-AM round robin featuring locals and Francis Marion University tennis players. There will be a “hit and get” for prizes, and a junior team tennis challenge.
In addition, a free cookout is set for Saturday.
And then there is the main benefactor from the tournament: the Susan G. Komen South Carolina, which helps support the fight against breast cancer in the region.
Last year’s event raised $8,200 for breast-cancer research. And during the past five years, it has raised more than $51,000 toward the cause.