FLORENCE, S.C. — Florence’s Zoe Cauthen is in the main draw of the McLeod for Health Florence Open for the first time, and she could not be happier.
For one thing, she is in the main draw because she won the wild-card tournament in singles for the first time. She even won the wild-card doubles crown with Charleston Southern teammate Madalina Man, so they too will be in the main draw.
The rest of the Buccaneers’ tennis team will also compete in the annual ITF Florence tournament from Sunday through Oct. 20 at the Dr. Eddie Floyd Florence Tennis Center.
Just last year, Cauthen won her first qualifying-round match in the tournament after losing in her previous three attempts. But Cauthen, a multi-time SCISA state tennis champion at Florence Christian School, has also been doing well as a member of Charleston Southern’s team, which plays Saturday in a Charlotte tournament before making the trip to Florence.
“I definitely feel more confident going into this tournament than I did last year,” said Cauthen, who said she could play among the Buccaneers’ top three singles seeds this fall season. “I’ve gotten to practice a lot with my team and get better — so much better than I was back home.”
Cauthen wants to make the most of her first fall as a college tennis player.
“I’ve had a good start, but this is a very competitive team,” Cauthen said. “And things are very competitive in practice. I think I did extremely well in the wild-card tournament, but we’ll see how it goes next week. I’m excited to have a good start, and that gave me a lot of confidence. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I had set high standards for myself.”
If one seeks any proof that grand-slam potential plays in this tournament that has a $25,000 purse, last year’s event provides all that one needs. Last year’s McLeod for Health Florence Open champion, Bianca Andreescu, defeated Serena Williams to win the U.S. Open last month.
Although Cauthen and her CSU teammates are not eligible for prize money since they are college players, she sees this as a true tournament test.
“It will all be mental,” Cauthen said. “It’s a great opportunity and a big deal, but I have to treat it like it’s any other tournament. I’ve got to have the mindset all these players are just other players, even though they’re professional players.
“I just have to play my game.”