Hello all! I’m here to write about a little bit of my journey at the 2018 Volvo Car Open in Charleston, South Carolina and why it was one of my greatest experiences ever, and why it should be on your list of tournaments to attend one day! I am going to write this article which won’t be insanely long, less detailed, but more of a pros and cons type article about this tournament. Then I will also write an article that is much more detailed and thus longer, about my day by day experience of the nine day trip just in case you wanted to know more about how my daily routines worked, and how I managed to enjoy my time on site so much every day. There will very likely be some things that are pretty similar between the two articles but I hope not too much so it’s a good variety. So buckle up and I hope you enjoy what you see if you do happen to read!!
First of all, one of the things I always wonder about is the parking situation for every event I attend. It’s already a mini disappointment if you’re paying a lot to park because it obviously adds up if you go every day like I did. Good news! Free parking the whole tournament! So half of the four tournaments now I’ve attended were like this with Cincy being the other. The parking isn’t exactly on site; you just take a five minute school bus ride to the front gate and it’s great. It’s actually a very smooth system. Even at its most crowded times you are not waiting for an extremely long time which is a plus too.
So that’s one pro right off the bat and now let’s move on to another one. The overall grounds and how they are to navigate, crowd space, etc. The grounds are a perfect size I’d say; you walk in and immediately are walking upon the steps to the entrance to the Volvo Car Stadium so the stadium is impossible to miss no matter how hard you try. Plus, it’s a small enough stadium (but plenty big and beautiful too) to not get lost on where to enter or find your seat, etc. I’ll get more into that later. Next to the stadium is the tennis channel studio as well which is also impossible to miss. You are forced to see it when you walk in and it’s set up perfectly. Usually when I walked in there it was live too so you could immediately get behind the camera if you wanted and take a peek at the hosts and their preview of the upcoming day. It’s also the spot the players go to immediately after winning their matches (the ones on stadium and this starts towards the middle of the week) so you can camp out there and get a great spot while watching them do their interview and then sign and take pictures as well. Many pros about this part of the grounds and we’re just getting started!
Overall, this is not a huge site and that’s not a bad thing. I would actually say it’s a big positive but everybody has their own thoughts whoever has attended before. It’s really hard to get lost once you familiarize yourself a bit with it. I mean, it’s common knowledge to just walk around and explore it yourself before doing anything else so you can start to remember where certain hot spots are and that’s what I did. So when you walk in and get past the tennis channel studio and the main little plaza by the stadium, there are two ways you can go: straight, or left. Well, you could go right too but that would be into the stadium. Anyway, if you go straight you will run into a couple of great food trucks right away. There are a lot of tents and stands but I didn’t pay attention to most because I just like to see where the food is and where the courts are. So there won’t be much detail on the other stands. I will also go into the food a bit later too. If you’re still reading that is.
Once you get past the food trucks, you take a left and you get your first glimpse of some of the courts. There are a few practice courts you’ll see along this path and also a couple match courts. The biggest court on this path is court 3 and it’s got a set of small bleachers on the opposite side of the chair, and on the side of the chair there are tons of bleacher seats. It goes many rows high; it’s a bit of a weird court setup because it’s not like any of the other courts. The other ones are either big or small, and this one is sort of in between but also a nice court for fans because you can fit a lot in there so some great players got to play on this court and it was fun. Next to it was court 4 which was smaller as it only had one side fans could sit on and it was behind the chairs. Also the bleachers only went about three rows up so it was a very small court, and the smallest match court they have. Still, you were plenty close enough to enjoy the match no matter where you were sitting. I can’t even say this court is a con even if I do say it was my least favorite court.
Past these two match courts there were a couple of practice courts but these were rarely, if ever used by the top players. At least I never saw any big names on them, there were plenty of other better practice courts that they went on. So, you could basically skip those practice courts, keep going straight and eventually you’d run into the next biggest court after stadium which is Althea Gibson Club Court. I’ve heard great things about this court and boy it did not disappoint. Right before you walked into this court (which was a couple of steps up) there was your first glimpse of a map of the site so you knew where the hell you were going if you entered for the first time. This is how I started to get an idea of where I was and it looks a little confusing at first but quickly it turns very smooth to navigate. So anyway you walk into this court and there isn’t a bad seat in it. If you enter straight ahead you are sitting behind the chairs and the bleachers go way up as you would expect, but there are two front rows of chairs to sit in if you get there early enough so that’s nice too.
If you take a left when you enter the court, there are bleacher seats on the baseline which I always love because you can see the whole court straight ahead, well anyone who has attended know how baseline seats are. Right behind the baseline seats is the player clubhouse which is pretty cool too. Next to the clubhouse there are a bunch of tables and chairs for fans to sit in as well. These seats aren’t part of the actual court (meaning you can sit and go as you please no matter what the score is in the match) and still get a great view of the match. Plus, there is a railing you can lean on which also isn’t part of the court so it’s perfect if you want to get a close up view but leave whenever you want and not wait for changeovers. The last set of seats on this court are across from the chair and you can get to them by going past the baseline seats to the other side, and also a neat feature is this is also where a bunch of great practice courts are which I will transition into soon. So yeah, this court also is overlooked by a highway going over Wando river, it’s nice; definitely worth the hype and you’ll surely enjoy relaxing watching tennis on this court.
So as I was saying, if you go through this court (and not around. You’ll read about the difference soon) you will see about 5 or 6 practice courts next to each other and these are definitely ones that the big guns use frequently. These courts are on a downhill slope so you are basically on top of a mini hill overlooking all of these practice courts which is pretty cool if you don’t have a particular player interest and just want to sit down and see them all hit. But, if you want to see anyone up close, it is easy to move around and stand right up along the fence and get a clear view on any of these sets of courts. This is a HUGE positive to all of the practice courts is that every single one is easily accessible and no problem getting up close or worrying about players missing you when they come out. If you want a picture or autograph, you will get it. If the player wants to of course.
Let’s keep the tour going! So if you go left of these practice courts, there is a fence you can stand upon and past the fence is where all of the players go to relax whether it be in the dining area, the gym, or just the lawn, you will see lots of players here constantly so it’s a terrific spot to hang out if you just want to see players relaxing and calm and doing regular things. Right next to this is the entrance to the clubhouse where all of the players enter and you can stand right up close to the entrance which is cool. They may not be always willing to sign or take pictures when they enter but you can try if you want. I usually don’t because I know there will be better chances because the accessibility is so amazing as I said before. I just enjoy seeing them all come through. A great time to stand by the entrance is in the morning when they are all entering to start their day on the grounds. Transportation cars are always arriving with players in them and it’s nice to see them start their day going through the entrance up close. One little note about this: early in the week you can go across freely from one side to the other through the entrance to get to the other side but as the week goes on you can’t do that. You have to have credentials get through. It’s no big deal really as you just go around Althea Gibson Club Court instead to get to the other side, this was just a little shortcut if you will.
So, let’s assume it’s early in the week and you can freely cut across. Choosing this path takes you to some more practice courts. Now, like I mentioned before if you choose to go around AGCC instead of through it, you can see these practice courts right away. So whichever decision you make you will run into practice courts either way. There’s two main practice courts on this side, side by side and only one set of bleachers. But the one without them you can still stand right on the fence and be very close to them so it’s not a huge deal, either one is great. If you go even past those two courts and straight ahead a bit further, there is a path to a couple of more practice courts and these are the last of them on site. So once you hit the furthest ones, I’ve told you about all of the practice courts. And that’s basically everything regarding the grounds. It’s not big at all like I said but it easily still has everything you could want.
Two more things I want to talk about. The Ace Lounge, and Volvo Car Stadium. First, the Ace Lounge is a “VIP” tent offered to all people who were there for the whole week. So, me being a part of this group, I can tell you a little bit about it and if it’s anything worth having. It’s located right next to the stadium and also right when you walk in. So you see the tennis channel studio like I said earlier, and to the right of that is the ace lounge. There is also another entrance that connects from inside the stadium which is kind of cool. Now granted, I only went in once and that was the eighth day of the event on SF Saturday when it rained the entire day and no tennis took place. So I strolled in there and it’s nice I will admit that. There are couches in there, drinks, big screen TVs, live music. Just being able to sit on a couch and relax instead of stand around all crowded around people in a stadium was nice. I think it’s worth it to an extent, if you use it as something like I did when there isn’t much tennis going on it’s great. But otherwise I probably wouldn’t have spent too much time in it. I knew coming in that I likely wouldn’t do much with it, but I’m very glad I tried it at least and it’s a nice little extra perk to have if you’re there for the whole week.
Last but not least… the stadium and all of the views involved in it. It’s a very nice size and you can easily see the beauty of it right when you walk into it especially from the box seats which as I will explain, I was lucky to watch some matches from there. My first look into it was for a Petra practice and it was so quiet and calm in there and I loved every second of it. My first time in there was my favorite time because I was watching Petra in the front row of a stadium, can’t beat that. The tickets I had for the stadium were in the second level but in row A so it was as good of a seat as possible for that level. Then there are the 300 level seats which are general admission so there are no assigned seats, it’s just all bleachers. I sat there for a match too so I sat in all three sections for a match and I can confirm there is no bad seat in the house.
I mostly just wanted to talk about my courtside experience because it was a pleasant and bonnus experience I got to try for the first time. Normally, I didn’t ever expect to be able to watch any matches from there, or any stadium I went to, but I cheated the system if you will and it worked to perfection. I never tried this at any other stadiums I went to so I’m not sure if it can work elsewhere too but either way it was funny. There were always players practicing in the morning on stadium like an hour before the first match and you could sit anywhere you wanted for those practices so I sat as close as possible. During the matches you had to have a special pass to sit there. So I just stayed in the seats after the practice was over until the first match started and if nobody came to sit in your seats you could enjoy the view as long as possible without anyone questioning it. I took advantage of that and watched a couple of matches courtside and it was beautiful. Maybe to others it doesn’t seem as interesting but to me it was so surreal and cool to be able to do that because i never expected it.
I didn’t know exactly where to slide this bit of info in but one really nice feature was inside the stadium there was a stand where you could buy a big souvenir cup for $30. Once you had it, you got unlimited refills from a drink machine with soda and water all week long. I’m just saying this so if you ever come across this and get asked about buying this cup… BUY IT YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT!! BEST PURCHASE YOU CAN MAKE ALL WEEK!! IT LOOKS REALLY COOL TOO!!
Overall, i would give this tournament a huge thumbs up and a 100% recommendation. It’s peaceful, not too crowded, beautiful, accessible, fan friendly, and everything else you can think of. I feel lucky to have been able to enjoy this place for nine days and hopefully it won’t be the last time either! Anyone who read this whole thing I hope it was valuable, enjoyable, and informative to read! Any other questions don’t hesitate to ask!!!
Thank you so much and enjoy your day!!