Since 1973, the Family Circle Cup has been a pioneer in women's professional sports creating milestones that over the years have directly influenced the popularity of women's professional tennis. It is a tournament rich in tradition that has been highlighted over the past 39 years with a number of outstanding accomplishments.
The early 70's were a period of uncertainty for women's tennis but at the same time it was also a time of hope for young women who had dreams of playing professional sports. They wanted their sport to grow and earn the recognition, equality and respect that their male counterparts were enjoying. The sport needed a company who believed in the future of women's tennis and was willing to take a chance on what many people at the time thought was a long shot. Family Circle magazine stepped up to the challenge and the rest as they say is history, and history in the making it was.
From a historical perspective, few tournaments can compare to the Family Circle Cup. Initially signing on to sponsor the event in 1973, Family Circle magazine holds the record in all of professional tennis as the longest running event sponsored by the same company. Family Circle was the first women's magazine to fully underwrite a professional women's sporting event.
In 1973, it was the first women's tennis event to offer a $100,000 dollars in prize money. As the first Family Circle Cup champion, Rosie Casals received a check for $30,000, which was the largest prize money payout awarded to a woman that year. Even more remarkably, the Family Circle Cup was the first women’s event to be broadcast on network television in 1973. Players who participated in that first tournament still have fond memories of the significance of this occasion. Billie Jean King remarked that the final between Rosie Casals and Nancy Richey was not the best played match due to the nervousness of both players, but every player there that day knew that it was a historic day in women's sports. Millions of viewers became instant fans, and women's tennis was well on its way to the heights that the game has reached in present times. Today, the tournament receives four days of coverage on ESPN2, and is also broadcast on Eurosport to over 95 million homes in Europe.
In 2001, the Family Circle Cup made a bold move to secure its success for the future. After 28 years in Hilton Head, the tournament moved to a new home in Charleston, South Carolina. This partnership between the City of Charleston and Family Circle magazine is the first of its kind in women's tennis. Family Circle magazine is the first title sponsor to partner with city and county municipalities to build a tennis facility of this stature. This state-of-the-art facility not only serves as the home for one of the Premier Events in the WTA, but also provides residents of greater Charleston access to one of the finest tennis facilities in the southeast.
Every spring, the City of Charleston and Daniel Island serves as a backdrop to one of the richest and most traditional events in women's professional tennis. The Family Circle Cup, a WTA Premier Event, has a roster of past champions that include some of the biggest names in the history of women's tennis including Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini, Martina Hingis, Jennifer Capriati, Venus Williams, Justine Henin, Serena Williams, and Caroline Wozniacki.
As one of the hottest tickets in professional sports, the Family Circle Cup is more than just a tennis tournament. During the week, fans are entertained with a variety of activities aimed at making their week on Daniel Island a memorable one. It’s an action packed nine days filled with tennis and a host of other activities that have been created for all age groups, from children to senior citizens.
The Family Circle Cup boasts a competitive purse every year and more than ninety players battle for one of the most coveted trophies in women’s tennis.
As the most traditional events in women's tennis, the Cup will continue to cement itself as an annual institution in Charleston, a city that is truly one of America's most historic treasures. Where most sporting events settle for status quo, the Cup continues to strive for excellence. The future of women's professional tennis is as bright as ever, and the Family Circle Cup will continue to be its shining star.