Since 1973, the Volvo Car Open 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.
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. In 1973, Family Circle magazine stepped up to the challenge to support the event that would come to be known as the Family Circle Cup.
With it's beginning in Hilton Head, the tournament started creating milestones that, over the years, have directly influenced the popularity of women's professional tennis. It was the first women's tennis event to offer a $100,000 dollars in prize money. The first 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 tournament was the first women’s event to be broadcast on network television. Players who participated in 1973 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 knew that it was a historic day in women's sports.
In 2001, the tournament made a bold move to secure its success for the future. After 28 years in Hilton Head, it relocated to a new home in Charleston, South Carolina. This partnership between the City of Charleston and Family Circle magazine was the first of its kind in women's tennis. Family Circle magazine was the first title sponsor to partner with city and county municipalities to build a tennis facility of this stature. The 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 the greater Charleston area access to one of the finest tennis facilities in the southeast.
In 2015, the Family Circle Cup announced a new partnership with Volvo Car of North America. In conjunction with Volvo Car's first American plant in South Carolina's Berkley County, the brand became the title sponsor of the WTA Charleston tournament, changing its name to the Volvo Car Open.
The Volvo Car Open is a tournament rich in tradition that has been highlighted over the past 45 years with a number of outstanding accomplishments and many more to come.