CHARLESTON, SC, USA & MONTERREY, Mexico - With the American hardcourt spring done and dusted after Indian Wells and Miami, the clay season begins in earnest at the Volvo Car Open. The largest women's-only tournament in the world, Charleston's rich history has drawn a host of former champions and ex-No.1s looking to hit the green clay.
Here are 10 things to know about Charleston and Monterrey:
1) Former champions abound in the Charleston draw.
Five former champions are set to return for the year's first Premier on clay at the Volvo Car Open, with Caroline Wozniacki, Venus Williams, Samantha Stosur, Jelena Jankovic and Andrea Petkovic all looking to get a head start on the clay season.
2) A stellar cast is hitting the green clay in South Carolina.
Joining the host of former champions and ex-World No.1s will also be Miami champion Johanna Konta and Indian Wells champion Elena Vesnina, along with several other stellar entrants - Madison Keys, Kiki Bertens, Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Lucie Safarova, Zhang Shuai, Monica Puig, Daria Kasatkina and Naomi Osaka to name but a few.
3) Vesnina comes full circle.
Elena Vesnina's ranking was hovering around the Top 100 last year when she put together a stunning run to the Charleston final as a qualifier. It was the first final she had reached since 2013, and it marked a watershed moment in her comeback.
Now, BNP Paribas Open champion Vesnina is back on the green clay with the biggest title of her career under her belt. Can last year's finalist do one better and keep the good form going on clay? She'll take on the winner between qualifiers Asia Muhammad and Fanny Stollar in her Charleston opener.
4) Keys leading the pack.
World No.9 Madison Keys is the No.1 seed at the Volvo Car Open, and it's just the second time in her career she's been the top seed after 2015 Strasbourg.
The American has posted impressive results since her comeback from wrist injury, reaching the round of 16 at Indian Wells and Miami after being forced to miss the Australian and Middle East swings.
After a first-round bye, she'll start against the winner between Veronica Cepede Royg and Shelby Rogers.
5) One to watch in Charleston: Lucie Safarova.
Safarova, a runner-up here in 2012, will return to the Family Circle Tennis Center looking to continue her quietly impressive run of form. After reaching the quarterfinals at Miami, the former French Open finalist - who has won 13 of her past 17 matches - is set to return to the Top 30 on Monday.
6) Pavlyuchenkova looking to make it four in Monterrey.
There's something about Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Monterrey.
The Russian has played at the Sierra Madre Tennis Club six times, and she's taken home the title in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Can she make it an even four and win her first title of 2017 on one of her happiest hunting grounds? She starts against Germany's Tatjana Maria.
7) World No.1 Kerber looms in the draw.
Standing in Pavlyuchenkova's way will be none other than the World No.1, Angelique Kerber.
Kerber reached the final here in 2013 - losing to the Russian in three sets - but she'll be keen to back up her top ranking and take home her first title of the year here after lackluster showings in Indian Wells and Miami. She opens against wildcard Francesca Schiavone.
8) Defending champion Heather Watson has her work cut out for her.
Meanwhile, Watson, the defending champion here in Monterrey, is looking to kickstart her season on familiar soil. The Brit hasn't won back-to-back main draw matches since 2016 Miami, where she reached the round of 16. And she hasn't reached a quarterfinal since Monterrey last year (then held in February).
Watson kicks off her title defense against Serbia's Nina Stojanovic. But she's got her work cut out for her: besides Kerber and Pavlyuchenkova, Watson will have to contend against the likes of Genie Bouchard, Carla Suárez Navarro and Caroline Garcia in hopes to defend her title.
9) Local flavor on display in Mexico.
Mexico has two representatives in this year's event, with wildcard Renata Zarazua set to make her Monterrey main draw debut. She'll be joined by qualifier Victoria Rodriguez.
10) Here's where you can tune in.
Main draw play starts on Monday, April 3 at both tournaments - click here to select your country and learn how you can tune into the Volvo Car Open and Abierto GNP Seguros - Monterrey.
Get on the Road to Singapore to see who are amongst the top 8 in the first Leaderboard update!
This article was first seen on www.wtatennis.com.