Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka headline main draw in San Jose at Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic
By Thomas Cluck
(July 27, 2019) A year removed from its inaugural run on the grounds of San Jose State University, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic is showcasing another strong WTA field in San Jose as if the long-running Northern California women’s tournament never even left Stanford. After a successful first year just down the Bay Area from Palo Alto to San Jose ended with meteoric-rising Romanian lefty Mihaela Buzarnescu lifting the new trophy over Maria Sakkari in the final, this year’s tournament looks to be even more intriguing with one of the best player fields here in recent years.
Unfortunately, one of the stars of San Jose was forced out early as two-time major winner Garbiñe Muguruza withdrew with a leg injury after falling in the first round of Wimbledon earlier this month.
“I am so disappointed to have to pull out of San Jose. Unfortunately my leg is not ready to compete and I am doing everything I can to be back on court and healthy,” said Muguruza. “I am sorry to have to miss San Jose and wish the tournament a great week.”
“It is certainly disappointing that Garbiñe has had to withdraw from the event, but unfortunately injuries are a part of sports and a player’s health is always the top priority,” said Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic tournament director Vickie Gunnarsson. “Hopefully she [Muguruza] will be able to recover quickly and get back on the court soon.”
Despite the disappointment of missing Muguruza, Bay Area tennis fans got a big surprise as two-time tournament champion Venus Williams announced her return to San Jose after accepting a wildcard into the event, where she reached the quarterfinals last year.
“We are very excited to have Venus join our player field. She is a tennis icon and tremendous ambassador for the sport,” commented Gunnarsson. “Having her competing at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic is truly special and boosts our already great player field.”
Some more good news came earlier this week as the remaining main draw wildcards were announced for Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, veteran American and fan-favorite Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and two-time runner-up Coco Vandeweghe, who will be making her comeback to the tour after nearly ten months out due to an ankle and foot injury. Vandeweghe, a California native, began her comeback last week in World Team Tennis playing some matches for the San Diego Aviators.
“I’m so excited to be starting at San Jose, my first tournament of the year,” said Vandeweghe. I’m so pumped to see you [the fans]. I’ve had so much success in Northern California and I can’t wait to be playing again.
With the field for San Jose set, including top seed Elina Svitolina, two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, and returning finalist Sakkari, the main draw ceremony took place Friday night in front of the fans in downtown San Jose at the Santana Row shopping area, with defending champion Buzarnescu assisting in making the draw.
The top quarter saw some of the biggest names and stories in San Jose drawn there as number one seed Svitolina, fresh off her first major semifinal earlier this month at Wimbledon, Buzarnescu, and Sakkari all landed in the first section. Svitolina, the defending WTA Finals champion, will face either Buzarnescu or wildcard Kasatkina after a bye in the opening round, while Sakkari, looking to repeat her magical run here last year, faces big-hitting Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova in the first round before a potential final rematch in the last eight against Buzarnescu, who beat her 6-1, 6-0 in last year’s title match.
Two young and rising Americans lead the second quarter as Amanda Anisimova, seeded fourth, and Danielle Collins, seeded eighth, sit on track to a potential popcorn quarterfinal between the two on Friday. Anisimova will face either German veteran Andrea Petkovic or fellow American Madison Brengle in her first match after a bye, while Collins faces China’s Shuai Zhang in round one.
In the bottom half, a dynamite third quarter sees unseeded Azarenka drawn with third seed Elise Mertens and five seed Donna Vekic, with the Belarusian opening against a qualifier in Tuesday’s day session in her first match before facing either Vekic or Japan’s Misaki Doi in a potential second round affair. Mertens enjoys a bye into round two but could face dangerous Australian Ajla Tomljanovic or a qualifier there.
Finally, the bottom quarter sees the unseeded Americans Venus and Vandeweghe both drawn there, while number two seed Aryna Sabalenka, a breakout star of the US Open Series last season, and sixth seed Carla Suarez Navarro await as potential spoilers. Williams begins her San Jose campaign against her countrywoman and fellow wildcard Mattek-Sands on Tuesday night before possibly facing Suarez Navarro in round two, while Vandeweghe’s first match back on the WTA- scheduled for Monday night- will be against unheralded Czech Marie Bouzkova with Sabalenka facing a winner off a first-round bye.
The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic continues with Sunday’s action seeing the second and final round of qualifying before main-draw play begins Monday at San Jose State University.