Mattek-Sands Stuns Venus, Azarenka and Vekic Move On To Round Two in San Jose
By Thomas Cluck
(July 30, 2019) This week’s draw at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose features the rising stars, the youth, the next cutting-edge of tennis, but it was the two oldest players in the main draw-two wildcards- that took center stage and shined on Stadium on Tuesday night in the Bay Area.
Amazingly playing in her first singles match since the Australian Open in January and ranked 674th in the WTA singles rankings, American veteran and multiple-time Grand Slam doubles champion Bethanie Mattek-Sands at 34 years-old shocked her 39 year-old countrywoman, seven-time major winner Venus Williams, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1 under the evening and night sky of Northern California at San Jose State University.
Falling first round again after a quarterfinal run here last year, Venus extends her losing streak to three matches following another disappointing performance at a major this year as she crashed out to the 15 year-old American sensation Coco Gauff in the opening round of Wimbledon earlier this month.
“Venus is a legend, and it was awesome playing here. I love night matches,” said Mattek-Sands. “I really loved the atmosphere. I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a tough couple of years. I’ve had a few surgeries, I feel like I’ve had 12 surgeries, but I’m feeling really good.”
“I think I neutralized Venus’ serve a little bit. A lot of times she can get some free points on that first serve, so I stood back a little bit, and we were grinding,” assessed Mattek-Sands.
“The reason she’s such a champion is because she will come up with some good shots, so I wasn’t about to take my foot off the pedal there.”
While one of the tournament’s top names in Venus crashed out today, another star made a strong start to her campaign here this season. Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka advanced past France’s Harmony Tan in straightforward fashion 6-2, 6-4.
Azarenka’s opponent in the second round will be a dangerous one in Croatian fifth seed Donna Vekic, who’s strong game outgunned Japanese lefty Misaki Doi 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a high-quality affair that opened play today first on Stadium.
“Today was not easy. I was struggling to find rhythm and Misaki was playing great, hitting some great shots, but I’m really happy to win in the end,” said Vekic.
“I think I’m going to have to improve my game because [Azarenka] is a great player, and very consistent,” assessed Vekic. “But she does give more rhythm, so in a way it might be easier to play her. Whoever I play, it’ll be a tough match.”
“One guy in the crowd told me I need to get mean. When I first heard it, I thought he said I needed to get lean, and I was like, ‘What?!’” laughed Vekic. “But I probably needed a little more focus because I didn’t serve it out, but I returned well in the last game.”
Asked about beginning her US Open Series in San Jose so early in the American hard court season this summer, Vekic commented “I’m here for the first time [in San Jose]. I left Europe in the middle of a crazy heat wave, so I’m finding it kind of cool here, at the moment!”
The on-court action on Wednesday in San Jose will be anything but cool as the day session on Stadium sees defending finalist Maria Sakkari of Greece go first on, top seed Elina Svitolina make her tournament debut against crafty Russian wildcard Daria Kasatkina, and followed by American CoCo Vandeweghe’s second match here against second seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the day session. The night session sees Mattek-Sands back on, looking to follow up her big victory tonight with another against veteran Spaniard Carla Suarez-Navarro.