Sabalenka Soars Past Vekic, Zheng Survives Sakkari to Set Up San Jose Final
By Thomas Cluck
(August 3, 2019) An intriguing and slightly surprising final is set in San Jose for Sunday as the No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka will face unseeded Zheng Saisai of China for the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic title. Two unlikely contestants in the championship match, both Sabalenka, who had suffered through a difficult last six months on court after a breakout US Open Series last summer, and Zheng, a relatively unheralded player coming in ranked 55, were not expected to be here yet both have contrasting styles and engaging games will ensure a competitive final on Sunday.
In the first semifinal in the afternoon on Stadium, it was a surprise showing from Zheng as she survived a physical first set- one that she was just exuded in- against last year’s runner-up Maria Sakkari of Greece to win 7-6, 6-2. Following big wins over American home hopes Danielle Collins and teen sensation Amanda Anisimova in the previous rounds, Zheng will be going for her first career WTA title in the Bay Area.
There was no such Northern California charm and magic this time around for Sakkari as she showed signs of her best form again this week but still struggled with consistency to go deep more.
While the first semifinal in the afternoon was a story of consistency, physicality, guts, and heart, semifinal two at night was a big-hitting brawl between Belarusian Sabalenka and 23 year-old Croatian Donna Vekic. And despite Vekic’s impressive form this week with wins over two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka and Ahn, it was Sabalenka soaring again in the American hard courts, bruising the ball and her opponent to win 6-4, 6-3 and return to a tour final after reigning in New Haven and Wuhan last season.
Joined by her coach, former ATP player Dmitry Tursunov, Sabalenka had slumped for the first half of the season, struggling following failing to meet big expectations at the Australian Open, but is seeking to find her footing again on tour at the right time.
With Sabalenka’s bruising serve and big-hitting style, Zheng will face a far different player than she has all tournament, going against players with far more ingenuity and guile to set up an interesting final on Sunday.
The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic final is set for Sunday, August 4th between Sabalenka and Zheng on the campus of San Jose State University and will be a huge step for the winner on the road to the US Open this summer.