Zheng Saisai Surprises Aryna Sabalenka For Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic Title in San Jose
By Thomas Cluck
(August 4, 2019) It’s been a week of surprises, upsets, dark horses, and superb performances in San Jose and ultimately on day seven on championship Sunday, it was China’s Zheng Saisai, unseeded and ranked 55 in the world, hoisting the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic trophy for her first career WTA title.
On a finals day in the Bay Area that was supposed to belong to the second seed here, it was Zheng surprising and taking complete control of the match to put big-hitting Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, a breakout star of this US Open Series last year, to the side with a strong 6-3, 7-6 win.
Despite coming into this tournament with a losing record on the season and facing top-tier talent on hard courts in American Amanda Anisimova, last year’s finalist Maria Sakkari of Greece, and then Sabalenka today in her final three matches to win the title, Zheng rose to the occasion with a brilliant performance this entire week in the big matches and showing a new level all week long on the courts of San Jose State University.
A relatively unheralded and somewhat unknown quantity on tour, Zheng’s maiden title victory at a WTA Premier event just showcases the tremendous depth and talent on tour, and reveals the Chinese as a serious hard court threat and a looming unseeded name at the US Open later this month.
For Sabalenka, the result this week of reaching another big final is a major and much-needed positive, reestablishing herself as one of the tour’s best again after a mediocre first half of 2019, but the final loss will be a disappointing note to end on as the Belarusian will defend even more points in coming weeks in Canada, Cincinnati, and in New York at the US Open.
After an intriguing and unpredictable first stop on the US Open Series for the women, the next stop beginning Monday is the Rogers Cup in Toronto, a huge Premier 5 event where all the top stars will battle and begin their US Open preparation. San Jose stars Zheng and Sabalenka will not begin their Canadian campaigns until Tuesday, with Zheng facing German veteran Tatjana Maria for the right to play defending US Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the second round, while Sabalenka will see Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in round one. Main draw play begins Monday at the Aviva Centre in Toronto.