Saturday, August 4, 2018

Buzarnescu, Sakkari reach San Jose final

   Mihaela Buzarnescu continued her meteoric rise at age 30 today, beating Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
   Buzarnescu, seeded fifth, reeled off the last six games in a rematch of the Hobart final in January that Mertens won in three sets.
   The 15th-ranked Mertens, a 22-year-old right-hander from Belgium, had her right forearm taped after losing her serve for 1-2 in the third set today.
   Buzarnescu, a left-hander from Romania, will play Maria Sakkari, 23, of Greece for the first time on Sunday at 2 p.m. California time. ESPN2 will televise the match.
   Sakkari rallied from a set and two breaks down to beat Danielle Collins, 24, of St. Petersburg, Fla., 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 tonight in a matchup of unseeded players.
   "I think at 4-1 in the second, she started really stepping up to the baseline and putting her foot on the gas," Collins told reporters. "It helped her get back in her rhythm and playing more aggressive.
   "It threw me off a little bit. She played some really great tennis, so kudos to her."
   Buzarnescu will play in her third and biggest WTA final, all this year, and Sakkari her first. Buzarnescu also lost to Petra Kvitova in three sets in the Prague final in early May.
   Shoulder and knee injuries, the latter requiring two surgeries, forced Buzarnescu off the tour for years. She went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in sports science at the National Academy of Physical Education and Sport in Bucharest in December 2016.
   Last year at this time, Buzarnescu had not played a main-draw match on the WTA tour. She created a buzz by reaching the round of 16 at the French Open in June, stunning then-No. 4 Elina Svitolina in the third round.
   Depending on the outcome of Sunday's final, Buzarnescu will rise from No. 24 to a career high of No. 21 or No. 20 in Monday's updated rankings.
   "It's something new that I always dreamed about since I was young," Buzarnescu told reporters. "Since I started to play tennis, my dad always used to say, 'You hit once with a forehand, then once with a backhand, and everything will be OK for you.' Easy to say, hard to do.
   "So for me, after all my injuries, it's really a dream come true to get the chance to be at this level and play high-level matches."
   In Sunday's doubles final, top-seeded Latisha Chan of Taiwan and Kveta Peschke, 43, of the Czech Republic will face third-seeded Lyudmyla Kichenok and Nadiia Kichenok, Ukrainian twins, at noon.
   Here are the San Jose singles and doubles draws.
   Here are the singles main draw, qualifying draw and Sunday's schedule for next week's $100,000 Nordic Naturals Challenger in Aptos, a one-hour drive south of San Jose.

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