Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Mattek-Sands shocks Venus early in San Jose

Bethanie Mattek-Sands celebrates her victory over Venus Williams tonight
in the first round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic at San Jose State.
Photo by Mal Taam
   The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic can't seem to get a break.
   For the second year in a row, the two-year-old tournament at San Jose State lost its biggest gate attraction in the first round. Also, several marquee players have withdrawn or been injured each year, and defending champion Mihaela Buzarnescu lost Monday night.
   The latest blow came tonight as 34-year-old Bethanie Mattek-Sands overcame 39-year-old Venus Williams 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-1 in a matchup of U.S. wild cards and former world No. 1s in doubles and singles, respectively.
   Williams was coming off a first-round loss to U.S. phenom Cori Gauff, a 15-year-old qualifier, at Wimbledon.
   Serena Williams suffered the worst loss of her career, 6-1, 6-0 to Johanna Konta, in the first round of last year's tournament. It was later revealed that Williams learned about 10 minutes before the match that the killer of her sister Yetunde Price had been paroled.
   Venus Williams, a San Francisco Bay Area institution, led by a service break at 1-0, 40-0 in the third set against Mattek-Sands, who captured 27 of the last 31 points.
   Mattek-Sands, ranked No. 674, won her first match against Williams, ranked No. 50, in seven years and her first in five career meetings against the seven-time Grand Slam singles champion. This was their first encounter in a non-Grand Slam tournament.
   Mattek-Sands earned her first singles victory in more than a year, dating to the 2018 French Open, and on a hardcourt since the 2017 Miami Open. She suffered a gruesome knee injury while playing Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the second round at Wimbledon in 2017.
   "Venus is a legend, and it was awesome playing here. I love night matches," Mattek-Sands, who has won eight Grand Slam doubles titles (five women's and three mixed) and an Olympic gold medal in mixed doubles, said in an on-court interview. "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. The reason she's such a champion is she will come up with some good shots, so I wasn't about to take my foot off the pedal there."
Venus Williams, 39, has lost in the first round of her last two tournaments.
Photo by Mal Taam
  Williams made her professional debut 25 years ago indoors in nearby Oakland, won the Bank of the West Classic in 2000 and 2002, reached the final there six other times, and advanced to the Mubadala quarterfinals last year. She praised Mattek-Sands' performance.
   "All credit to her," Williams told reporters. "She came up with her shots. Every time I had a game point or a break point, it was a winner or a drop shot. I definitely put pressure on her, but shots where I would normally expect a short ball, she hit a winner. She played freely with nothing to lose."
   Organizers scheduled the winner to play sixth-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro, who won the doubles title in the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford with fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza five years ago, in Wednesday's featured 7 p.m. match. Muguruza, another former world No. 1 in singles, has withdrawn from both editions of the Silicon Valley Classic with injuries.
   Yet another former world No. 1, 30-year-old Victoria Azarenka, beat qualifier Harmony Tan of France 6-2, 6-4 during the day session. Azarenka, the 2010 Bank of the West Classic champion, will meet fifth-seeded Donna Vekic of Croatia.
   The top two seeds in the Silicon Valley Classic, seventh-ranked Elina Svitolina and 10th-ranked Aryna Sabalenka, are scheduled to open Wednesday after receiving first-round byes.
   Svitolina will take on wild card Daria Kasatkina, a former top-10 player from Russia, after the 11 a.m. match between seventh seed and 2018 runner-up Maria Sakkari of Greece and qualifier Mayo Hibi of Japan.
   Sabalenka will play wild card CoCo Vandeweghe, the Bank of the West runner-up in 2012 and 2017, not before 3 p.m.
   Third-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium and fourth-seeded Amanda Anisimova, a 17-year-old sensation from Aventura, Fla., will open on Thursday.
   Mertens will meet qualifier Kristie Ahn, a 27-year-old Stanford graduate, and Anisimova will play unseeded Madison Brengle.
   Here are the San Jose singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule.

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