By Anita Stahl

  • Mihaela Buzarnescu def. Maria Sakkari  6-1, 6-0
  • Buzarnescu wins first title in her third WTA final, first at Premier level
SAN JOSÉ, CALIFORNIA, USA – Mihaela Buzarnescu won her first ever WTA title at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. The Romanian beat out Greek Maria Sakkari 6-1, 6-0

 

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Mihaela Buzarnescu def. Maria Sakkari  6-1, 6-0

Mihaela Buzarnescu and Maria Sakkari  before the final of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, WTA San Jose 2018

Mihaela Buzarnescu and Maria Sakkari before the final of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, WTA San Jose 2018 | Anita Stahl

Just 12 months ago, Mihaela Buzarnescu was ranked 142 in the world, having suffered so many injury pauses in her career, that she even had the time to earn a PhD in sports science from UNEFS in Bucharest. On Sunday she was finally able to prove what she is capable of when her body allows, with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over the Greek Maria Sakkari. This is her first WTA title, coming in her third final, but only the first final at a Premier level event.

The final at the Mubadala Silicon Valley classic was her 35th tour win of the year, and incredible feat for the 30-year-old who had previously only won three tour matches in her entire career. She leaves this tournament with five Top 20 career wins under her belt, all coming this season.

Sunday’s victory makes Buzarnescu the sixth player to win her maiden WTA singles title this year. With this win, she is projected to reach her career high No. 20 ranking, while Sakkari’s place in the final is expected to bring her back into the top 25.

Sakkari was down 0-5 in the first set, when she requested her coach Tom Hill to the court. He advised her to play her way back into the match with some “boring tennis” and start hitting the balls wider, aiming to have six ball rallies before she makes her move. With the crowd behind her, the Spartan player in the San Jose State University “Home of the Spartans” came back to hold for 1-5. Buzarnescu went on to win the set 6-1 on her fifth set point.

Buzarnescu started the second set with a break and took that momentum to run away with the set 6-0.  She excelled under the pressure and finished on her first match point. While she did not hit big winners, she played consistently and forced Sakkari to make mistakes. Fans held their breath till the last point was played, hoping Sakkari would pull off a come back like she had in previous matches, beating Danielle Collins in a three set semi-final after being down a set and 4-1.

Sakkari said, after the match: “I woke up and I was still tired from yesterday, I didn’t have so many hours to recover but that’s not the excuse, I didn’t lose the match because I was tired. She was very good today, I was not 100 per cent. I was not moving great, that’s one of my weapons. It wasn’t easy after two long matches and very intense days to go out there and be exactly the same person as I was for the last couple of days.”

For her part, Buzarnescu’s strategy was simple and effective.

“I tried from the beginning to be positive, keep my calm, and play my game today… Even after the first set I thought she can come back because she’s done that just last night. So I thought it was really not easy, but after leading 3-0, then I thought I can be able to win the match and I have more than 60 per cent chances.

It was really important because there was a chance she could break me so it was really good that I kept focus and I really didn’t give up on any point and I fought until the set was won.”

Sakkari does not have time to dwell on her disappointment, she plays again in Montreal Tuesday, taking on Daria Kasatkina in the first round. Buzarnescu will bring confidence into her first Montreal match, taking on against Wang Qiang.

The Coupe Rogers presented by Naional Bank in Montreal tales place between 6-12 August.

 

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