SAN JOSE, CA, USA - No.5 seed Mihaela Buzarnescu is through to her career-first Premier-level final at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, knocking out No.4 seed Elise Mertens in three sets.
In a rematch of the pair’s Hobart final in January, Buzarnescu had to come back from a set down to claim her third three-set victory of the tournament to see off an ailing Mertens, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
“I’m so pleased and happy to be in the final, the third final of my career,” Buzarnescu told press after the win. “Even being able to play semifinals at more WTA tournaments was a great result for me. I really need to look at that and use it to stay strong and positive for the future.”
Coming into her semifinal match, Mertens had only been broken twice so far - but she was tested right away by Buzarnescu. The Romanian recovered emphatically from going down an early break at 2-0 and struck back a few games later to level the match.
Mertens’ strong serving put her in front as Buzarnescu kept her under tons of pressure - she broke once more after a marathon game at 3-2 to take and dodged break back points from Buzarnescu to charge ahead to take the opening set.
Buzarnescu didn’t let up in the second set; the pair traded breaks to start before the Romanian found another gear, changing up her rhythm to reel off four games in a row and open up a daunting 4-1 lead. She held firm as Mertens’ level dropped to grab the second set.
With Mertens’ shots losing their sting, the Belgian called the trainer for a right forearm injury. She couldn’t seem to regain her rhythm as Buzarnescu ran away with it, rattling off the last six games in a row to book her spot into the San Jose final.
The victory puts Buzarnescu into the first Premier-level final of her career, and will also see her rise to a new career-high ranking of World No.21 when the new WTA rankings are released on Monday. Should she lift the title tomorrow, she could improve one higher to make a Top 20 debut.
“I think what I’m most proud of from my week so far is that my ranking will be higher next week,” Buzarnescu admitted. “That’s a big achievement which I’m really proud of. If I will get Top 20 - like my goal was since I was 14 - that’s going to be an amazing feeling.”
Buzarnescu will take on the unseeded Greek player Maria Sakkari in tomorrow’s final. Sakkari also pulled off a three-set comeback to defeat Danielle Collins and reach her first WTA final.