SAN JOSE, CA, USA - No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka took down American wildcard CoCo Vandeweghe in straight sets to reach the quarterfinals at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, 6-3, 6-3.
One year ago, Sabalenka didn’t even make it into the San Jose main draw, falling in the first round of qualifying. But a lot has changed since that event - Sabalenka went on to finish the summer with her maiden WTA title at New Haven, another at Wuhan, a semifinal at Cincinnati and a career-best run to the fourth round at the US Open.
The Belarusian player established herself as a force among the Top 20, but struggled to back up her results in 2019 - she’s reached five WTA quarterfinals or better to date, but has only reached one final.
She took a positive step in the right direction on Wednesday against Vandeweghe, who herself was finding her form at the first tournament since her 10-month injury layoff.
Vandeweghe, to her credit, did well to stay apace with the top seeded-Sabalenka in the opening exchanges, pushing her way to break points in both of Sabalenka’s first two service games.
But it was the Belarusian who broke away first at 3-1, and then extended her lead to 5-1 with a second break of serve. Vandeweghe grabbed a break back at 5-2 and then held four break points - but Sabalenka found a way to serve it out and take the opening set.
Growing in confidence after saving five of six break points she faced, Sabalenka raised her level in the second set - much to Vandeweghe’s growing frustration. The American fought off four break points in her very first service game, but couldn’t keep Sabalenka down for long as she eventually broke to make it 3-2.
Sabalenka held onto her lead for the rest of the set, and a final break to love - her third of the match - sealed the victory after an hour and 14 minutes.
The serve proved to be key for both players today: Sabalenka fired six aces and won 82% of points behind her first serve. As a result she was only broken once by Vandeweghe, who recorded seven double faults and made just 33% of first serves.
Up next, Sabalenka awaits the winner between No.6 seed Carla Suarez Navarro and Bethanie Mattek-Sands - another player who is making her own comeback from injury.
More to follow...