SAN JOSE, CA, USA - Zheng Saisai is through to her second career WTA final at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic after edging past No.7 seed Maria Sakkari in straight sets, 7-6(5), 6-2.
The Chinese player came into San Jose and immediately snapped a five-match losing streak dating back to Rome. On her way to the semifinals, she took down a pair of seeded American players: No.8 Danielle Collins and No.4 Amanda Anisimova.
It’s the latest rise in a season marked by highs and lows: a few weeks before her five-match losing streak, Zheng had lifted the trophy at the WTA 125K event in Anning, and last year she reached her first career WTA final at Nanchang - but struggled to back up those results in 2019.
“I had no expectations at all for this week,” Zheng told press after the match. “Actually, I got here late and had just one day practice, so I didn’t have so much expectations, I was just trying to enjoy it.
“Before, during Wimbledon and grass season, and even on the clay, I was having a lot of expectations. Like, ‘Hopefully I can play good.’ And the results there, I didn’t play good at all.
“I was just trying to tell myself, just enjoy being who I am on court. Just play my game, it doesn’t matter. And it turns out, good results.”
Zheng started with an early break to lead 2-1, but Sakkari quickly pegged her back to level the score at 3-3. The pair were evenly matched throughout the rest of the set and into the tiebreak, with both grabbing a pair of minibreaks to stay even at 3-3.
But Zheng targeted the Greek player’s backhand throughout the set, and it broke down right at the crucial moment. Zheng won the next four of six games to take the opening set.
The Chinese player continued applying the pressure on Sakkari in the second set, and was rewarded with another early lead at 3-1. While the first set was decided by breaks of serve, the second featured six breaks across eight games - and Zheng was the one to hold serve twice to book her spot into the San Jose final.
“You have to read everyone’s game,” Zheng explained. “Everyone is different. I played Sakkari last time, and I remember she doesn’t like the no-pace, high backhand, because her stroke looks like she couldn’t get speed on that shot. So I added this one to my tactics, and looks like it worked.”
Zheng will have a chance to fight for her first WTA-level title tomorrow in San Jose as she returns to Stadium Court to take on No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the final. Zheng leads the pair’s head-to-head record with a victory in their only previous meeting.
“I’m ready for the fight, whoever wins the match,” Zheng said of the second semifinal. “And the result doesn’t matter for me, I’m just going to enjoy.”