WTA Tour: Silicon Valley Classic Preview

Tennis player holds racquet

Damien Kayat previews Carla Suarez Navarro vs Aryna Sabalenkaand and Elina Svitolina vs Maria Sakkari from the quarter-finals at the WTA's Silicon Valley Classic.

WTA Tour 2019 | WTA Premier
Silicon Valley Classic | San Jose State University (Outdoor Hard-courts)
Selected Quarter-Finals - 2 August 2019

Carla Suarez Navarro (13/8) 
vs Aryna Sabalenka (1/2)
It’s quite niche given the hurly-burly nature of women’s tennis to be covering two quarter-finals that have gone to seed. I was quite surprised to discover that Carla Suarez Navarro is only 30 years old. It seems as if she has been plying her trade for longer than that. A prototypical Spanish clay-court player, Suarez-Navarro has nonetheless built up a decent retinue of performances on all surfaces. She has reached all the Grand Slam quarter-finals outside of Wimbledon. The biggest victory of her career came on a hard-court, with that maiden WTA Premier 5 title in Qatar. This year has not proved too fruitful for the feisty Navarro. A quarter-final showing in Qatar stands as her best result. But an encouraging 4th round showing at Wimbledon may hint at a late-season surge for the Spaniard. 

Aryna Sabalenka rose to prominence during that unheralded Fed Cup run alongside compatriot Aliaksandra Sasnovich. They reached the final despite both being ranked outside the world’s top 75. Then 2018 proved to be a breakout year for Sabalenka in singles competition, as she went on to reach four WTA Finals. That included eight victories over top 10 opponents. 2019 hasn’t quite been the same for the Belarusian. Semi-finals in St Petersburg and Strasbourg are the best that she has to show for an uninspired season. Sabalenka’s do-or-die approach can often lead to streaks of form: good and bad.  In her first victory over a top 10 player - Karoline Pliskova - she hit 40 winners while racking up 39 unforced errors. She thrashed Coco Vandeweghe in her opening match and will be looking to build on that emphatic performance.

Sabalenka will clearly play the aggressor while Navarro aims to use her defensive nous. The two have met twice, with Sabalenka leading the head-to-head 2-0.  More importantly, both of those victories came on hard-courts last year. That, combined with Sabalenka’s serene victory over Vandeweghe, make her an attractive option to win in straight sets at 6/5.

Elina Svitolina (4/10) 
vs Maria Sakkari (17/10)
With Wozniacki and Halep claiming recent Grand Slam success, Elina Svitolina probably has a strong claim to the title of best current player without a slam - add Karolina Pliskova to that debate. The 13-time WTA Title winner enjoyed the greatest victory of her career in last year’s season-ending WTA Finals. While she hasn’t tasted victory thus far this season, Svitolina has still enjoyed a remarkably consistent campaign. She started the year with a quarterfinal in Melbourne. She followed that up with a hot-streak on the hard-courts, reaching the semi-finals in Qatar, Dubai and Indian Wells. She then embarked on a fairly non-descript clay-court season prior to a magnificent run at Wimbledon. She reached her maiden Grand Slam semi-final and she will enter this encounter as the overwhelming favourite.

Having said all that, Greek star Maria Sakkari has had an impressive season in her own right. Starting the year with a 3rd round showing in Melbourne, Sakkari would go on to reach the quarter-finals in Charleston. She then claimed her maiden WTA title in Rabat - winning the Morocco Open. She further enhanced her status as an up-and-coming clay-court queen with a brilliant semi-final showing in Rome. She enjoyed a decent enough grass-court season and will be looking to a strong North American hard-court swing. Sakkari may seem overmatched in this encounter but lest we forget recent history. Sakkari reached her first-ever WTA Final in this event last year. She went on to lose to the equally unfancied Mihaela Buzarnescu in a bruising final. What is does show is that Sakkari has an affinity for this event and will certainly not be a walkover.

This will be their 2nd ever meeting, with the Ukrainian winning their only encounter. Intriguingly enough, that victory came in Svitolina’s amazing run at SW19. But there’s more to that encounter then meets the eye. It was a three-set affair that could have gone either way. There’s enough there to fancy a Greek upset, especially if she can take the early initiative.

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