There are many tournaments on the Women’s Tennis Tour or WTA Tour – more than 50. But this one is apparently something special.
That Mubadala Silicon Valley classic, the first tournament of the 2022 US Open Series, took place in San Jose last week. Though nowhere near the most important tournament of the tour, this year’s draw was packed with the field’s top stars, including Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, Wimbledon runner-up Ons Jabeur and top seed Maria Sakkari.
“Everyone was talking about how great this tournament is, so I had to come and see for myself,” Jabeur said in a press conference on Monday.
Fans from across the Bay Area gathered for a week to watch top tennis players and finally saw it last year’s runner-up, Daria Kasatkina, beat American Shelby Rogers in the final to lift the trophy.
In both press conferences and on-site interviews, players reiterated how much they enjoyed this tournament.
“Usually (at) these (WTA) 500s in smaller places, sometimes the energy just isn’t there, but I felt it here from the first practice session,” Gauff said in a press conference after her stunning 6-1, 6-0 Victory over Anhelina Kalinina on Tuesday. “Everyone was so excited to see tennis in general.”
On the first matchday Former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova, now No. 14, beat British player Katie Boulter in three sets. After a tough first set in which the Brit took control 6-1, Pliskova hit back and won a tiebreak in set number two to win the third set 6-3.
During the night session Monday, fans saw Kasatkina meets Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. With some great serves and returns, the two made it an exciting and fast-paced match. To After losing the first set 6-1, Kasatkina regained her composure for the two sets that followed. show quality tennis at both the net and baseline to snatch victory.
“First of all, I tried to be more consistent because she’s an incredible player – she just won a slam and is one of the most aggressive players on the tour,” Kasatkina said of her opponent in her post-match interview. “What I can do is make her missing.”
Kasatkina has made headlines in recent weeks for coming out as gay last month. This is significant as she hails from Russia – despite playing under a neutral flag – where “gay propaganda” is banned.
The other players gathered around her.
“I’m really happy for them,” said Gauff in a press conference on Monday. “Even though I’m not best friends with everyone, I don’t think there’s any judgment on that and I’m really grateful for that in tennis.”
Osaka also noted that it was incredible that Kasatkina came out given the backlash she would face and that players needed to rally to support her.
Osaka’s tournament appearance was also something special. She was the talk of the tennis world this week as she made her comeback after some time off the tour. osaka last won a match in Madrid in May and has not played a tournament since Roland Garros.
When asked about their goals for the tournament, Osaka said she hopes to have fun, especially since she loved being back in San Jose, where many of her friends live. After her First-round win over Qinwen Zheng 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, she said She told herself that she could just do her best — “whatever happens, happens.”
The tournament got even more exciting when two of the biggest tennis stars – Osaka and Gauff – should face off in the second round. The two had only played together three times before Osaka has the upper hand in a 2-1 head-to-head.
As two players of colour, both noted that it was important for younger players to see them as successful players on the pitch. It would mean a lot, Osaka said, watching this duel when she was younger.
For tennis fans, the match was unique. All seats were sold out and the audience was electrified. Ecstatic cheers at every ace, every winner and every great rally – of which there were many – filled the pitch.
“It’s one of the greatest spectator scenes where both were supported equally,” said Gauff to the crowd after the game. “I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling you didn’t care who won.”
With the score of 6: 4, 5: 1 and 0:40 for Gauff, the match seemed within reach. But tennis isn’t always that easy.
Osaka saved 7 match points before finally falling in an outstanding tennis show. but with a much closer result of 6-4, 6-4.
“Even though it was 5-1, 40-0, I knew I didn’t have the match in the bag and obviously she proved that because when you play Naomi (Osaka) she can do lights-out tennis play,” Gauff said in a post-game interview.
Although Gauff had played great tennis in earlier rounds of the tournament, She lost in the third round to Spain No. 3 Paula Badosa. Badosa herself had a great run, only lost to eventual champion Kasatkina in the semifinals.
Other notable players included in the draw former No.2 Aryna Sabalenka, who found herself a victim Kasatkina’s stellar run to the championship. Jabeur – who was at the tournament without her team, who wanted to experience being alone and correcting herself on the pitch — lost to Veronika Kudermetova in the quarterfinals.
Everything came on the Final: Kasatkina vs. Rogers, who had one tough draw and beat top seed Sakkari in the second round to get there.
Kasatkina had a tough first set, accumulating six double faults in total. With two breaks eachthe players were balanced and headed for a tiebreak that Kasatkina lost 7-2 after I had them Serve broken three times.
Then, after regaining her composure and playing some of the best tennis matches of her life, Kasatkina won the next two sets 6-1, 6-2 toh go on wins the fifth title of her career.
As the 2022 US Open Series continues, all eyes are on the top players preparing for the rest of the hard court swing. This was just a small glimpse into the world of the WTA Tour and an electrifying audience that players and fans love the Bay Area for so much.
Maria Kholodova covers women’s tennis. Contact them at [email protected].