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Sabalenka vs Vandeweghe tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Struggling Sabalenka faces returning Vandeweghe in San Jose

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 31 Jul 2019
  • Aryna Sabalenka faces CoCo Vandeweghe in the second round of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic
  • Sabalenka vs Vandeweghe is live from San Jose on Wednesday
Aryna Sabalenka (PA Sports)

Two-time Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic finalist CoCo Vandeweghe, playing with nothing to lose after a lengthy injury absence, takes on world no. 10 Aryna Sabalenka.

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Second seed Aryna Sabalenka, searching desperately for form, must face the returning CoCo Vandeweghe, who is playing her first tournament since last October at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose.

Aryna Sabalenka's season has been a struggle (PA Sports)
This time last year, Sabalenka lost in qualifying for San Jose, to the world no. 258 Maria Sanchez. But it was really the last bad loss that the Belarusian would take for the remainder of the season. Having already made the finals of Lugano and Eastbourne, Sabalenka went 25-7 in the rest of 2018 and 7-1 against top-10 players, claiming her first two titles at the Premier-level Connecticut Open in New Haven and Premier-5 level Wuhan Open, successfully taking a set from eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the fourth round of the US Open and making the semifinals of Cincinnati. 

Sabalenka ended the season ranked world no. 13 and would go on to rise into the top 10 after she won her third WTA Tour title in Shenzhen in January, but since then, she’s really struggled to find the form she showed last summer. She’s made the semifinals in St Petersburg and Strasbourg, but has suffered two bad defeats early in majors to Amanda Anisimova, and went out in the first round of Wimbledon to Magdalena Rybarikova (an admittedly very tough draw).

Now 22-16 in 2019, Sabalenka is clearly very short on confidence and although she is still in the top 10 despite dropping her Eastbourne points, this is almost the last week of the rest of the season that she doesn’t have substantial amounts of points to defend. Which puts significant pressure on her to come up with a good result at the Mubadala SVC – and the way Sabalenka has been playing recently suggests, to me, she’s having enough problems with pressure already.

Under the circumstances, she probably doesn’t want to face CoCo Vandeweghe, for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, Vandeweghe may be ranked world no. 636 right now, but that’s because she’s been off court since last October due to an ongoing foot and ankle issue (she’d also lost or retired in her last nine matches before ending her season in Beijing). It’s worth listening to Vandeweghe’s explanation of what happened to her foot:

CoCo Vandeweghe (PA Sports)
When she lost to Polona Hercog at the China Open last October and ended her year, Vandeweghe was ranked world no. 49 and had started the year inside the top 10 after a banner 2017 season which had seen her make the semifinals of the Australian and US Opens. The big-serving American is an excellent player.

Secondly, Vandeweghe enjoys this part of the season immensely, as a rule. She made the final of the Mubadala SVC twice when it was held in Stanford, first in 2012 as a lucky loser ranked world no. 120 and again in 2017 when she was beaten by Madison Keys. And it was incredibly impressive that she was able to come back from a nine-month absence to win her opening match in San Jose, beating Marie Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4. Vandeweghe served as many double faults as she did aces (four of each), but she was obviously serving well to win 78% of points behind her first serve, and most impressively, she saved six of seven break points.

‘I think, first and foremost, I was just thinking of having fun. It was a big-picture sort of scenario, where...I wasn't walking five months ago,’ Vandeweghe said afterwards.

‘I was trying to have fun, keeping the ball heavy to her, playing my style of tennis, and just trying to execute as best as possible.’

This is, I think, what will make Vandeweghe a particularly difficult opponent for Sabalenka on Wednesday: Vandeweghe is feeling no pressure, and Sabalenka certainly is. Moreover, Vandeweghe won their only previous match in straight sets, beating Sabalenka 7-6(5), 6-1 in the Fed Cup final in 2017.

Sabalenka has risen considerably up the rankings since then, of course, and she has weapons to match Vandeweghe’s own: She has a big serve, if not quite as big as Vandeweghe’s, and very hard, flat groundstrokes, a completely different ground game from Vandeweghe’s heavy kick. If Sabalenka can take the ball early and return well, she should be able to make Vandeweghe’s rust show – but the American must feel like she has nothing to lose, and that makes her extremely dangerous in San Jose.

Sabalenka vs Vandeweghe tennis is live from San Jose on Wednesday at 3pm local/11pm BST

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Sabalenka vs Vandeweghe tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Struggling Sabalenka faces returning Vandeweghe in San Jose

Aryna Sabalenka vs Coco Vandeweghe live streaming, preview and predictions for the Mubadala SVC second-round match on Wednesday 31 July: Vandeweghe is playing her first tournament since last October in San Jose

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