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WTA San Jose 2018 draw preview and matches to watch: Serena Williams targets first title of comeback at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

Hannah Wilks in WTA Tour 28 Jul 2018
  • Serena and Venus Williams, Madison Keys and Garbine Muguruza lead the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic field in 2018
  • We break down the draw with Serena Williams and Muguruza set for tough early clashes
  • Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic tennis is live from San Jose from 30 July-5 August 2018
Garbine Muguruza leads the field at the 2018 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, but could face an early challenge from former champion Victoria Azarenka (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Garbine Muguruza, Madison Keys and the Williams sisters lead the field at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic: We break down the WTA San Jose draw.

Former champions Serena Williams and Johanna Konta are set to clash in the first round with defending champion Madison Keys, two-time winner Venus Williams and world no. 7 Garbine Muguruza also in a packed draw at the Premier-level Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in 2018. 

Formerly known as the Bank of the West Classic and played in Stanford, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic has been relocated to San Jose State University in 2018 but remains a hugely popular stop on the WTA Tour. It’s the usual location for many of the WTA’s top stars to begin their preparation for the US Open and the 2018 edition is no exception with no fewer than four multiple Grand Slam champions in the field, led by top seed Muguruza and 23-time major winner Serena Williams.

With the major events of the US Open Series coming up over the next month – the Rogers Cup, the Western & Southern Open and the US Open itself – the stars are looking to find their feet fast and with such a packed draw, nobody has an easy path. We break down the draw and predict the winners at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in 2018. 

Top quarter

Victoria Azarenka (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Garbine Muguruza (1) vs Zhang Shuai (7) (1-1)
Back in action for the first time since suffering a shock defeat to Alison van Uytvanck in the second round of Wimbledon, Muguruza’s failure to defend her Wimbledon title has seen her slip out of the top five to world no. 7 with a further fall on the cards if she can’t defend her Cincinnati title in a couple of weeks.

Currently in ninth place on the Porsche Road to Singapore, Muguruza’s only title so far in 2018 was an International-level one in Monterrey and the Spaniard badly needs a strong second half of the season. Can she start it in San Jose? 

Muguruza faces a very tough opener as she could well face former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka after a first-round bye, if the Belarusian can get past fellow tough mother Kateryna Bondarenko in the first round. Azarenka won this title in 2010 and won her only previous match against Muguruza, but has struggled for form since returning to the tour, failing to win back-to-back matches in her past six events. American hard courts have always been a great surface for Azarenka, however, and if she can get past Muguruza, her likely quarterfinal opponent would be either seventh seed Zhang Shuai or perhaps Danielle Collins, the American who played so well in Miami. This could be a great opportunity for Azarenka to make a deep run. 

Semifinalist: Azarenka

Second quarter

Venus Williams (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Venus Williams (3) vs Timea Babos (6) (0-1)
Odd as it seems to say this about a quarter containing Venus Williams, this is probably the softest section of the San Jose draw.

Williams won this title twice, in 2000 and 2002, and has also been a finalist twice in the past decade, finishing runner-up to Marion Bartoli in 2009 and to Johanna Konta in 2016. But 2018 simply hasn’t been a great season for the American, who comes in with a 12-8 win-loss record – and of those 12 wins, nine of them have come on home soil, with a run to the Indian Wells semifinals and the Miami quarterfinals by far Williams’s best results so far in 2018. 

That could bode well for a good run for Williams in San Jose, who could face either Heather Watson or wildcard Claire Liu – the Wimbledon junior champion in 2017 who impressed against eventual champion Angelique Kerber this year – after a first-round bye. 

In the bottom of this quarter, doubles partners Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic are set for an awkward first-round encounter, exacerbated by both women searching for form, Babos on a five-match losing streak and Mladenovic out of the top 50 after being ranked as high as world no. 10 in February. Babos has a slight lead in the head-to-head, but Mladenovic has shown (for me) some flickers of returning form lately and I could see her winning this one – but being rewarded with a tough tussle against either Maria Sakkari or Christina McHale. 

This really is a good opportunity for Williams to get some wins under her belt and start her US Open Series in style.

Semifinalist: Venus Williams

Third quarter

Serena Williams  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Serena Williams (6) vs Elise Mertens (4) (0-0)
Can Serena Williams pick up right where she left off with her run to the Wimbledon final? The American may have struggled badly in that final, losing in one-sided fashion to Kerber, but we shouldn’t forget that she played absolutely brilliantly to get to that final, and despite the fact that she’s still played only 14 matches since last year’s Australian Open, Williams is a real threat to take this title.

Champion in Stanford in 2011-12 and 2014, Williams is on a 13-match winning streak at this tournament, but she has quite a challenging first round against 2016 champion Johanna Konta. It’s been a tough last 12 months for Konta, who was ranked world no. 7 last summer but is now down to world no. 50 after failing to defend her Wimbledon semifinal showing from 2017, but she has played some better tennis recently and she certainly won’t feel like she has much to lose in a first-round clash with Williams. The American won their only previous meeting handily, but could be much more vulnerable in this opening match.

The winner of that match looks overwhelmingly likely to be the semifinalist, with 19-year-old Sofia Kenin likely awaiting in the second round and Elise Mertens – who has three titles to her name so far in 2018, but is yet to really threaten the top players – or perhaps Alison Riske as a quarterfinal opponent.

Semifinalist: Serena Williams

Fourth quarter

Madison Keys (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Projected quarterfinal: Mihaela Buzarnescu (5) vs Madison Keys (2) (0-1)
Champion at this tournament 12 months ago, can Madison Keys replicate the success she had in Stanford now the event is held in San Jose?

With runner-up points to defend shortly at the US Open, Keys is looking for her first title of the season after semifinal appearances in Charleston and at the French Open and a quarterfinal at the Australian Open. With a very disappointing loss to qualifier Evgeniya Rodina at Wimbledon perhaps still weighing on her, Keys has a great opportunity to start off her US Open Series with a bang in San Jose. She could face Ajla Tomljanovic, a hard-hitting and dangerous player but in many ways a slightly less impressive version of Keys herself, in the second round, while the top half of the quarter features tricky players but ones who can’t beat her for power. Hobart and Prague runner-up Mihaela Buzarnescu is having an incredible season, but had no answers for Keys’s power in their last encounter at the French Open; she also could have a tough one against Sachia Vickery in the first round, the American who beat Muguruza at Indian Wells and has made semifinals in Auckland and Monterrey already in 2018 as she clawed her way into the top 100 for the first time. There’s also Wang Qiang, likely to meet either Vickery or Buzarnescu in the second round, but the Chinese player has to make a quick turnaround – or may even pull out – after reaching her first WTA final in Nanchang, to be played on Sunday. 

If Keys can’t make the semifinals, it will be a big disappointment from the American.

Semifinalist: Keys

Azarenka d. Venus Williams
Serena Williams d. Keys

Serena Williams d. Azarenka

Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic tennis is live from San Jose from 30 July-5 August. Click here to find out how to watch live tennis action online. 

*Geo-restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify

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WTA San Jose 2018 draw preview and matches to watch: Serena Williams targets first title of comeback at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic

WTA San Jose 2018 tennis is live from San Jose from 30 July-5 August with former champions Serena and Venus Williams, Johanna Konta, Victoria Azarenka and Madison Keys joining top seed Garbine Muguruza

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