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Tennis: China's Zheng Saisai captures 1st singles title at San Jose

Zheng Saisai, of China, returns the ball to Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, during the finals of the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic tennis tournament in San Jose, Calif., on Aug. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Zheng Saisai of China used steady, looping groundstrokes and patience to capture her first career singles title, beating Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Sunday.

Saisai, who is ranked 55th and played one more match than Sabalenka to reach Sunday's championship, topped three seeded players on the way to her second career final and first victory at age 25. She was runner-up at Nanchang last year.

With her big topspin shots landing deep and the defensive ability to chase down balls all over the court, Zheng flustered opponents all week with her consistency and level-headed play -- and the emotional Sabalenka was no different. She threw her racket after double-faulting on the first match point, slammed her racket to the court at one point and also hit it on the net in frustration in an afternoon of unforced errors after the 21-year-old missed on a fourth career title. The second-seeded Sabalenka, who lost in the first round of qualifying here in 2018, rode her powerful first serve to reach to her seventh final and is projected to match her career-high ranking of ninth.

Her power was neutralized by Zheng's regular topspin shots and digs to keep long rallies alive.

"I couldn't control my emotions. I was throwing my rackets," she said. "... Her game destroyed me because I couldn't use my power. I wasn't ready for that."

Zheng's victory could propel her to No. 38 -- matching her career best -- when Monday's new singles rankings are released.

The two met once previously, with Zheng winning in straight sets on the ITF circuit in 2017. Each woman had played one three-set match this week.

Venus Williams lost her opening match Tuesday night after reaching last year's quarterfinals here. The 39-year-old, seven-time Grand Slam champion was in the field for the 15th time, this year as a wild-card entry.

In the doubles final, Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and American Nicole Melichar defeated Japanese tandem Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara 6-4, 6-4 earlier Sunday.

This marked the second year the event has been played at San Jose State University after moving from Stanford.

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