As the dust settles on the Olympic Tennis Event and many of those involved take a breather, attention turns to the hard courts of north American where the WTA Tour heads towards the US Open, starting with the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic hosted on the campus at San José State University in California, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary and is the longest-running women-only pro tennis tournament in the world.
From San Francisco to San Jose via Oakland and Stanford, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic holds a special place in tennis history, having started out as the first stop of the inaugural Virginia Slims Circuit as the British Motor Cars Invitation at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, an exciting indoor venue for players accustomed to grass courts and country clubs.
The venues, dates and sponsors have shifted over the years, but one thing hasn’t changed and that is that the event has attracted the best of the best to northern California’s Bay Area, and has been won by 13 players who have ranked World No 1.
Co-founded by the legendary sportswoman, visionary, and activist Billie Jean King, the tournament was the first event of the historic 1971 women’s pro tennis tour, a precursor to the WTA.
Its list of past champions reads like a who’s who of women’s tennis, including Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Andrea Jaeger, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Venus Williams, and Kim Clijsters.
While this year’s edition lacks such fire-power because of the Olympics, it has excitement in store as Britain’s Emma Raducanu returns to competition after her trip to the fourth round at Wimbledon last month.
The 18-year old posted a training video on Instagram from the West Coast of the USA as she stepped up her preparations ahead of her first match at San José against China’s Shuai Zhang on Monday night.
The main singles draw for the 2021 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic took place at Santana Row for a third consecutive tournament with Raducanu, Tournament Director Vickie Gunnarsson, and WTA supervisor Melanie Tabb on hand.
The tournament’s other wild card, Claire Liu, the 2017 Wimbledon girls’ champion who is making her second appearance in Silicon Valley, drew Dayana Yastremska to open the event.
With the top four seeds advancing to the second round with a bye, the half in which they will be playing was all that was left to settle. A two-time winner in the WTA, Daria Kasatkina is seeded fourth and was drawn into the top half with top seed and 2019 Qatar Open champion Elise Mertens.
In the bottom half is No 2 seed Elena Rybakina and third-seeded Madison Keys.
Keys, who is making her first appearance in San José but did take home the title in 2017 when the event was held at Stanford, awaits the winner of Monday’s Raducanu-Zhang showdown.
No 5 seed Veronika Kudermetova is set to face Coco Vandeweghe in one of the top first round matchups.
Joining that pair in the bottom half of the draw are a couple of all-American headliners as 7th-seeded Danielle Collins faces Shelby Rogers, and Alison Riske takes on Sloane Stephens.
No 6 seed Petra Martic and No 8 Yulia Putintseva will play out of the top half of the draw.
Martic opens with Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, and Putintseva will face Croatia’s Donna Vekic.
Making her third appearance at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic is Amanda Anisimova, who was drawn against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic to complete one of the top first round pairings.
Owned and operated by IMG, the WTA 500 level event is the first women’s stop on the US Open Series and features a 28-player singles draw and 16-team doubles draw with total prize money of $565,530.