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Buzarnescu captures first career singles title in San Jose

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — For a moment as she celebrated her first career title, an emotional, overjoyed Mihaela Buzarnescu stood on the court and made an apology for a tournament missing major star power.

No Serena Williams. No Venus. They each had early exits, leaving no Americans to cheer for Sunday in the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic.

“I’m sorry that there was no American in the final but, well, I’m really happy to be on the poster next year so that’s really amazing for me,” she said.

Just with those words, the fifth-seeded Romanian drew big applause and chuckles.

Her gracious spirit, steady strokes and entertaining play helped, too.

Buzarnescu is a champion at last at age 30, beating 49th-ranked Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-0 at San Jose State University.

No. 24-ranked Buzarnescu threw her arms in the air in triumph and hit a ball into the stands Sunday after closing out the match with a 107 mph ace on a day several Romanian flags were held in the stands. She raised her racket and acknowledged those fans, too.

Buzarnescu, a left-hander who ranked No. 142 only a year ago, mixed her shots beautifully with laser groundstrokes to send Sakkari chasing down balls in the corners while adding some slice and drop shots.

Serena Williams, the Wimbledon runner-up, suffered a career-worst 6-1, 6-0 loss in her opener to Johanna Konta while playing just her fifth tournament since giving birth to her daughter last September.

Buzarnescu rallied from a set down to beat fourth-seeded Elise Mertens 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals.

After Sunday’s win, she was quick to credit the 23-year-old Sakkari for a sensational week of tennis and expressed hope they will both face off in many big matches again down the line after meeting for the first time.

“I hope we will play again and again and the best should win,” she said while thanking everyone who supported the event formally held at Stanford University.

Buzarnescu will climb to at least No. 21 in the WTA rankings when they’re released Monday, perhaps up to 20th. This marked her first championship victory in three tries after a runner-up showing this year in Prague.

Serena Williams No. 17 seed for US Open, 1 spot behind Venus

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Serena Williams is seeded No. 17 for the U.S. Open, nine spots higher than her current ranking of No. 26.

The U.S. Tennis Association announced the seedings for the main draws of women’s and men’s singles on Tuesday.

Williams was put one place behind her older sister, Venus.

The draw for the tournament is Thursday. Play begins Monday.

This will be the third Grand Slam tournament of Williams’ return to competition since she gave birth to a daughter during the 2017 U.S. Open last September, then dealt with health complications.

The 23-time major champion, who turns 37 next month, was the runner-up at Wimbledon in July.

More AP tennis coverage: https://www.apnews.com/tag/apf-Tennis

Want to vote for the Tennis Hall of Fame? Now you can

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Martina Hingis figures she wouldn’t have needed any help from fans to earn her spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Still, she likes the idea that folks around the world now will have a say in who gets elected.

“I would have hoped that people liked me and liked my game, liked my style, so hopefully that wouldn’t have made a difference to make it in or out,” Hingis said with a laugh during a phone interview. “I would have only hoped that it would only push me more. I would hope that in my case, it would have been pretty clear that I had made it.”

Her sport’s Hall will let fans help select its next inductees. Anyone will be able to submit an online ballot starting in late August for the Class of 2019.

The votes will then become part of the overall tally that determines which players are elected.

As in the past, members of the Hall of Fame, journalists and tennis historians will continue to be the primary selectors.

Inductees still will need to be named on 75 percent of the ballots to get in. But now, the top three recipients of votes from fans will get a “bonus” percentage that will be tacked on to what they are given by the main panel – 3 percent for the most popular candidate among the fans, 2 percent for second place, 1 percent for third.

So in the case of a candidate who is nearly approved by the Hall-chosen voters but did not quite garner enough support, the choices of people who watched from the stands or on TV could matter.

“You can help someone who maybe is close, almost there, with 74 percent, and then with 1 percent of the vote from the fans or 2 percent, you get to be a Hall of Famer, because people liked you and they followed you and they enjoyed your game,” said Hingis, who was a member of the Hall’s Class of 2013 and now serves as an ambassador for the shrine, which is in Newport, Rhode Island. “Without the fans, you wouldn’t have the sport.”

The nominees for the Class of 2019 will be announced this week. The fan vote results will be released in October, and the list of inductees will be announced in January.

Michael Stich and Helena Sukova are this year’s inductees.