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.