It was the very first head-to-head match between the two players which lasted about an hour and 44 minutes to reach the final four for the first time in Moscow.
Being the first one to break, Maria Sakkari earned a 3-1 lead. However, Halep pulled one back when Sakkari tried to serve the set out at 5-3. The following game was a bit longer going on for more than 10 minutes, and Halep saved 4 set points finally being broken at the fifth to give the set 6-4.
Reiterating the same story, The greek started the second set breaking straight away at 2-0 from a powerful down-the-line winner. She goes on to increase her advantage up to 5-1 while having a chance to serve for a win.
The Romanian however, found confidence from the break she got and started to make a comeback with a winner on her fourth break point of the game. She won eight of the nine points as Sakkari fell for Halep’s tricky play initiating some errors to give Halep to serve to level at 5-4.
Not backing away Maria Sakkari also returned to her aggressive style of play to pocket two more match points. Saving the first one, Halep’s winner brought confidence although Sakkari converted the second with a fiery forehand. Halep was fuming with anger on herself or on her play in the match.
Sakkari, currently at a career-high ranking of World No.7 (the highest-ranked Greek woman in WTA rankings history), will take that impressive form into her Akron WTA Finals debut next month. She clenched her spot in the year-ending championships on Thursday after advancing into the Moscow quarterfinals.
“The last few games were a little bit tricky, but that happens, that’s tennis,” Sakkari said in her post-match press conference.
Sakkari has dominated her rivalry with Alexandrova, who beat the No. 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka, having won all three of their previous meetings. However, this will be their first matchup since 2019, and only their second Tour-level clash overall.
“She’s a very dangerous player, she likes to hit the ball very hard, and she just goes for it,” said Sakkari, looking forward to another battle with Alexandrova. “Of course she’s feeling good playing at home, and today she had one of her biggest wins. So I’m expecting a very tough match from her side.”
Moscow Open: Alexandrova upsets the top seeded Aryna Sabalenka unlike Sakkari.
Ekaterina Alexandrova kept the home flag flying, though, with a 6-3, 6-4 upset of No.1 seed Aryna Sabalenka. World No.37 Alexandrova’s victory was her sixth over a Top 10 player, and third against Top 5 opposition. She leveled her head-to-head against Sabalenka at 2-2.
The Russian was merciless with accurate winners down the court. She started the proceeding with two breaks in the first set, eventually grabbing the set with authority.
The tactical battle was won by Alexandrova with smart returning and aiming the ball at Sabalenka’s feet to elicit errors. Talking about tactics Aryna should have taken her stance a little bit deep, as the power from the Russian skitted the ball across the surface giving a little time for her to react.
Although she found joy in the opening set, Alexandrova was under pressure throughout the second set. It was Sabalenka’s double faults and unforced errors made her bounce back with a break for 2-2.
A sense of trouble was felt at 4-4 when the Russian faced triple break point however she took the charge magnificently. Strong serving and even stronger returns escaped her from that game and with that gained momentum she sealed the match with a dead net cord.
Alexandrova tallied 21 winners to 17 unforced errors, while Sabalenka’s 21 unforced errors were only balanced by 11 winners. Maintaining a first-serve percentage of 63%, Alexandrova was only broken once, at the start of the second set.
The result puts Alexandrova, 26, into her third career WTA 500 semifinal following St. Petersburg 2020 and the 2021 Gippsland Trophy.