WTA Finals 2021, Guadalajara, Mexico: The top seed fueled by the momentum gained from the last outing, came out strong. However, Sakkari was not going to back out, she held herself together to beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(1), 6-7(6), 6-3.
Maria Sakkari on facing Anett Kontaveit: “Obviously my season is not finished yet, but this tournament has been very successful after today’s win,” Sakkari said. “I’m just very, very happy that I still show good emotions on court, I still play with my heart even though it’s been 11 months since we started this season. I’m just going to enjoy tomorrow’s match.”
The greek had lost four consecutive games against the Belarusian and only managed to win a total of eight games over four sets in the past two matches.
Opening the match, Sakkari straight away from the Belarusian. However, the top seed bounced back immediately to get on level terms. Though Sabalenka was the one keeping the pressure, she was unable to blast open the set.
Aryna’s domination was seen by Sakkari facing at least one breakpoint in her first five service games. She successfully held all but two of them. The No. 4 seed was 100% in breakpoint conversion in the first set being 2 for 2.
“I think that it was my first-night match and that played a huge role in my game of how the ball really felt,” Sakkari said. “I only practiced once before the tournament at night, so it was kind of new for me. I don’t know, it was weird because Aryna, she’s very long, she’s very tall, it’s tough to get serves through her. Once I got a pattern that worked well, I just kept doing what I felt was working. I just went for it.”
When serving for the match at 5-3, World No. 2 was broken and was dragged to the tiebreaker by Maria Sakkari. The tiebreaker proved a nightmare for the Belarusian as Sakkari fired three aces. Soon Sakkari was leading the tie 6-1 with two double faults from her opponent. A forehand into the net cost Sabalenka the set which she fought very bravely.
it took nearly an hour to fold the first set. The second set started with Sakkari serving and winning her service game. The set was tied 3-all when Sabalenka broke the Greek to lead 4-3. Sabalenka held the service game to increase her advantage 5-3.
Sabalenka served for the set twice at 5-4 and 6-5, but the resilient Sakkari once again forced a tiebreak. This tiebreaker however told a different story with much more resistance from the Belarusian. Taking the tie 8-6 and forcing a decider.
The World No. 2 came out all guns blazing in the decider jumping out to a 3-1 lead. However, Sabalenka slammed the door on herself with 10 double faults in the third set alone, combining for a total of 19.
The match went the other way from that point when Sakkari broke Aryna twice to earn a break advantage. The Greek won the last five games to seal the match which lasted for 2 hours and 47 minutes.
Sakkari after the match: “I think it was a rollercoaster match from both of us,” Sakkari said. “I was up a break, then she was up a break. It was just a matter of who took the chances. I think at the end I just played with my heart and fought well, just turned things around.”
“Obviously last time we played was in Abu Dhabi this year,” Sakkari said. “I think my level is different today than back then. Obviously, she has been having a very good season.
“I think I’m just closer to them now. My ranking shows that, my results show that. It’s just that I’m really getting closer to them. I proved to myself and everyone that I can beat them like I did today.”