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Maria Sakkari Makes Stellar Start in WTA Finals

Maria Sakkari WTA
Maria Sakkari opened her first campaign in the WTA Finals with a win. Credit: Twitter/WTA

Maria Sakkari of Greece won the first match in the WTA Finals defeating Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-2, 6-4 on Thursday afternoon in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The No. 4 seed Sakkari made tennis history for her country this season, becoming the first Greek woman to qualify for the WTA Finals in either singles or doubles.

She scored a third straight win over the 2020 Roland Garros champ to take the early lead in Group Chichén Itzá.

Sakkari was brilliant behind her first serve, winning 26 of those 27 points (96.3 percent). Swiatek could not grab a foothold in the match because of it, and the Pole was also undone by six double faults at inopportune times.

“I actually have a good game to play against her,” Sakkari said after the match. “All three times I played her, I played one of the best matches of the season. Like even today, I think I was very solid in these conditions.”

Sakkari first stormed past Swiatek to reach the semifinals in Paris this spring, snapping the Pole’s 10-match winning streak—one that had many penciling her in as the presumptive favorite to defend her maiden major title.

She backed up that surprising win indoors in Ostrava and reduced the 20-year-old Swiatek to tears on Thursday as she secured victory in just under 90 minutes on Estadio Tenis Akron.

“More than anything we’re human,” Sakkari explained of their subsequent warm hug at net. “Okay, it’s another tennis match. She’s only 20 years old. She’s going to have many more chances than I’ll have in the future because it’s only the beginning for her.

“I saw that she was struggling. It wasn’t a nice thing to see from the other side of the net. She’s a very, very nice girl. I mean, we always have great practices and great chats.”

Sakkari’s highlight of 2021 was the semifinal of the French Open

Sakkari had a very strong start to the season reaching consecutive semifinals in Abu Dhabi and Melbourne’s Grampians Trophy. A first-round loss at the Australian Open was followed by a quarterfinal appearance in Doha.

In Miami, she ended Naomi Osaka’s 23 match winning streak en route to the semifinal. An average clay season culminated into a run to her first-ever grand slam semifinal at the French Open where she lost 7–9 in the third set to the eventual champion Krejčíková, despite having a match point. Prior to that defeat, she had already eliminated Sofia Kenin and Iga Świątek, both of whom contested the 2020 French Open final.

She lost in the second round of Wimbledon to Shelby Rogers. At the US Open, Sakkari defeated Petra Kvitová, Bianca Andreescu, and Karolína Plíšková to reach her second career grand slam semifinal where she lost to the eventual champion, Emma Raducanu.

During the European indoor hardcourt fall season, she reached the final in Ostrava, losing to Anett Kontaveit and semifinal in Moscow where she retired against Ekaterina Alexandrova.

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