Sakkari sets up Indian Wells title showdown against Swiatek; both eye world No. 2 spot
Indian Wells, March 19 (IANS): World No.6 Maria Sakkari of Greece advanced to her maiden WTA 1000 final, defeating defending champion Paula Badosa of Spain 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in the semifinal to set up a title clash against No.4 Iga Swiatek of Poland at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday (IST).
Sakkari’s triumph sets up an interesting battle for the No.2 spot in WTA Rankings as the Greek player looks to end Swiatek’s 10-match winning streak and win the biggest title of her career.
Swiatek scored a 7-6(6), 6-4 semifinal win over 2015 Indian Wells champion Simona Halep, advancing to the BNP Paribas Open title match for the first time.
Sakkari is into her second final of the season, having reached her first in at the WTA 500 in St. Petersburg. Coming into Indian Wells this year, the 26-year-old Sakkari had reached seven semifinals in her last 10 tournaments, making two finals over that span. Prior to Friday night, she was 0-4 in semifinals at the WTA 1000 level.
“I’ll be deadly honest that I never, ever thought about it. I have a lot of people around me telling me about the semifinals and that I was not able to get over this hurdle,” Sakkari was quoted as saying by wtatennis.com. “But I never, ever thought about it because I was always very confident and had a lot of belief that I would just get over it soon and it clicked, I guess.”
Badosa had won the only previous meeting between the two, having defeated Sakkari last season at the WTA Finals in straight sets.
“I was very concerned before the match because Paula is playing differently than the other girls,” Sakkari said. “She has a very heavy game. She obviously loves this tournament because she won it six months ago. I had full faith and I believed in myself every single moment.”
Sakkari leads the head-to-head over Swiatek 3-1. The 20-year-old Polish player earned her first win against Sakkari just three weeks ago in the semifinals of Doha. Swiatek won 6-4, 6-3 and went on to win the Doha title, her second WTA 1000 title of her career.
“She’s not the Iga that was a year ago,” Sakkari said. “She has been playing very, very aggressive and I was actually very surprised with that change when I played her in Doha.”
“I really respect her and I really like her because she’s a lovely girl and she’s very nice and whatever she has achieved she really deserves it. But on the other hand, I just have full faith and a lot of confidence in my game and in myself right now.”
The winner of Sunday’s final will rise to a new career-high of No.2 on Monday.