WTA Finals: Sakkari beats Sabalenka to reach semifinals

Maria Sakkari needed almost three hours to upset top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (1), 6-7 (6), 6-3 on Monday and advance to a semifinal against Anett Kontaveit at the WTA Finals.

Fourth-seeded Sakkari took advantage of Sabalenkaยดs 19 double-faults in the longest match so far at the tournament in Mexico, lasting 2 hours and 47 minutes.

โ€œI think it was a roller coaster match from both of us. I was up a break, then she was up a break. It was just a matter of who took the chances,” Sakkari said. “I think at the end I just played with my heart and fought well, just turned things around.โ€

The 26-year-old Sakkari started the year ranked 21st. After reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open she became the first Greek woman to qualify for the WTAโ€™s season-ending tournament. Paula Badosa will play Garbine Muguruza in Tuesday’s other semifinal match.

โ€œMy season is not finished yet, but this tournament has been very successful after todayโ€™s win,” Sakkari said. โ€œIโ€™m just very, very happy that I still play with my heart even though itโ€™s been 11 months since we started this season.โ€

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Sabalenka, who was the No. 1 seed in Mexico because top-ranked Ash Barty of Australia decided not to defend her WTA Finals title, kept in the contest despite struggling with her serve.

Sakkari fell behind 5-3 but saved a set point before breaking Sabalenka’s serve to force a tiebreaker, which she dominated with three aces.

Sabalenka rallied in the second but still missed three set points before pulling level with a tight win in the tiebreaker.

The 23-year-old Belarus star then went ahead 3-1 in the third but self-destructed with double faults, and Sakkari won five straight games to secure the victory.

โ€œI just couldnโ€™t find my rhythm. The whole match I was, like, really struggling with my serve,” Sabalenka said. “On some moment I found it, and on some moments I couldnโ€™t do anything with my serve.

“It was a tough match. Just crazy how bad I was serving I would say on the last matches.โ€

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