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 Sabalenka´s 19 double-faults in the longest match so far at the tournament in Mexico, lasting 2 hours and 47 minutes.
“I 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.”
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 WTA’s season-ending tournament. Paula Badosa will play Garbine Muguruza in Tuesday’s other semifinal match.
“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 play with my heart even though it’s been 11 months since we started this season.”
WTA Finals: Swiatek finishes season with win over Badosa
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.
“I just couldn’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 couldn’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.”