WTA Finals: Sakkari beats Swiatek in opening match

Maria Sakkari used her strong first serve to extend her dominance over former French Open champion Iga Swiatek with a 6-2, 6-4 win Thursday in their opening match at the WTA Finals.

The 26-year-old Sakkari, who is having a breakout year, also beat Swiatek in straight sets in the French Open quarterfinals and Ostrava semifinals this year. Sakkari started the year ranked 21st, and although she did not win a title this season, she reached the final in Ostrava and the semifinals at the U.S. Open, Roland Garros and Miami to become the first Greek woman to qualify for the WTA Finals.

Swiatek, who won titles in Adelaide and Rome in 2021, is also making her debut at the season-ending tournament.

โ€œYeah, I think it was a very solid match from my side. Obviously my serve really helped my game. I felt quite good with the altitude. I could control my shots pretty well. I think every day Iโ€™ll feel even better,โ€ said Sakkari.

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Sakkari won 26 of the first 27 points on her first serve and broke her opponent in the third and seventh games of the first set. She then broke again for a 4-3 lead in the second.

โ€œI think finding the right way of serving here, itโ€™s probably the key. You set up a point the way you want to. Definitely, I mean, having a percentage like that helps your game so much,โ€ added Sakkari.

Top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka is scheduled to play No. 7 Paula Badosa later Thursday.

All of the players are having to adjust their game to the nearly 5,000-feet (1,500-meter) altitude of Guadalajara, Mexicoโ€™s second-largest city.

The tournament, which was cancelled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, features a round-robin group stage before the semifinals. World No. 1 Ash Barty of Australia is not taking part due to travel and quarantine restrictions.

The WTA Finals are being played in Guadalajara for this year only, with the event scheduled to return to Shenzhen, China in 2022.

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