Maria Sakkari Knocks Out Top Seed Sabalenka At WTA Finals - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sakkari Knocks Out Top Seed Sabalenka At WTA Finals

The Greek has vowed to ‘fight’ her way to the final after coming through a marathon match.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider/

Maria Sakkari has booked her place in the last four of the WTA Finals on her debut after outlasting top seed Aryna Sabalenka in a roller-coaster showdown.

 

Sakkari, who first broke into the world’s top 10 earlier this year, required almost three hours to defeat the Belarussian 7-6(1), 6-7(6), 6-3 in what was a marathon encounter. The match was full of twists and turns with there being 14 breaks of serve occurring with eight of those being a Sabalenka service game. After losing a closely contested second set tiebreaker, the Greek found herself down 1-3 in the decider before fighting back by winning five games in a row.

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

The world No.6 had lost her last four meetings against Sabalenka prior to their clash in Mexico. It is the first time she has beaten her since the 2019 Cincinnati Open which was their maiden Tour meeting. She is now 5-0 against top five opponents this season.

“Obviously last time we played was in Abu Dhabi this year,” Sakkari reflected. “I think my level is different today than back then. Obviously she has been having a very good season.
“I think I’m just closer to them now. My ranking shows that, my results shows that. It’s just that I’m really getting closer to them. I proved to myself and everyone that I can beat them like I did today.”

The 26-year-old heads into the semi-finals with two wins and a loss to her name from the group stages. She also defeated Iga Swiatek in straight sets before losing to Paula Badosa. Badosa is the other member of the Chichén Itzá group to have qualified for the knockout stages.

As for Sabalenka, she exits her final tournament of the year in frustration. In her latest match, she produced a costly 19 double faults and 56 unforced errors.

“I just couldn’t find my rhythm,” Sabalenka said. “The whole match I was really struggling with my serve. On some moments I found it, and on some moments I couldn’t do anything with my serve. It’s a tough match. Just crazy how bad I was serving in the last matches, especially this week. I guess a lot of work in the pre-season I will do.”

Sakkari will take on Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit for a place in the final on Tuesday. Kontaveit was the last player to secure a spot in the tournament after a surge in wins within recent weeks. The Estonian has won 12 out of her last 13 matches played and is bidding to win her third title in a row.

“I’m going to fight for it, do whatever I can to advance to the final. I just really want to enjoy tomorrow’s match because the atmosphere here is just unreal.” Sakkari stated.
“I’m not going to have so much time to rest. My fitness level is, I believe, one of the best on tour, without being arrogant, but I believe fitness is one of my strengths. I’ll do everything to recover. If Anett is better tomorrow, it’s too good. But I’ll try to recover and just take advantage of the good things I felt today on the court.”

Sakkari, who is seeded fourth in the draw, is the highest ranked player to progress to the knockout stages.

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Australia fights back from losing the first match to reach the Davis Cup final

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Australia fought back from losing the first singles match to beat Croatia 2-1 reaching its first Davis Cup in 19 years. 

 

Alex De Minaur cruised past Marin Cilic 6-2 6-2 in just 44 minutes to send the semifinal to decisive doubles match. Cilic made 10 double faults, as De Minaur broke four times to draw level to 2-2 in his head-to-head matches. De Minaur has improved his Davis Cup hard-court singles record to 10-1 in the Davis Cup. 

“This is what this team is about, that never say-die attitude. I have had a couple of instances when I have been in this position and I feel like my back is against the wall, and there is only a wall to break through, and that’s going forward steam ahead and just going after every single point. My job was to keep us alive, and I am happy to do anything I can do for my country”, said De Minaur. 

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell came back from one set down to beat Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 6-4. Thompson and Purcell broke twice and never dropped a service game to come back from losing the first-set tie-break. 

The first set went on serve with no breaks of serve en route to the tie-break. Mektic and Pavic earned three mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-3. 

Thompson and Purcell broke serve in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead and held serve in the 12th game to force the match to the decider. The Australian team broke again in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead and held their next two service games to close out the third set 6-4. 

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. 

“I am so proud. Australia has a rich history in this competition. We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions. I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it”, said Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt. 

Australia will face either Italy or Canada in the final. 

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Borna Coric beats Thanasi Kokkinakis to give Croatia a 1-0 lead against Australia in Davis Cup semifinal in Malaga

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Borna Coric beat Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4 6-3 after 1 hour and 32 minutes with a break in each set to give Croatia a 1-0 lead over Australia in the first match of the semifinal of the Davis Cup by Rakuten in Malaga. 

 

Coric hit 19 winners to just 9 unforced errors. 

Kokkinakis saved a break point in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4. The Croatian player converted his third break point at deuce in the 10th game to close out the first set 6-4. 

Coric faced the only break point at the second set and earned the only break in the sixth game to seal the win 6-4 6-3. 

“This means a lot to me. I was watching the guys playing Davis Cup when I was injured and doing my rehab. To play for Croatia is an amazing feeling for me. I was turning to my coach in the first set and saying: ‘I don’t know what to do against his serve’, but I started to read it later on, and thankfully I was serving well myself. When I was younger, I did not serve so well and I needed to improve it. After my shoulder injury I did not know whether I would be able to serve again at all, but I did so much work on it that I serve even better now then I used to”, said Coric.

Alex De Minaur will face 2018 Davis Cup champion Marin Cilic. In their previous head-to-head matches Cilic leads 2-1 over De Minaur and beat the Australian player 6-1 5-7 6-4 in the Group Stage of the Davis Cup finals. 

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Bianca Andreescu Reunites With Former Coach Ahead Of New Season 

How will the Grand Slam champion fair on the Tour with her latest mentor?

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BIANCA ANDREESCU OF CANADA - PHOTO: ALBERTO NEVADO / MMO

Former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu has brought a familiar face back into her team as she bids to return to her best form in 2023. 

 

Andreescu, who is currently ranked 45th in the WTA rankings, has appointed Christophe Lambert as her latest coach. Lambert had been working as the performance director at Tennis New Zealand and resigned from that position to work with the former US Open champion. He had also previously worked for Tennis Canada and during that time he was a private coach for Andreescu in 2016. 

“Bianca asked me to coach her and I accepted the job. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse,” Lambert told sport.co.nz. 

Lambert, who has also spent time working with the Chinese Davis Cup team and for the British LTA, has stayed in contact with Andreescu ever since coaching her six years ago. 

“It wasn’t like every week or every month. It’s always good to have people calling you when you are up, but when she was down I was checking on her and giving her my opinion.” He said. 

Andreescu had been working with Dutch coach Sven Groeneveld for over a year before they decided to end their collaboration in October. Groeneveld has a wealth of experience in the sport after working with a series of top names, including Maria Sharapova. 

This season the former world No.4 has won 20 out of 33 matches played with her best performance being a run to the final of the Bad Homburg Open in Germany. However, her record against top 10 opposition was 2-5.

“I’m just taking it day by day, and it’s a great way to end off the year as well, just bringing back all the emotions that fire a lot in me,” Andreescu recently told reporters in Glasgow at the Billie Jean King Cup. “I think I’m going to have a great preseason. Next year I really think I can crack the top 10 again.”

Andreescu, who has been hampered by injury issues in recent years, hasn’t won a singles title of any sort since 2019. 

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