SAN JOSE, CA, USA - Down a set and a double break, Maria Sakkari completed a dramatic turnaround against Danielle Collins to book a spot in her first WTA final at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2.
“I think it’s part of my character and the way I grew up playing - I like drama,” the Greek player said after the victory. “When things get tighter, I’m more used to it. It’s in my character, Spartan.”
Coming into their semifinal encounter Sakkari had yet to drop a set all tournament long - but that streak ruthlessly came to an end at the hands of Collins. The American’s fast, aggressive style left Sakkari on the back foot and with little time to react, and it was one-way traffic for much of the first set and a half.
A lone break of serve made the difference for Collins in the first set as she dictated play with her powerful backhands. Sakkari held break points in two of Collins’ service games, but she wasn’t able to convert as Collins opened up a 4-1 and calmly served out the set.
Collins continued on a tear in the second, reeling off four games in a row to get ahead a double break and lead 4-1. That’s when things started to get complicated for the American as Sakkari found a late second wind and broke serve for the first time. The Greek player built on that momentum to level the match at 4-4.
As Sakkari’s confidence grew, so did Collins’ unforced error count and the Greek player battled to set points at 5-4. Collins held on to extend her stay in the set, but Sakkari broke at the next time of asking to complete the turnaround and send them into a deciding set.
Collins seemed to get back on track to open with a break, but Sakkari slammed the door shut as she reeled off the next six points in a row to close out the match in emphatic fashion after just under two hours and 15 minutes.
“I think at 4-1 in the second she started really stepping up to the baseline and putting her foot on the gas,” Collins explained afterwards. “It helped her get back in her rhythm and playing more aggressive.
“It threw me off a little bit. She played some really great tennis, so kudos to her.”
After the match, Sakkari credited her coach Tom Hill’s rousing on-court coaching for helping inspire a mental turnaround.
“I think I wasn’t playing well because I was not positive,” Sakkari said. “Once I started feeling more positive, then I started playing better. My tennis was there - I have been playing very good tennis for the last five days or so.
“I knew that it was there, I knew something had to change - it was from being negative to positive.”
Up next, Sakkari will take on Mihaela Buzarnescu in the final as she seeks to lift the San Jose trophy. The Romanian came back from a set down against Elise Mertens earlier in the day to book her spot into her first Premier-level final.
Sakkari’s impressive run this week - including a stunner over Venus Williams - has guaranteed her a spot back into the Top 40, and with today’s win she’ll be back in the WTA Top 35.