SAN JOSE, CA, USA - Former San Jose finalist Maria Sakkari got off to a strong start at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, moving past Ekaterina Alexandrova in straight sets in her opening match.
Last year, Sakkari sealed a dream debut at the new Silicon Valley Classic tournament, edging past Venus Williams and Danielle Collins en route to the final - but was thumped by Mihaela Buzarnescu in the final, falling 6-1, 6-0 in 73 minutes.
Playing in her first match since Wimbledon, No.7 seed Sakkari was back to her winning ways, needing two sets to see off Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-1, 6-4 in 65 minutes.
“It feels great to be here, it feels like home,” Sakkari said of returning to San Jose. “You know, [reaching the final] was my first big result, so it feels great to be back here. Very good memories.”
Sakkari was in complete command in the opening set, claiming the first 10 of 12 points to start with a 3-0 lead. She had four break chances in the next game to extend her lead to a daunting 4-0, but Alexandrova crafted her escape. The Russian couldn’t hold her off for long, as Sakkari dominated the last three games - dropping just one point in total - to take the opening set.
The Greek player started the second set with a break to the good, getting ahead 1-0 and holding the advantage for the next six games. But just as the set - and the match - wound to a close, Alexandrova found a second wind to earn her first break of the match and level the score at 4-4.
But the Rabat champion was undaunted by the resistance, and she rallied back a game later to reestablish her lead, 5-4. Sakkari served out the set with confidence to take the match in two sets, 6-1, 6-4.
“I think I played quite a solid first set,” Sakkari said after the match. “You know, it was a bit tricky in the second set, but I came up with some solid game. I think very good for my first match here in San Jose.”
Up next, the Greek player will take on a qualifier in the second round, with Mayo Hibi stunning fellow qualifier Timea Babos in three sets, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(3), to move on.
“I haven’t seen her for a long time, actually,” Sakkari admitted. “We were playing some ITF 10Ks, 25Ks, back in the time. But I don’t really know her. I haven’t seen her much. Just going to enjoy my doubles tomorrow and think about [Hibi] later.”