WUHAN, China - Qualifier Maria Sakkari earned the biggest win of her career at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open on Tuesday as she knocked out No.4 seed Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets.
Wozniacki, who leads the WTA in match wins this year, finally won her first WTA title of 2017 last week at the Toray Pan Pacific Open. But she couldn’t back it up in her Wuhan opener, falling 7-5, 6-3 to Sakkari.
The 22-year-old Greek player was making her Wuhan debut - just the second-ever Premier-level main draw of her career- but she wasn’t cowed by the occasion or by the former World No.1 across the net.
“It feels great [to beat Wozniacki], she’s a very tough opponent to play - she’s so solid and she comes from winning in Tokyo so she had confidence. I knew it would be a tough match, but I think I did the right preparations,” Sakkari said in her post-match press conference.
“The key was to be consistent and stable from the baseline, try to hit winners when I could and serve well, and just keep that rhythm for the whole match - that’s what I did.”
Her relentless attacking earned Sakkari the first break early in the first set. Wozniacki employed her go-to defensive, retrieving style of tennis, leaving Sakkari to create pace out of nothing, stepping inside the court and finding wicked angles.
Wozniacki leveled the score with a break back at 4-4, and even held a set point on Sakkari’s serve in the next game. But the Greek player was undaunted, using a laser-sharp backhand passing shot winner to get a break to love and serve out the opening set.
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Sakkari continued to pile on the pressure in the second set, attacking the Wozniacki serve and staying inside the baseline to cut away her time. After trading breaks to start, it was one-way traffic for the Greek who continued to blast winner after winner past Wozniacki. She reeled off the last three games in a row to close out her first ever WTA Top 10 win after an hour and 33 minutes.
In total Sakkari hit 23 winners to Wozniacki’s 11, and struck 27 unforced errors to Wozniacki’s 37. But that all-out aggression doesn’t come naturally, the Greek said.
“My tennis is not aggressive. I can describe myself as more of a solid player,” Sakkari admitted. “It is quite tough for me to hit a lot of winners sometimes. But I had to today, otherwise she would have the advantage in the match. It’s something I’m working on with my coach, playing aggressive.”
Through to the third round for the first time, Sakkari will face No.16 seed Elena Vesnina. The Russian made her way into the third round after a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Elise Mertens earlier in the day.