OSTRAVA, Czech Republic - Maria Sakkari served up revenge against home hope Kristyna Pliskova in the opening round of the inaugural J&T Banka Ostrava Open.
The World No.23-ranked Greek player had taken on the big-serving Pliskova in the first round of the Palermo Ladies Open, the first WTA tournament of the tour’s resumption - and was stunned in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
But Sakkari finally got her revenge in Ostrava, where the Czech is competing with a wildcard. Sakkari fired 28 winners and broke the Pliskova serve four times en route to a 6-3, 6-3 victory.
“I kept a similar tactic to last time, but I think I executed it better than then,” Sakkari said in her post-match press conference. “It was just a better performance overall…
“We worked a little bit differently [preparing for Ostrava]. I’m a player that I pick things up kind of quick, and I already feel like I did what we worked on last week.”
Sakkari took three days of rest after her French Open campaign ended before hitting the practice court again. In Paris, Sakkari was on the brink of a Grand Slam breakthrough, holding match points against Martina Trevisan to reach her first second-week - but she couldn’t halt the Italian’s dream run, falling in the third round.
In Ostrava, Sakkari was determined to hit the reset button going into her final tournament of the season. She kept the big-serving Pliskova under pressure from the start, and set the tone for the contest after creating two break chances in her opponent’s first service game.
Sakkari stayed calm and patiently waited to attack Pliskova’s second serves, and she was finally rewarded with the first break of the match to take a 4-3 lead. She took control from there, and reeled off the next two games to close out the set.
In the second, Sakkari broke through once again late in the set to go ahead 4-2. Pliskova made a valiant effort to grab the break back, fighting through a marathon game to convert her sixth break chance. But Sakkari reacted right away, raising her level and reestablishing her lead at 5-3 before serving out the victory in an hour and 20 minutes.
“She’s a lefty so it makes things a little bit tricky,” Sakkari said. “So I think the fact that I was just trying to take off some time from her serve, and stepping in and attacking it, this helped a lot. When I had the chance to break her, I did it.”
Through to the second round, Sakkari will face a big challenge in her next match as she takes on No.1 seed Elina Svitolina. Svitolina received a bye into the second round.
“Of course Elina is a top seed, and she’s the top seed for a reason,” Sakkari acknowledged. “She has been Top 10 for so long because she has a great game and she’s an amazing player. But I really felt good out there today.
“It’s going to be a very different match, but I’ve played her once and I beat her. I know her game, and she knows my game. It’s going to be a very tough battle for both.”