World No.18 Maria Sakkari advanced to her second major semifinal of the season and first in New York, defeating No.4 Karolina Pliskova, 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the US Open. The 26-year-old is the first Greek woman to reach the US Open singles semifinals. She will face Britain's Emma Raducanu on Thursday for a spot in her first major final.
"I want to dedicate this win to Greece because we struggled a lot last month with some fire damages," Sakkari said. "So for me winning for Greece, making Greek people proud and happy, especially in difficult times, it makes me even more happy because you know how much I love my country."
Sakkari's win over Pliskova is her third straight win over a Top 10 seed, after defeating No.6 seed Bianca Andreescu in a record-setting Round of 16 win and No.10 seed Petra Kvitova in the Round of 16. She is now an impressive 4-0 vs Top 5 opponents in 2021; she previously defeated Naomi Osaka and Sofia Kenin twice.
Having spent 3 hours and 30 minutes to hold off Andreescu in the latest finish of a US Open women's singles match, the big question coming into Wednesday night's quarterfinal was how well Sakkari could physically recover.
Sakkari answered the question quickly, with a remarkable serving display that never gave the Czech a chance of a foothold in the match. Sakkari broke Pliskova just once in each set, but never faced a break point in the match as she served her way to a dominant straight-sets win. Sakkari's run through New York continues to build on her career-best season, which includes a Roland Garros semifinal and Miami Open semifinal.
Stat of the Match: Sakkari lost just two points on her first serve for the entire match (23 of 25). In total, Sakkari lost just eight points on serve for the match, while breaking Pliskova early in each set to keep Pliskova at bay. During one stretch through the first set and early games of the second, Sakkari won 22 consecutive service points.
Sakkari finished the match with 22 winners to just 12 unforced errors. Pliskova, who struggled to find her forehand rhythm over the night, hit 14 winners to 20 unforced errors.
Turning Point: Despite Sakkari's domination on serve, Pliskova earned one late chance to turn the match around. With Sakkari serving for the match at 6-4, 5-4, Pliskova saved two points from 40-15 to get to deuce for the first time of the night. But with an opportunity to break open a protracted rally with her forehand, Pliskova netted a forehand down the line to give Sakkari a third match point.
This time, Sakkari closed out her dominant win, booking her spot in the semifinals after 81 minutes.
Sakkari on her second Slam semifinal: "After reaching my first Grand Slam semifinal at the French, I felt like I can do it again. It was not luck because I beat all these good players.
"Now I think I had one of the toughest draws, to be deadly honest. I think Sloane had a tougher draw than me. But Kostyuk, Siniakova, Kvitova, Andreescu, Pliskova, all these players are players I don't want to play in the first rounds. Going deep, you won't have it easy. I had to play really well to be here. That gives me a lot of confidence because I beat some very, very good players to reach the semifinals this time. I'm actually feeling really well. I don't want to jinx it.
"My tennis looks in a great place right now. Mentally I'm pretty calm. I don't want to get too excited for this win today because I have to play tomorrow. If I had a day off, it would be different."
Next up: Sakkari will face British teenager Raducanu, who has yet to drop a set en route to being the first qualifier in the Open Era to make a US Open women's semifinal.
"She's a new player on tour so I don't know much about her," Sakkari said. "Obviously she's having the tournament of her life. She deserves to be here. She has won all these matches.
"But I wouldn't call myself the favorite. I think we all have equal chances of winning the semifinals and then winning the title. I would give 25% to each starting tomorrow, then 50 to the two finalists. We are all for a reason here. We're all playing well. It was not like we had five walkovers. I'm excited to play a second semifinal this year."