No.7 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece pulled off her second straight comeback victory at the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday, overcoming No.27 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to return to the Round of 16 in Indian Wells.
Last year’s Indian Wells runner-up Sakkari needed two-and-a-half hours to successfully battle back from a set and a break down, as well as from a break down in the third set.
Another turnaround: In her first match of the tournament on Friday night, Sakkari also had to fight back from a set down, when she ousted Shelby Rogers 2-6, 6-4, 6-0. It was Sakkari’s first win over Rogers in their four meetings.
Sakkari had also been winless against Kalinina coming into Sunday’s match. In their only prior meeting, Kalinina upset Sakkari in three sets at Eastbourne last year, which was the second of the Ukrainian’s two career Top 10 wins.
But Sakkari avenged that loss, as she seeks to become the first player to reach back-to-back Indian Wells finals since Maria Sharapova made her second BNP Paribas Open final in a row in 2013.
WHAT IT MEANS 😤@mariasakkari earns the win over Kalinina in a three set contest!#TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/hpVGx0h8Dq— wta (@WTA) March 12, 2023
Words from the winner: "Obviously [Kalinina and Rogers] are two players that I struggled in the past, and they are very good players, both," Sakkari said afterwards.
"I'm making too many unforced errors from the baseline, but all that matters is that I'm finding a way to win and just fighting. As I said, that's the only thing, finding a way to win. Winning ugly, but at the end, winning."
Key moments: In the first set, Kalinina broke Sakkari early and held on from there, staving off two break points at 3-1 before closing that game with an inside-out forehand winner down the line. Sakkari erased four set points on her serve at 5-2, but Kalinina held at love to take the one-set lead.
But after falling behind an quick break in the second set, the Greek began her comeback. Sakkari cracked multiple forehand winners to break Kalinina at love and lead 4-2, and she leveled the match two games later.
Kalinina also earned an early break in the third set, but Sakkari quickly pulled level, then eased through her remaining service games to lead 5-4. There, Kalinina double faulted at deuce on three separate occasions to give Sakkari three match points.
Sakkari converted her third match point with a backhand passing winner to wrap up another comeback. She ended the match with 30 winners to Kalinina's 18.
Shining in the desert ✨@KaPliskova moves past Kudermetova 6-1, 7-5, setting up a fourth-round clash with Sakkari 👏#TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/EhD5PgFU2q— wta (@WTA) March 12, 2023
Pliskova awaits: Sakkari's opponent in the Round of 16 will be No.17 seed Karolina Pliskova, who defeated No.11 seed Veronika Kudermetova 6-1, 7-5 on Sunday.
Former World No.1 Pliskova converted five of her six break points in her victory, leveling her head-to-head with Kudermetova at two wins apiece. Pliskova made back-to-back Indian Wells semifinals in 2016 and 2017 but is still seeking her first trip to the final in the desert.
Highlights: Pliskova def. Kudermetova
Pliskova swept through the first set on Sunday, but Kudermetova served for the second set at 5-3. However, Pliskova regrouped, reeling off the next four games to seal the win and set up her sixth career meeting with Sakkari.
Pliskova leads their head-to-head 3-2, and most recently she dismissed Sakkari 6-1, 6-2 in Dubai last month.
"Pliskova, she's serving big, and she likes to hit the ball hard, I have to for sure reduce my unforced errors," Sakkari said. "That won't be accepted against her. Just be as solid as I can, because that's something that's going to give me a chance to win. Otherwise she's gonna dominate and she's gonna take advantage of it. "