CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Maria Sakkari knocked out Volvo Car Open defending champion Kiki Bertens in a straight sets stunner to book her spot into her first quarterfinal of the year.
The No.15 seeded Greek player came into the green clay of Charleston looking to jumpstart her season after failing to win back-to-back matches since her Australian Open third round run.
Now, she’s done just that, and in impressive fashion too: after edging past Conny Perrin in the first round, Sakkari dropped just three games against another former Charleston champion, Andrea Petkovic, en route to a 6-3, 6-0 win.
After edging through the tight first set against the defending champion, Sakkari powered into high gear to win 7-6(8), 6-3 and claim the third Top 10 win of her career.
“I haven’t won three matches before in a long time, and I really wanted to win more than two in a row,” Sakkari told press afterwards. “But it feels very good, gaining a lot of confidence.
"And it’s great, because I really want to play good on clay this year without having a lot of expectations. But starting good the clay season gives me a lot of confidence.”
Sakkari had to rally from behind twice in the first set, going down a double break at 1-4 and again in the tiebreak, where she trailed 1-5.
“I thought hard, and made a lot of balls,” Sakkari explained. After 4-1 down I came back with a good and solid game, I think. Obviously we had like long rallies and I had to run a lot, but I had no problem doing that. That’s it pretty much. Fought hard. I never stopped believing that I could win.”
After scraping through the first set, Sakkari was in full flight in the second, breaking early to lead 2-1 and batting away three break back chances from Bertens. A final break to love sealed the match for Sakkari, who fired 19 winners and 27 unforced errors against her opponent’s 23 and 38.
Sakkari improves her head-to-head record against Bertens to 3-3 and now leads her on clay 2-1.
“We just like each other’s game and we get to play good matches always, but I don’t know. I think she’s one of the players that I’ve played the most,” she said.”We played like three times last year, so we know each other quite well. We get to practice with each other.
“And it’s nothing specific that makes me beat her or her beat me. But it’s just that we always have great fights with each other.”
Up next, Sakkari will take on either No.5 seed Caroline Wozniacki or No.12 Mihaela Buzarnescu in the Volvo Car Open quarterfinals.