RABAT, Morocco -- No.6 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece is into her first final of the 2019 season after a 6-4, 6-4 semifinal victory over No.8 seed Alison van Uytvanck of Belgium at the Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem on Friday.
World No.51 Sakkari, who eliminated top seed and defending champion Elise Mertens in the quarterfinals, has staked her spot in the championship match without dropping a set all week, moving into her second career WTA final. Her first final came last year in San Jose, where she fell in the title match to Mihaela Buzarnescu.
"It feels great to again be in a final," Sakkari said on court, after the match. "It’s been a long time. It feels great, actually, I cannot describe my feelings now."
The top-ranked player from Greece broke van Uytvanck five times out of eight break point chances. Although World No.52 van Uytvanck had 17 winners to Sakkari's 14, the Belgian came unglued with 40 unforced errors, compared to Sakkari's 25, and the match finished after one hour and 28 minutes of play.
Sakkari will square off against No.7 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain, who has also made her first final of the year. Konta ousted No.4 seed Ajla Tomljanovic in the earlier semifinal on Friday. Konta won her only prior match against Sakkari, in the first round of Wimbledon in 2017.
"The fighting spirit, the will and the passion and everything, that’s what I’m going to bring tomorrow on the court," Sakkari stated.
"[Konta's] an amazing player," Sakkari continued. "You know, playing a final, it’s never easy, but I’m really looking forward to the match. It’s going to be a nice match."
It was van Uytvanck who started ahead, after Sakkari dropped serve in the opening game, double faulting on the third break point. Van Uytvanck had no trouble in her first two service games as she maintained her break advantage through 3-2.
Sakkari increased the depth on her shots to claim her first break points of the match, eventually levelling the set at 3-3 after van Uytvanck double faulted on the second break point of that game. Unforced errors allowed the Belgian to reclaim her break lead at 4-3, but Sakkari struck back immediately to get even again at 4-4.
The run of service breaks ended after van Uytvanck hit a string of errors, allowing Sakkari to hold with ease for 5-4. The Greek stayed steady during long rallies in the next game, drawing errors from van Uytvanck to get to triple set point. Another backhand miscue by the Belgian ended the set -- van Uytvanck had 21 unforced errors in the opener, more than double Sakkari’s 10.
Sakkari took the lead in the second set, breaking for 4-2 as van Uytvanck’s errors continued to mount. However, after the Belgian gritted out a tough hold for 5-3, Sakkari faltered while serving for the match. The Greek player hit two straight backhands into the net to give van Uytvanck triple break point, and the Belgian converted her second chance with a forehand passing winner.
But getting back on serve would not be enough for van Uytvanck, who blasted errors into the net to give Sakkari two match points on the Belgian’s serve at 5-4. Sakkari only needed one, as a strong forehand forced an error from van Uytvanck, and the Greek notched another straight-set win as she slid into the Rabat final.