SEOUL, Korea - No.3 seed Maria Sakkari got her KEB Hana Bank Korea Open campaign to a superb start with a 6-0, 6-1 defeat of Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in just one hour and two minutes.
The Greek No.1 had previously beaten Schmiedlova in both of their previous meetings, both first-round ties in 2016, the year Sakkari cracked the Top 100 for the first time - a 6-2, 6-3 win in Istanbul and a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in Tashkent. Now perched just two spots beneath her career high ranking of No.30, today was a thoroughly dominant display from the San Jose runner-up.
"My whole game worked really well," she enthused afterwards. "I was very solid, and very aggressive when I had to be." The best aspect of her performance? "My baseline game for sure! Obviously my forehand is my big weapon, and it worked out well."
Sakkari was in full flow from the off, demonstrating both her soft hands on a drop volley and her increasingly aggressive forehand to break the Slovak immediately. The Istanbul semifinalist then staved off an immediate response from Schmiedlova, holding from 0-40 with a series of strong one-two punches - and, having averted this danger, seized control of the match as her frustrated opponent bounced her racket. "This was very important for my start," noted Sakkari afterwards.
The next five games would pass without the former World No.26 gaining so much as a game point. Sakkari combined smooth, easy movement around the court with 12 winners in the first set, and was able to bring her best tennis to bear on big points; by contrast, Schmiedlova would leak nine unforced errors and only hit her first winner of the day - a forehand return down the line - when facing her first set point.
In 29 minutes, Sakkari had wrapped up her third career bagel in a WTA main draw following her 6-0, 6-4 defeat of Anett Kontaveit in the first round of the 2017 Australian Open and her 6-0, 6-1 rout of Timea Babos in the second round of San Jose this July.
Despite Schmiedlova's backhand - the shot that has been crucial to the 23-year-old winning three career titles so far - finally clicking in the first game of the second set to land a down-the-line winner and a pinpoint pass, her bleak day continued as a forehand sailed long to give Sakkari her seventh straight game. There would be a small ray of hope for Schmiedlova as the Istanbul semifinalist leaked a handful of unusual backhand errors to drop serve for the only time in the match, but the World No.79 was unable to take advantage, shanking a forehand to fall behind again 1-2.
That would be the end of any notable resistance from the Bogotá champion, whose error count continued to rise to a total of 19. Sakkari, extending her mastery of the court to the net, would reel off 16 of the final 19 points of the match - including the final eight - booking a second-round berth against either Margarita Gasparyan or Varvara Flink as Schmiedlova tamely offered up a sixth double fault on match point.