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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, January 11, 2021

Maria Sakkari

Maria Sakkari tore through 10 straight games toppling top-seeded Sofia Kenin 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 into the Abu Dhabi semifinals.

Photo credit: Getty

Maria Sakkari was jumping up and down during the coin toss as if eager for action in Abu Dhabi today.

An ascendent Sakkari made a major leap over Sofia Kenin and stuck a semifinal landing.

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A fierce Sakkari surged through 10 straight games dismissing the top-seeded Kenin 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 to roll into the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open semifinals.

It was a day that saw the top two seeds vanquished.

Veronika Kudermetova poked a backhand pass down the line sealing a 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(3) upset of second-seeded Elina Svitolina in today's final quarterfinal.

Striking with ambition, Kudermetova cracked 50 winners—31 more than Svitolina—in a two-and-a-half hour triumph that sends her into her first WTA 500 semifinal.

It's the 46th-ranked Russian's third career Top 5 victory and her second win over Svitolina in as many meetings. Kudermetova outdueled Svitolina 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 in the 2019 Moscow round of 16. Kudermetova pumped 11 aces against one double fault, beat Svitolina in key backhand-to-backhand exchanges and used the drop shot shrewdly to drag the world No. 5 forward. 

On her second match point, Kudermetova carved out an angled dropper and was falling backward when she spun a backhand pass down the line to close.

Impactful serving inspied Sakkari to her first win over Kenin in three meetings
and her fifth career Top 5 victory.

Continuing superb serving, Sakkari swatted nine aces, saved three of six break points and won 16 of her final 19 service points in a rousing 91-minute victory.

Australian Open champion Kenin saved a match point in her 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 comeback win over Yulia Putintseva yesterday, but ran out of gas against the aggressive Greek today.

Dictating play from the baseline, Sakkari nearly tripled Kenin’s winner output—23 to 8—and converted six of 13 break points.

The ninth-seeded Sakkari scored her second straight win over a Grand Slam champion following her 7-5, 6-4 victory over two-time major title holder Garbine Muguruza.

World No. 22 Sakkari, who can rise to either No. 18 or No. 19 by winning the title, will face Aryna Sabalenka for a spot in Wednesday’s final.

Earlier, a red-hot Sabalenka stretched her career-best winning streak to 13 matches advancing to her third straight semifinal with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 over world No. 19 Elena Rybakina.

Sabalenka served 64 percent and saved three of five break points scoring her second three-set win over Rybakina in as many meetings.

The fourth-seeded Belarusian is playing for her third consecutive championship—Sabalenka ended 2020 claiming successive titles in Ostrava and Linz to finish the year ranked No. 10.

Tennis Express

The hard-hitting Sabalenka has won three of four career meetings vs. Sakkari, including a 6-3, 6-0 victory en route to the 2020 Doha title.

Playing her second career WTA quarterfinal, 18-year-old Marta Kostyuk overcame early jitters rallying past Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo 0-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach her first Tour-level semifinal.

The 99th-ranked Kostyuk, who is projected to crack the Top 80, will play Russian Veronika Kudermetova in tomorrow's semifinals.


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