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By Alberto Amalfi | Friday, February 11, 2022

 
Maria Sakkari

Top-seeded Maria Sakkari saved three set points out-dueling Elise Mertens 7-6(7), 6-2, to set up a St. Petersburg semifinal vs. Irina-Camelia Begu.

Photo credit: Formula_TX/St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy Facebook

Maria Sakkari is delivering first-rate tennis in her debut as tournament top seed.

Sakkari fought off three set points in the opening set out-dueling Elise Mertens 7-6(7), 6-2, to battle into the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy semifinal for the second time in the last three years.

More: Del Potro's Tearful Farewell

The seventh-ranked Sakkari saved 13 of 17 break points and did more damage on second serve. Sakkari exploited 11 double faults from Mertens and nearly double the Belgian's second-serve points won (15 to 8) in a two hour, seven-minute triumph.

A stubborn Sakkari beat Mertens for the fifth time in nine meetings.

“Obviously, I was down a couple of times in the first set," Sakkari said. "[At] 6-5 down I broke her and that gave me a lot of strength to win the tiebreak.

“I think I played a pretty solid tiebreak—she also played very good. The level, especially the first set, was very, very high. That’s always with Elise, you know, the level is very, very high when I play her.”

The 26-year-old Greek will continue her hunt for a second career title—and first championship indoors—when she faces Irina-Camelia Begu in Saturday's semifinals.



Earlier, Begu backed up her upset of two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova by conquering another Czech shotmaking, Tereza Martincova, 6-4, 6-2.

The 56th-ranked Begu broke serve three times and did not surrender her own serve becoming the first Romanian to reach the St. Petersburg semifinals.

The 31-year-old Begu, who has split two prior meetings with Sakkari, is bidding for her fifth career WTA title and first since the 2017 Bucharest crown.




Former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko saved 16 of 21 break points fending off Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3. 

The seventh-seeded Ostapenko is through to her first Tour-level semifinal since Indian Wells last fall where she fell to former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, 6-3, 3-6, 5-7.

Tennis Express

Next up for the 25th-ranked Ostapenko is second-seeded Anett Kontaveit.

Indoor queen Kontaveit continued her dominance beneath the closed roof scoring her 18th consecutive indoor victory with a 7-6(7), 6-2 triumph over Olympic gold-medal champion Belinda Bencic.


 

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