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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, March 17, 2022

 
Maria SAkkari

Maria Sakkari surged through 12 of the last 17 games stopping Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-4 to reach her third straight semifinal in Indian Wells.

Photo credit: Getty

Quarterfinal stages represent fresh starts for Maria Sakkari.

Today, Sakkari showed strong closing power surging into her third straight semifinal.

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Staring down a 1-4 deficit, Sakkari surged through 12 of the last 17 games defeating Elena Rybakina 7-5, 6-4 to secure a spot in her first Indian Wells semifinal.

The sixth-seeded Sakkari won her ninth consecutive quarterfinal to set up a semifinal with either defending champion Paula Badosa or Veronika Kudermetova.




The powerful 6-foot Rybakina owns one of the sport’s most explosive serves—she’s third on the WTA tour in aces in 2022—and had surrendered serve just once en route to the quarterfinals. Sakkari served with a bit more command on pressure points. The Greek smacked six aces—two more than Rybakina—dropped only nine points on first serves and saved four of five break points.

“It might sound a little cocky, might sound weird as well, but I feel like the tournament starts now for me emotionally,” Sakkari said after her round of 16 win.

Based on her recent invincibility in quarterfinals, you can understand Sakkari’s thinking.

At the outset, Rybakina set the tone on serve.

Rybakina rapped an ace down the T to hold for 3-0 after 11 minutes. The power player was cruising on serve until seventh game.

Sakkari blocked back some big serves earning break point. When Rybakina scattered her second double fault, Sakkari had the break back for 3-4. It was just the second time in 34 service games in the tournament Rybakina dropped serve.

As Sakkari energized, Rybakina became a bit more erratic framing a forehand in the ninth game. Still, she held firm for 5-4.

The sixth-ranked Greek sent a return deep down the middle into Rybakina’s hip coaxing the error to score her second break for 6-5.




Sakkari won eight of the last 10 points snatching the 47-minute opening set surging through six of the final seven games.

Staring down triple break point pressure at love-40 to start the second set, Sakkari swept aside all three break points then dodged a fourth when Rybakina over-hit a backhand pass down the line. Sakkari endured the pressure holding in her first service game of the second set.

Perhaps ruing lost opportunity, Rybakina was struggling to keep her drives between the lines. She sprayed a backhand as Sakkari broke again for a 2-1 lead.




Hall of Famer boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, a devoted tennis fan and player, was in the crowd and may well have been impressed by Sakkari’s fine footwork and finishing flurries.

Deadlocked at 30-all in the eighth game, the 5’8” Sakkari slashed successive aces—116 mph and 115 mph—holding for 5-3.

Tennis Express

Serving for the semifinals, Sakkari slammed her sixth ace. On her third match point, Sakkari drew one final error wrapping the win in 98 minutes advancing to her 19th career semifinal.


 

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