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Sakkari Reaches Maiden Masters 1000 Final At Indian Wells

Mar 19th 2022

Sakkari defeats Badosa 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to reach maiden Masters 1000 final in Indian Wells

While they have much in common like a top ten ranking and a fourth-round appearance at the 2022 Australian Open, what separates them is a Masters 1000 title. Last October, when this event was rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Paula Badosa tore through the competition to claim her second and most prestigious career title.

Two-time US Open champion Victoria Azarenka was attempting to be the first to win the title three times. She served for the match at 5-4 in the third, but the supremely competitive Spaniard prevailed 7-6, 2-6, 7-6. It was the longest women’s final and the first won by a Spaniard.

A mere five months later, Badosa was back at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to defend her title. The twenty-four-year-old from Spain achieved a career-high ranking of #4 last month but is currently ranked #7. Maria Sakkari from Greece had one career title and is ranked #6, a career-high. They played once at tour-level last season at the WTA Finals in Mexico with Badosa prevailing in two tight sets.

Badosa defeated three seeded players, including the 2021 US Open finalist, Leylah Fernandez to reach the semis while Sakkari dispatched two. Sakkari served first and probably wished she had not.

The 6th seed missed 4/6 first serves and dumped serve when Badosa’s backhand trickled over the net. Badosa gave back the break following three consecutive unforced errors including a double fault.

Sakkari dictating from the baseline, ripped a fantastic crosscourt forehand as she held to 15 for 2-1. Badosa, clearly nervous and feeling the pressure, donated two additional double faults and dropped serve when she overcooked a backhand.

Sakkari missed 4/8 first serves and faced two break points but battled to hold for 4-1. Badosa, employing the slice backhand repeatedly and effectively, served better despite a wayward toss and following two deuce points, held for 2-4.

The world #6 held easily to 15 for 5-2 with an overhead smash and forehand down the line on consecutive points. Badosa, serving to stay in the set, opened the 8th with a double fault and lost serve and the set when she netted a backhand.

Sakkari served first in the second and held easily to 15 with a crisp crosscourt forehand volley. Badosa continued to struggle with her toss as she opened with her 5th double fault yet managed to hold to 15 as Sakkari gifted three consecutive forehand errors.

The Greek #1 continued to misfire with the forehand and it cost her as she dumped serve when she mishit a backhand volley. Badosa, however, could not consolidate and gave back the break with a netted backhand and a double fault on consecutive points.

Sakkari failed to ride the wave of good fortune as she dropped serve following her second double fault and a poorly executed squash shot. Although Badosa’s serve was clearly m. i.a, the defending champion continued to compete and extend the lead as she held to 30 for 4-2.

Sakkari, determined to secure victory in straight sets, held to 15 for 3-4, while Badosa held for 5-3 despite facing a break point. Sakkari, serving to stay in the set, made 3/4 first serves and for the first time, held at love with a monster serve out wide.

Badosa, serving to force a deciding set, maintained her aggressive posture as she pummeled the ball from the baseline and clinched the set 6-4 with well-struck serves and a forehand swing volley winner.

Although Sakkari’s forehand had gone AWOL, she opened the third with a blistering backhand down the line and her first ace to hold to 15 for 1-0. Badosa returned the favor with a remarkable backhand down the line off the return but faced two break points and dropped serve when she whiffed a forehand.

Sakkari failed to consolidate the break as she temporarily lost focus. Following three consecutive errors including her second double fault, Badosa earned the break back with an incredible forehand down the line pass.

The shift in momentum, however, was fleeting as Sakkari dug in, swung for the rafters, and broke to lead 3-1. She opened the 5th with an ace out wide and held to 30 for 4-1, just two games from the title match.

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Badosa hit another double fault and committed a slew of errors, including a netted forehand off a slice backhand to dump serve. Sakkari, serving for the match and dialed-in, opened with a scintillating crosscourt forehand, an ace up the tee, and a forehand down the line to earn three championship points and converted when Badosa’s forehand went wide.

It was a hard-hitting and competitive match, one that produced tears for both; those of joy and disappointment. While Paula Badosa was unable to defend her title, she played brilliantly to reach the penultimate match and at times today, did the same but her serve ultimately cost her the match. In addition to the seven double faults, she won just 55% of first and an abysmal 39% of second serve points while Sakkari won 63% of first and an impressive 63% of second serve points.

Maria Sakkari will play world #4 and 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek on Sunday. This prestigious title will bring additional fame, attention, and 1000 ranking points not to mention momentum and belief in advance of the Masters 1000 event in Miami.

Sakkari leads the head-to-head 3-1 with three of the four on hard and all won in straights. Swiatek will glean confidence having won their last meeting last month 6-4, 6-3 in Doha. This one, however, is too close to call as both thrive in these conditions and are eager to claim one of the biggest titles of the season.