Sakkari ousts top seed Pegula to meet Gauff in Washington final

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Greece's fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari advanced to the Washington Open final by defeating US top seed Jessica Pegula (Rob Carr)
Greece’s fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari advanced to the Washington Open final by defeating US top seed Jessica Pegula (Rob Carr)

Greek fourth seed Maria Sakkari advanced to the Washington Open final on Saturday, upsetting US top seed Jessica Pegula to capture her third victory in 26 hours.

Sakkari will come up against another American in Sunday’s final after Coco Gauff defeated Russian Liudmila Samsanova, the defending champion, in straight sets.

Ninth-ranked Sakkari, forced to play twice Friday due to rain on Thursday at the WTA and ATP hardcourt event, reached her first final since losing to Pegula last October at Guadalajara.

“It would have been ideal if I could be off the court an hour earlier,” Sakkari said. “But at the end I got the win which is what I wanted the most.”

Sakkari, who reached her seventh career final, won her only WTA title in 2019 at Rabat.

Pegula, the 2019 Washington champion, was denied her fifth career final but will match her career high of third in the world rankings next week.

Sakkari improved to 5-3 in her career rivalry with Pegula, who won their most recent prior meeting in February’s Doha semi-finals.

Sakkari dominated the first set and went up 4-1 in the second but Pegula broke Sakkari in the seventh game and held to pull level at 4-4.

A double fault handed Pegula a break chance in the ninth game and Sakkari swatted a forehand wide for a 5-4 edge. The American then held to force a third set.

“Things were tricky in the second set,” Sakkari said. “In the third, I just tried to stay in the present. I tried to overcome myself and take it as a new challenge.”

Sakkari broke early in the third set and again in the final game on a backhand winner to advance after two hours and three minutes.

Sakkari hit 36 winners compared to 29 unforced errors and for 14 of 19 points when she came to the net.

Third-seeded Gauff was in dominant form as she won the opening set against Samsonova without facing a break point.

She then took a 2-1 lead in the second set, winning her fifth break point of a marathon game with a volley winner before going on to complete a 6-3, 6-3 win and reach her second final of the year.

“She’s a server and she has an amazing forehand so I wanted to see how I would do upon that battle and I think I did pretty well,” said Gauff.

Gauff has lost four of her five meetings with Sakkari but says she has learnt from those losses.

“She’s an incredible player. She’s been the top of the game for a long time and it’s going to be a difficult match,” she said.

“You live and you learn. So hopefully I can learn from (the defeats) and come back better (on Sunday),” she added.

The men’s semi-finals were set for Saturday night with US top seed Taylor Fritz, a champion last week in Atlanta, facing Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor and fifth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria against British ninth seed Daniel Evans.


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