There will be a new women’s champion at the Mubadala Citi DC Open.
Greek World No.9 Maria Sakkari and American World No.7 Coco Gauff booked their tickets in Sunday’s final, eliminating past DC champs Jessica Pegula and Liudmila Samsonova in the process.
Sakkari advanced to her first final of the year, holding off Pegula 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in just over two hours in a back-and-forth semifinal on Stadium Court.
“I'll be deadly honest with you: I didn't expect my tennis to be that good this week,” a candid Sakkari said post-match. “I was playing really good back home, but I didn't expect to make the final here.”
Playing for the first time since a premature exit at Wimbledon last month, Sakkari conceded that first-round defeats at both the All-England Club and at Roland Garros had been weighing on her heading into the US hardcourt season.
“It gets into your head a little bit,” Sakkari said. “You don't have that match preparation that you wish to have. It's a confidence thing. But, you know, I had to build that up.”
Sakkari has reason to be plenty confident heading into Sunday’s final based on the run she’s made in her maiden trip to Washington.
On Friday, Sakkari worked a double shift, earning straight-set wins over both Canadian wild card Leylah Fernandez and American World No.17 Madison Keys.
That set the stage for the competitive semifinal against Pegula, the 2019 DC champion, that included several swings of momentum. Up a set and leading 4-1 in the second, Sakkari could not close as Pegula won the next five games to send the match to a decisive third stanza.
“I told myself was that it happens almost every week that someone's leading a set and a break and then the opponent comes back,” Sakkari said. “So, I was like, ‘Just don't freak out. Just try and play every point from now on without thinking what happened’… Of course, I saw the finish line when it was 4-1. I'm not going to lie. So, it wasn't easy, but then, you know, I saw it as a challenge just to overcome myself.”
Sakkari will next meet the 19-year-old Gauff, who advanced to her second final of the year (Aukland) with a 6-3, 6-3 win over the defending DC champion, Samsonova.
Following her own premature exit at Wimbledon last month, Gauff has made changes within her team and has legendary coach and TV analyst Brad Gilbert working with her as a consultant this week.
Gauff says she’s already noticing a difference in her game and has seemingly been locked in all week, winning all three of her matches in straight sets.
“I definitely feel like I'm heading in the right direction,” Gauff said. “I think just the way I'm playing is a lot better, and I think a lot of people can see that... I think this type of tennis can help me make good results. I just needed direction, and I think that they provided me that direction, so I am happy with the way I'm playing.”
Gauff, who earned her first career WTA title with a doubles crown in DC in 2019 is now seeking her first career singles crown in the U.S.