No.4 seed Maria Sakkari battled into her first singles final of the year with a topsy-turvy 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 victory over No.1 seed Jessica Pegula in the Mubadala Citi DC Open semifinals on Saturday.
Sakkari of Greece needed just over two hours to outlast top seed Pegula, the 2019 Washington champion and top-ranked American. Sakkari moves into her eighth career singles final, and she is now a win away from her second Hologic WTA Tour title.
World No.9 Sakkari will face the winner of the second semifinal for the title on Sunday. Her final opponent will either be American No.2 Coco Gauff or defending champion Liudmila Samsonova.
D.C. breakthrough: In her Washington tournament debut, Sakkari has made it all the way to the championship match. Sakkari’s run is even more impressive considering she collected all three of her wins this week in a 29-hour span.
After her first-round bye, Sakkari won both her rain-delayed second-round match with Leylah Fernandez and her quarterfinal clash with Madison Keys on Friday afternoon.
This week marks Sakkari’s first trip to a final since October of last year, when she finished as runner-up at the WTA 1000 event in Guadalajara. Ironically, it was Pegula who defeated Sakkari in that final.
Before this week, Sakkari had made five semifinals this year (not including the United Cup team event), but she did not convert any of those opportunities into a final. However, the Greek made it happen on Saturday as she extended her head-to-head lead over Pegula to 5-3.
Streaky semifinal: Sakkari built a commanding 6-3, 4-1 lead on Saturday, but the Greek was forced to collect herself after Pegula reeled off five games in a row to steal the second set.
In the final set, Pegula saved four break points during a gritty hold for 1-1, as the top seed aimed to complete the comeback with a win. But Sakkari slammed a forehand winner down the line to break for a 4-2 lead, and the Greek eased to victory after saving a break point during her hold for 5-2.
Sakkari finished the match with 36 winners to Pegula's 14, and she had only two more unforced errors than the American.