US Open: Sakkari reaps rewards for bravery in late-night thriller

By Sports Desk September 07, 2021

Maria Sakkari felt she got her just rewards for being brave as she triumphed in a late-night US Open thriller against Bianca Andreescu.

The Greek sealed a 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 victory in a gruelling last-16 clash that finally concluded at 02:13 local time in New York – the latest finish to a women's singles match in tournament history.

Sakkari saved eight of the 12 break points she faced as she racked up 46 winners and 40 unforced errors after adopting a bold approach to fight back from a set down and wrap up the victory in three hours and 30 minutes.

She ended 2019 champion Andreescu's 10-match unbeaten streak at the US Open and was delighted to see her tactics pay off, with Karolina Pliskova standing between her and second grand slam semi-final of the year.

Speaking about her fearless showing, Sakkari, who was beaten in the last four at Roland Garros, said: "It's something that I've been working with [coach] Tom [Hill] since end of last year, but I felt like I lost that bravery after the French. I was more hesitant. I was not going for it so much.

"After my loss [in Cincinnati] with Angie [Angelique Kerber] I just practiced for two weeks. I had some very tough practices where I was crying because I could not feel my shots, I could not feel my tennis. But thankfully I had Tom and Yannis, my hitting partner, that supported me a lot.

"I lost my identity. That's how I called it. I lost myself, part of myself. With my psychologist, as well, I found a way to come back and feel again what I felt out there today.

"By telling myself to be more brave, it's not like, Maria, now be brave, and you're brave. It's just a process in practice and everything that has helped me to be more brave.

"I mean, there was a decent crowd staying until 2:30 at night. I said, Maria, you cannot give up. Just stay focused and stay calm and just make balls."

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    The final in 2019 was Halep's fifth at a major, but she has not been back to that stage since.

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    Halep explained after the Anisimova match that confidence was key, having proven her game was back at a high level in reaching six semi-finals in 2022 – second only to Iga Swiatek (eight) on the WTA Tour.

    Three of those last-four appearances have now been on grass, with Johanna Konta in 2017 the last player to achieve that feat in a calendar year.

    "Definitely I've played the best tennis [since 2019]," Halep said in her on-court interview. "I struggled a lot last year; now, I'm just trying to build my confidence back.

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    "But I just believed in myself and said that I had to stay there, strong on my legs – they helped me today – and I believed until the end that I could win."

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