WTA

Sakkari sinks Halep hopes in Moscow as Kremlin Cup big names suffer

By Sports Desk October 22, 2021

Maria Sakkari admitted she got twitchy before finishing off Simona Halep to reach the Kremlin Cup semi-finals.

The Greek star is chasing what would be just her second career title at WTA level, but the limited silverware belies her growing reputation: Sakkari has shot up to a career-high seventh in the world rankings during her best season on tour.

Looking to finish with a flourish, both in Moscow and next month at the season-ending WTA Finals, Sakkari scored a 6-4 6-4 victory over former world number one Halep on Friday.

The victory sets up a last-four clash with Ekaterina Alexandrova, after the Russian impressed a home crowd by landing a 6-3 6-4 win against top seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Yet Sakkari was almost reeled in by Halep from the point of victory in the second set, being unable to finish off the match on her own serve after building a 5-1 lead. Halep twice broke back, before dropping her own serve.

"It was a very tough match today," Sakkari said in an on-court interview. "It was the first time I'd played Simona, but I knew what to expect: she makes a lot of balls, more than any other player. I had a tough moment in the second set when I was 5-1 up, but finally, I found a way. I got a little nervous, a little bit tired.

"The last couple of months have been tough, I've been travelling a lot so haven't recovered enough. I just tried harder in the last game and just went for it."

Alexandrova's shock win over Sabalenka gave her a sixth career victory over a top-10 player. Second seed Garbine Muguruza followed Sabalenka out of the tournament, walloped 6-1 6-1 by in-form Estonian Anett Kontaveit, who has won 19 of her last 21 matches on tour, including beating Sakkari in the Ostrava final last month.

Kontaveit's semi-final opponent at the WTA 500 event will be Marketa Vondrousova, who claimed a 6-4 6-2 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

At the Tenerife Open, Italian Camila Giorgi is the only seeded survivor in the semi-finals. The Italian fourth seed saw off Arantxa Rus 6-1 6-1, with Frenchwoman Alize Cornet and American Ann Li also among Friday's winners at the WTA 250 tournament.

Related items

  • Serena Williams to miss Australian Open Serena Williams to miss Australian Open

    Serena Williams has withdrawn from the Australian Open as she is not yet ready to make a comeback from injury.

    Williams has not played since suffering a torn hamstring at Wimbledon in June.

    The 40-year-old stated last month that she was "better" and planned to play in the first grand slam of 2022 at Melbourne Park.

    Williams will not go in search of a record-equalling 24th major title next month, though, revealing she is not fit enough to take her place in the draw.

    She said in a statement: "Following the advice of my medical team, I have decided to withdraw from this year's Australian Open. While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete. 

    "Melbourne  is one of my favourite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the AO every year. I will miss seeing the fans but am excited to return and compete at my highest level."

    The legendary American's last grand slam triumph came at the Australian Open in 2017.

    While Williams will not compete, world number one Ash Barty will participate, as will US Open champion Emma Raducanu and four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka.

  • Tennis Australia insist no loopholes are being explored after Djokovic is named on Australian Open entry list Tennis Australia insist no loopholes are being explored after Djokovic is named on Australian Open entry list

    Novak Djokovic has been included in the official entry list for the 2022 Australian Open, with Tennis Australia adamant that no loopholes are being explored.

    The world number one, who has won nine of his 20 grand slam titles in Melbourne, has not yet disclosed his COVID-19 vaccination status, meaning there is doubt over whether he will be able to participate.

    Every person competing or attending the grand slam next month will need to have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

    However, despite the uncertainty, the 34-year-old was named in the official list of players for the tournament draw.

    Djokovic had already been named in Serbia's team for the ATP Cup, which is to be held in Sydney, leading to speculation that he could enter Australia by travelling directly to New South Wales, which has different COVID-19 restrictions to the state of Victoria, and may then seek a medical exemption to get around the rules applying to unvaccinated travellers.

    James Merlino, Victoria's deputy premier, responded to these reports, which also suggested Djokovic had the backing of Tennis Australia.

    "My view on this is really clear and really simple," Merlino said on Wednesday. "Everyone's looking forward to the Australian Open and everyone who will attend – spectators, players, officials, staff – everyone is expected to be fully vaccinated.

    "They're the rules. Medical exemptions are just that – it's not a loophole for privileged tennis players. It is a medical exemption in exceptional circumstances if you have an acute medical condition."

    Tennis Australia responded to Merlino's comments with a statement of their own.

    "Any suggestion that Tennis Australia is seeking 'loopholes' within this process is simply untrue. Adjudicating on medical exemptions is the domain of independent medical experts. We are not in a position to influence this process and nor would we," the statement read.

    "Any application for a medical exemption must follow strict government guidelines based on ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) clinical advice. This is the same process that applies to any person wanting to enter Australia."

    While Djokovic's participation is unclear, Serena Williams is a big-name absentee. The 40-year-old, who is one shy of matching Margaret Court's record tally of 23 grand slams, had been expected to play in Melbourne.

    Roger Federer had already confirmed his absence, but Rafael Nadal is set to compete for the first time since August.

    World number two and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev takes his place in the draw, as does 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

    Australian world number one Ash Barty headlines the women's field, with Naomi Osaka, US Open winner Emma Raducanu and WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza also in the draw.

    Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, has decided to skip the event to focus on her mental wellbeing.

  • Ash Barty named WTA POTY, Emma Raducanu nets newcomer award Ash Barty named WTA POTY, Emma Raducanu nets newcomer award

    Ash Barty has won the WTA's Player of the Year award for a second time, while Emma Raducanu's sensational 2021 season was capped with the Newcomer of the Year prize on Tuesday.

    Barty collected the tour's top individual year-end award in 2019, having won the French Open and finished that season as the world number one.

    And after Sofia Kenin succeeded her in 2020, Barty is back on top this year.

    This was the third straight season the Australian superstar claimed the year-end number one ranking, and it saw her land a second major title at Wimbledon. Barty's five WTA titles in 2021 were unsurpassed.

    But she has had to share the limelight in recent months with Raducanu, and that was the case again as the 19-year-old Briton was unsurprisingly hailed as the tour's star newcomer.

    Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a grand slam when she swept to glory at the US Open, having also impressed in a run to the last 16 at Wimbledon.

    The teenager, who has risen from 343rd to 19th in the rankings in the past year, won 10 straight matches without dropping a set from the first qualifying round to the final at Flushing Meadows.

    Elsewhere, Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova collected a pair of awards, scooping Most Improved Player and, alongside Olympic, WTA Finals and French Open-winning partner Katerina Siniakova, the Doubles Team of the Year.

    Carla Suarez Navarro, who retired in 2020 and was then diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, returned to the tour cancer free in 2021 for a farewell season and carried off the Comeback Player of the Year award.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.