Maria Sakkari reached the second Premier semifinal of her young career as the Greek impressively defeated her childhood idol and the legendary Venus Williams in the quarterfinals of the 2018 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. The 23-year-old, who reached a career-high ranking of 33 in June, upset the American with a 6-4, 7-6 scoreline having retrieved back from early deficits to triumph in both sets.
It was a disappointing performance from Williams as her horrid year continues to bother her. She misfired on 43 different occasions and only produced 17 winners throughout the affair. The American is currently ranked 39th on the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard and her ranking is kept afloat with her US Open and Singapore runs from last year.
Whereas, Sakkari came into the tournament on a four-match losing streak, but stunned eighth seed Timea Babos 6-0, 6-1 and had a match point for a double-bagel victory in their second-round encounter. She blasted 21 winners and had some clean statistics in this match, storming to the tough win which took her 103 minutes.
Sakkari grabs six of the last seven games to take the first set
Williams managed to start the match with a confident service hold as the American fired down several unreturnable serves to grab the perfect beginning. Things seemed to be going Williams’ way as Sakkari failed to find her footing in the early stages, committing several unforced errors which ultimately gifted the first break to the third seed and wildcard. Remaining solid at the baseline and coming up with some consistent serving, it was Williams who powered to a commanding 3-0 lead within a blink of an eye.
However, Sakkari roared straight back into contention after the changeover allowed her to calm down and reset her tactics. The youngster started to dictate play and control the proceedings as she came out of nowhere to rattle off 20 of the next 24 points to take a formidable 5-3 lead all of a sudden.
Williams was struggling to deal with Sakkari’s pace and power while also committing an abundance of errors which caused her to lose the lead. Sakkari looked unstoppable on her serve, winning 90 percent of her first serves to take the first set 6-4 after 34 minutes of play. The world number 14 threw in an astonishing 17 unforced errors alongside just three winners while Sakkari was less erratic; hitting just 12 unforced errors which mostly came in the opening stages.
Williams fails to convert her chances and Sakkari pounces on hers
It was a nervy start to the second set for Williams as the 38-year-old found herself in trouble on her serve once more. This time, she managed to serve her way out of the trouble, and claim the confidence-boosting hold after a slight tussle. Another marathon game followed and the second set seemed to be an exact replica of the first after Williams was the first to earn the breakthrough yet again.
Fending off three game points, the eight-time finalist at this tournament converted her first break point to take the 2-0 lead before she grabbed three chances to consolidate the break in the following game. However, the sense of déjà vu overwhelmed Williams — who allowed Sakkari to claim three games on the trot and lead by a set and a break.
Williams’ game did not seem to be clicking as her powerful serves were not followed up by her solid groundstrokes, often gifting Sakkari with the opportunities to overpower her. Unexpectedly, just when the match seemed to be over, Williams stormed back with three straight games of her own, earning the perfect chance to serve out the set.
However, it just wasn’t meant to be as Sakkari came up with several impressive returns to break straight back at love, before saving two set points — one with a backhand winner and the other with a forehand winner. She held her nerves and ultimately extended the set into an 11th game. Williams was clearly affected by the failure to convert her chances as she was on the verge of letting out her frustration, and she soon lost her serve by committing four consecutive errors to gift Sakkari with the break.
By viciously attacking the second serves of Sakkari, Williams was able to handle the pressure and broke straight back for a tiebreak. The tiebreak was a one-sided affair as Sakkari showed some nerves of steel and her champion’s mentality allowed her to overcome the disappointment from failing to serve out the match, closing out one of the biggest wins of her career with a huge forehand winner.