Maria Sakkari holds off Simona Halep fightback to advance in Moscow
Maria Sakkari completed the Kremlin Cup semi-final line-up as she overcame the 2013 winner to guarantee a first-time champion.
The Greek star qualified for the WTA Finals by reaching the quarter-finals, so was no doubt on a high in Moscow.
And to start her meeting with Simona Halep, Sakkari’s form reflected those feelings.
She went up an early break on the Romanian, eventually claiming the opening set 6-4. Up a double break in the second and serving for the match at 5-1, the result looked all but decided for Sakkari.
Halep had other ideas though, holding off a match point in that game before rallying to be back on serve at 4-5. Sakkari slammed the door on Halep from there, closing the match 6-4, 6-4.
“It was a very tough match today,” she said in her post-match interview. “It was the first time I played Simona [Halep] but I knew what to expect.
“She makes more balls [than probably] any other player. I had a tough moment in the second set when I was 5-1 up but finally I found a way.
The semi-finalists are Sakkari, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Anett Kontaveit and Market Vondrousova. None of the four women have won the event before, guaranteeing a first-time champion for the fourth consecutive event.
Halep was herself the last remaining former champion in the Moscow draw. Sakkari will next take on home talent Alexandrova for a shot at her second final of the season.
Finally, should she reach the final, Sakkari would improve her career-best ranking. Currently seventh in the rankings, a semi-final victory would see her overtake Elina Svitolina to world number six.
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