Sakkari storms into Rome quarter-finals
After already winning three matches earlier in the tournament, Greece’s Maria Sakkari won two matches on Thursday, defeating world number 16 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia and world number 5 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic at the Italian Open.
Sakkari, who was not ranked high enough to enter the main draw directly, needed to win two matches just to qualify. As the top seed in qualifying, she defeated former world number two Vera Zvonareva of Russia 6-4 6-2 and former top 10 player Andrea Petkovic of Germany 6-2 7-5. In the first round of the main draw, she defeated Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (world number 36) 6-1 7-5 on Tuesday.
Due to rain on Wednesday, both round of 32 and round of 16 matches were played on Thursday. First, Sakkari destroyed Estonian Anett Kontaveit (world number 16 and 2018 Rome semifinalist) 6-3 6-2. With this win, Sakkari improved her head-to-head record against Kontaveit to 4-3 and advanced to the round of 16 in Rome for the second consecutive year.
In Thursday night’s round of 16, Sakkari faced world number five Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic. Kvitova won their only previous meeting two months ago in Miami in straight sets. The big-hitting Czech went up 3-0 in the first set, but the Greek came back to take the set 7-5. However, Kvitova would win the second set 7-5 to force a third. With Sakkari leading 4-0 in the third set, the two-time Wimbledon champion retired from the match due to injury. This marks just the fourth top 10 victory of Sakkari’s career, and it is arguably the biggest one.
In the quarterfinals, Sakkari will take on a fellow qualifier in France’s Kristina Mladenovic. The two have never played each other before, and it should be noted that Mladenovic is a former top 10 player. The Frenchwoman also had two big wins on Thursday, upsetting Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic (world number 15) and Australia’s Ashleigh Barty (world number 9). With a win against Mladenovic, Sakkari (currently ranked 39th) would comfortably move back into the top 32, thus securing a seeding for the upcoming French Open.