Sakkari weathers Gauff storm to book Swiatek clash in Indian Wells final

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Agency:
Maria Sakkari needed three sets and four match points to get past US Open champion Coco Gauff on March 15, setting up a final with world No. 1 Iga Swiatek at the Indian Wells Open.

In a match halted twice by rain, the ninth-ranked Greek squandered three match points in the second set but pulled away in the third to win 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2.

“I didn’t give up,” Sakkari said. “You can easily lose your head when you lose that second set from being match point up.

“Things go wrong and I was down a break. Things didn’t look right, but I just kept believing and kept fighting.”

For the second time in three years, she will take on Swiatek for the title after falling to the Polish star in 2022.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek needed just 69 minutes to clinch her return to the championship match, beating the 32nd-ranked Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-1.

There would be no easy victory for Sakkari, who trailed 4-3 in the opening set when light rain stopped play for 20 minutes.
Sakkari returned and held serve before gaining the only break of the opening set, converting her fifth break point.

The second set had barely begun when heavier rain halted play for two hours. When it resumed, Sakkari struck first, breaking an error-prone Gauff for 2-1 and again for a 5-2 lead.

But the world No. 3, playing in the Indian Wells semi-finals for the first time, responded.

Gauff broke Sakkari handily to claw back to 5-3.

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Two games later, Sakkari battled back from 15-40 down but could not convert her three match points.

She sent a forehand long on the first before Gauff saved two more with winners on the way to a service break that knotted the set at 5-5.

The tiebreaker was all Gauff as the American roared to a 6-2 lead, finally levelling the match with a service winner on her fourth set point.

They exchanged service breaks to start the third set, but Sakkari won the next three games to take control and broke Gauff a final time to seal the win after two hours and 41 minutes.

“I don’t want to disrespect Coco but it would’ve been amazing if this match was over an hour ago,” Sakkari told the hardy fans who braved the cold night air and rain.

“I’m going to take this win, even though it was in three sets. That was an amazing win.

“Coco is such an amazing opponent. She’s incredible. She fights every point. I’m just so happy I’m in the final once again here.”

Swiatek, meanwhile, was in complete control throughout against Kostyuk.

“I think it was the cleanest match I played here,” said the 22-year-old, who hit 14 winners with just six unforced errors.

“I didn’t really have any moment today in the match where I didn’t feel confident. I have all the positive vibes.”

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