WASHINGTON (AP) — Maria Sakkari let a huge lead disappear but recovered to take the last four games and beat top-seeded Jessica Pegula 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in the DC Open semifinals Saturday.
Sakkari, a 28-year-old from Greece who is ranked No. 9 and seeded No. 4 at the tune-up for the U.S. Open, is trying to win her second career WTA Tour trophy and first on hard courts. She was up by a set and a break at 4-1 in the second before Pegula forced a third.
“Well, obviously it would have been ideal if I could be off the court an hour earlier, but at the end, I got the win, which I wanted the most,” Sakkari said. “In the third set, I just tried to stay in the present and I tried to overcome myself and take it as a new challenge.”
She enters Sunday’s title match against Coco Gauff or defending champion Liudmila Samsonova with an 0-5 record in hard-court finals.
It was hazy and steamy on Saturday, with no breeze to speak of, a temperature above 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and humidity at 50%. In the stands, many spectators tried to cool themselves by flapping hand-held fans.
Sakkari, twice a Grand Slam semifinalist in 2021, needed less than an hour to build that big edge against Pegula, who will be ranked No. 3 next week and is a six-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist.
Pegula, a 29-year-old American, was not attempting to hide her frustration at how things were going. After dropping one point early in the second set, she shrieked. After missing a backhand return in the same game, she chucked her racket to the ground. After double-faulting later, she smacked a ball into the stands.
At 4-2 in the second, Sakkari was two points from serving for the victory. And then, as has happened before to Sakkari, she tightened up, began playing far less cleanly and gave up that edge.
Pegula hadn’t so much as earned a break chance until then. But suddenly she began accumulating them, moving her shots around with more variety and, over a span of 25 minutes, grabbing five consecutive games to even things at a set apiece.
When the second set ended, Pegula waved her hands to get the partisan crowd to make more noise.
From 2-all in the third, though, Sakkari asserted herself and took over along the way to her first final of the season.
The men’s semifinals later Saturday were No. 1 seed Taylor Fritz vs. No. 12 Tallon Griekspoor, followed by No. 5 Grigor Dimitrov vs. No. 9 Dan Evans. Fritz, Griekspoor and Evans all had to win twice on Friday after much of Thursday’s schedule was wiped out by rain.
AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis