Australian Open 2019: Maria Sakkari topples Jelena Ostapenko in thrilling three-setter
Maria Sakkari showed that she is one to beat at the Australian Open on Monday. The unseeded Greek gave 22nd seeded Jelena Ostapenko a tough time on the court in a 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 win in the first round at Melbourne Park.
The Latvian had some serious struggles last season which continued into 2019 as she lost both her opening round matches at Shenzhen and Sydney. She desperately needed a win, and a good performance against the Greek star could have given her some confidence.
But Ostapenko started the set badly, committing a double fault on serve and finding herself down 0-40 very quickly. Sakkari grabbed the break point and took the lead to get a grip on the first set.
She remained firm after that despite Ostapenko making several attacking forays. But the Latvian then got into more trouble as she couldn't hold off Sakkari's own attacks, going down a double break.
At 4-0 the Latvian looked to have a hold in play at 40-30 but instead she committed her third double fault which brought it back to deuce. Sakkari caught Ostapenko sleeping for just a brief moment but couldn’t counter a great return from Ostapenko. The 21-year-old gave herself life on serve to get the AD point and then win it, ending the Greek’s four-game streak.
The joy was short-lived for the Latvian as she was unable to get a break back from Sakkari. The 23-year-old had to battle back Ostapenko who forced deuce in the seventh game. But her forehand remained consistent and she got a chance to pocket the set through her opponent’s mistakes. It was another one that brought the set to a close after 36 minutes that had the 22nd seed in serious trouble.
Ostapenko had 17 unforced errors with a 43 percent winning rate on the first serve. It was Sakkari's depth control and minimal mistakes that got her a set up.
The second set started better for Ostapenko who matched the Greek’s hold to begin the second set with one of her own. They remained on serve through six games with the Latvian playing much better tennis than she was in the first.
She went all in in the seventh game, gaining a triple break against Sakkari for the lead before consolidating with a hold of serve in the eighth. With a third set knocking on the door, the 23-year-old tried to hold off Ostapenko but her control slipped away at the wrong time.
The Latvian then got another break and pushed the match to a decider after 33 minutes. Sakkari improved on the first serve slightly but the major damage was again on the second which gave Ostapenko time to set up for her big shots.
In the third set they started with holds of serve before Sakkari found a way to pierce through. She broke Ostapenko before holding her serve to love in the fourth game.
The Latvian tried to keep it together in an attempt to record another service hold but Sakkari was on the attack. During the fifth game, when Ostapenko forced deuce, Sakkari landed a great line drive winner from the forehand before a mistake gave her the AD point. She succeeded in getting a double break with Ostapenko erring another one into the net.
The 21-year-old was getting desperate with her while Sakkari had the advantage of being much more focused. Despite another fight on deuce, the Greek landed back to back aces to go up 5-1.
A few errors from Sakkari gave Ostapenko a hold, but the writing was on the wall. The rising star in the sport knocked down Ostapenko with three match points, capping her day with a crosscourt winner which ended the match in 1 hour and 49 minutes.
Sakkari really turned herself around overall, finishing with more than 50 percent of her first serve points in and 63 percent points won on the second serve. The 11 aces and 25 winners that she totaled against Ostapenko were a huge advantage too.
She will try to match her strengths on the day to pit them against Australian hopeful Astra Sharma in Wednesday’s second round.