Maria Sakkari produced an amazing comeback to progress to the semifinals of the St. Petersburg Ladies Trophy on Friday. The Greek overcame a sluggish start before overwhelming Belinda Bencic 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 at Sibur Arena. The win was just Sakkari's eighth against top-10 players in her career.
The two had squared off once in the past, with Sakkari cruising past Bencic in straight sets at last year's Hopman Cup. However, Bencic, coming off a day's rest following her victory against Svetlana Kuznetsova, entered the contest as the slight favorite.
Bencic got off to a quick start, breaking early and racing away to a 4-1 lead. Sakkari looked for ways to get back into the match and forced a deuce on Bencic's serve in the sixth game. However, the Swiss was able to withstand the Greek's surge and extend her lead.
Sakkari extended the set with a hold of serve, but Bencic had no trouble serving out the opener in 36 minutes. Both players committed a similar number of unforced errors, but Bencic managed to win nine more points in the set, which proved to be the difference.
The two players traded holds and breaks in the second set and Sakkari produced a strong service game at 4-4 to inch into the lead. Two double faults from the world number five gifted the set away as Sakkari leveled proceedings.
Bencic responded strongly in the third, breaking early, but Sakkari hit back to level the set. The two players traded service holds until the eighth game when Sakkari, leading 4-3, made her move. Drawing errors from the Swiss' racquet, Sakkari earned another break which gave her the chance to serve for the match.
However, Bencic was not finished just yet and managed to save two match points before finally succumbing at the third time of asking. Sakkari will now take on eighth seed Elena Rybakina in the semi-final.