Volvo Car Open: Wozniacki holds back Sakkari with straight-sets win
Caroline Wozniacki upped the ante to make sure she secured a spot in the semi-finals of the Volvo Car Open on Friday. Maria Sakkari played every point against the Dane and went the distance in the final battle for a 6-2, 6-2 result at Family Circle Tennis Center.
The experienced Dane had a very tricky outing against Buzarnescu on Thursday, making enough mistakes to gift the Romanian an opportunity to dig in and force her into a three-set thriller.
She last met the Greek star on the hard courts in China, where the challenge was moderate. However, the 23-year-old continues to grow and with recent success in her favour, she was set to prove another challenge for the former world number one to topple.
Wozniacki had a comfortable 4-0 lead over Sakkari, despite clearly enduring a challenging match. Facing a huge deficit, Sakkari broke back in the fifth game - edging the Dane on the final two points of the game.
She gained a second successive game to consolidate the break, but once the fifth seed returned to serve, she secured a 5-2 lead before breaking Sakkari to earn the set after 42 minutes. Both were struggling with dismal second serve percentages, but Wozniacki was comfortable on her first serve and strong return game, which proved key for victory.
Sakkari starts purposefully in tough second set
Sakkari, aware of the situation, came out with purpose to start the second set and blasted powerful forehands her way. Despite breaking her serve, while following it up with a strong hold to step ahead, Wozniacki consolidated a break back with her hold in the third to level the scoring. She then regained her control and comfort to rally through wins, gaining the lead once more in the fifth game.
Losing the lead clearly affected Sakkari as she let the frustrations get the better of her - calling coach Thomas Johansson to her aid, who told her to be patient and get more aggressive to dial back into proceedings. These comments were right but proved futile, as Wozniacki was on a mission to get her match over with - as a break in the sixth with a hold of serve put Sakkari on the brink of defeat with no sign of hope.
After nine breaks, four match points saved and tough shots made, Wozniacki ended the longest game of the match with a ball from Sakkari landing just long of the line to end 1 hour and 33 minutes in a tough battle, which was closer than the final score looked. The eighth game went 24 points between the pair, as Wozniacki concluded one of the hardest fights in her tournament run to date.
In her post-match interview with Andrew Krasny, she said: "We practice together in Monaco a lot on the clay courts, so I knew what I was getting myself into. She's a great player and great fighter, so it was a tough match today."
She'll have another tough encounter against Petra Martic in Saturday's semi-final, who she has faced on five occasions without ever dropping a set. "She loves clay, has a great kick, gets a lot of balls back and knows how to mix up the pace," Wozniacki said about the Croatian.