Super Sakkari to face Venus Williams in Third Round of U.S. Open


22-year-old Maria Sakkari continues to put Greek tennis on the map, as she has once again reached the third round of a major. This time, she won two consecutive straight set matches at the US Open to become the first Greek player ever (male or female) to reach the third round at three Grand Slams in the same calendar year. She also made the third round at this year’s Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Sakkari started off the week by defeating 24th seeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands in the first round, 6-3 6-4. This was the biggest win of Sakkari’s career rankings wise, as she had never beaten a top 30 player prior to this tournament. She then ousted Australian wildcard Arina Rodionova in the second round, 7-5 6-3, thus becoming the first Greek to make it to the third round of the US Open since Eleni Daniilidou did so in 2004.

Next up for Sakkari is 9th seeded and two-time US Open champion, Venus Williams. Williams has had a lot of success in majors this season, as she was the runner-up at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon. The two players have met once before, at Wimbledon 2016, where Williams prevailed 7-5 4-6 6-3. Both ladies will fight for a spot in the round of 16, where the winner will face the winner of the Makarova vs. Suarez Navarro match. Sakkari’s match will take place on Friday, not before 3PM local time, at Arthur Ashe Stadium. It will be the first time since 2005 (Daniilidou vs. Sharapova) that a Greek will play in the largest tennis stadium in the world.

Sakkari also revealed her new coach this week, the Swede Thomas Johansson. Johansson, the 2002 Australian Open champion, has been working with the 95th ranked Greek for just a few weeks. Despite this short time together, Sakkari says that she has already made many changes in her game with Johansson.

Also competing at the US Open were Greek youngsters Stefanos Tsitsipas and Valentini Grammatikopoulou, both of whom lost in qualifying.

Tsitsipas, the former junior world number one, did not manage to qualify for the main draw despite doing so at the last two Grand Slam events. After a 4-6 6-1 6-1 win over China’s Di Wu in the first round of qualifying, he had to come back the next night where he faced 28th seeded Matteo Berrettini of Italy. In a dramatic match that lasted nearly three hours, the Greek came out victorious in three tiebreak sets, 6-7 7-6 7-6. 18 hours later, Tsitsipas had to come back to face 14th seeded Nicolas Mahut of France. After a controversial line call may have costed Tsitsipas the opening set tiebreak, he rallied back to take the second 6-3. Unfortunately for the Greek, the experienced French player was too strong in the end, as he qualified for the main draw with a 7-6 3-6 6-0 win. Mahut is currently through to the third round of the main draw for the second consecutive year, showing that Tsitsipas should not get discouraged by the result as he clearly had a difficult draw.

Grammatikopoulou came to New York hoping to qualify for her first Grand Slam main draw. This seemed like an achievable goal for the player from Kilkis, as just a few weeks ago she qualified for her first WTA main draw in Washington DC, where she fell in the first round to Wimbledon 2013 runner-up Sabine Lisicki of Germany in two tiebreak sets. Like Tsitsipas, Grammatikopoulou was also a victim of a difficult draw, as she had to face 15th seeded Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic in the first round. The girls split sets, as the Greek took the first 6-4 but dropped the second in a tiebreak after fighting back from being down 5-3 in the set. In the final set, Grammatikopoulou raced out to a 4-1 lead and looked to be heading into the next round of qualifying. However, it was the Czech who would rally back to win the match 4-6 7-6 6-4. Martincova would then go on to win her next two rounds without dropping a set to qualify for the main draw.
by Andrew Stamas

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