Maria Sakkari marched into the Rabat semifinals after a 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory over defending champion Elise Mertens. Sakkari will next face off against another Belgian, Alison Van Uytvanck.

Mertens struggled with a shoulder injury that affected her serve, hitting eight double faults in the two sets. She received a lengthy ten-minute medical timeout late in the second set.

"I know her from juniors, so we go way back," Mertens said before the match. "She's a great clay-court player."

The 23-year-old Belgian now holds a 3-3 record against Sakkari, who is also 23.

Mertens has risen up the ranks since reaching the 2018 Australian Open semifinals. She recently won Doha, beating three Top 10 players—Kiki Bertens, Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep—en route to the title. Though she has not gone deep in singles since then, she partnered with Aryna Sabalenka to win the doubles title at Indian Wells, and the two also won in Miami.

Advertising

Maria Sakkari dethrones defending Rabat champion Elise Mertens

Maria Sakkari dethrones defending Rabat champion Elise Mertens

Merten began 2019 ranked No. 12, but has fallen to No. 18 and is expected to drop further give her quarterfinal loss. Win or lose, she's always eager to hit the practice courts.

“Off court, I think I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but that’s not always good because maybe sometimes I need to take some rest or slow it down a little bit," she told the WTA in a recent interview. "But I’m still like, ‘Yes, but I still have to work on this."

Mertens is coached by David Taylor and trains at the Kim Clijsters academy, where the former Grand Slam champion sometimes assists her. During the Australian Open, Tennis Channel commentator Martina Navratilova said the younger Belgian has great potential.

"She seems very strong mentally, moves well, and doesn't have any weaknesses," Navratilova said. "[Clijsters] knows how to play the game and I'm sure she's given Elise some good pointers. That always helps to get a champion's viewpoint."

Maria Sakkari dethrones defending Rabat champion Elise Mertens

Maria Sakkari dethrones defending Rabat champion Elise Mertens