The Pick: Maria Sakkari v. Garbine Muguruza, WTA Abu Dhabi preview

The Pick: Maria Sakkari v. Garbine Muguruza, WTA Abu Dhabi preview

After "a very, very good pre-season" according to Sakkari's coach Tom Hill, look for the Greek to upset Muguruza in Abu Dhabi.

Maria Sakkari’s coach, Tom Hill, is excited about his player’s prospects for the 2021 season. 

“We had a very, very good pre-season, so I’m hoping it translates into a great season."

So far it has. Sakkari cruised through her first two rounds, including a dominant 7-5, 6-2 victory over Coco Gauff. The Greek will now face two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza for the first time. Both Sakkari and Muguruza appear to be in fantastic form, and according to the oddsmakers, this match is essentially a pick-em, with Muguruza listed as a slight -130 favorite. 

While Hill wouldn’t reveal the exact game plan against the Spaniard, you can be sure it will involve Sakkari ripping crosscourt forehands to Muguruza’s weaker forehand wing. Against Gauff, Sakkari’s forehand was firing, and if she’s able to repeat her ball-striking performance from Saturday morning, she is perfectly capable of pulling off the upset. 

Sakkari’s movement appeared more explosive than ever, while her forehand was absolutely jumping off the strings. 

Muguruza’s backhand is one of the best shots on tour. In her first round against Mladenovic, she was content to simply make her forehand and wait for an opportunity to pounce on her backhand. 

Look for Sakkari to pepper Muguruza’s forehand, then step up early to rip her backhand to the open court, just like she does here against Gauff. 

First encounters are always interesting, and while this match is a total toss-up, I expect Sakkari’s clear-cut game plan to pay dividends in this fantastic third round clash. 

The Pick: Maria Sakkari