Sakkari outdoes Coco Gauff to round out last 16 in Abu Dhabi

Sakkari outdoes Coco Gauff to round out last 16 in Abu Dhabi

Elina Svitolina and Garbine Muguruza were also among the winners at the WTA 500 event on Saturday, but Karolina Pliskova wasn’t so lucky.

It was far closer than their only previous encounter at Cincinnati (in New York) last summer, but Maria Sakkari got the better of Coco Gauff for the second time in two meetings on Saturday, battlng back from a double break down in the first set to beat the American teenager in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2.

Gauff came out strong in the second-round clash, breaking serve in the opening game, holding her own serve and then breaking again for a 3-0 lead. The match turned on a dime from there, though, as Sakkari reeled off five games in a row to go up 5-3—Gauff got it back to 5-all but the Greek cruised from there, winning eight of the next 10 games to seal the victory after an hour and 28 minutes.

Sakkari had beaten her at the Western & Southern Open last August in 65 minutes, 6-1, 6-3.

“I just stayed patient,” Sakkari said afterwards. “I knew that I had a bad start, but I knew that I couldn’t just keep on playing that way. I had to change something. I took some stupid decisions in the first three games, so I tried to avoid doing them again, and I have to say it worked out pretty well.”

Awaiting the No. 9-seeded Sakkari in the third round will be No. 5-seeded Garbine Muguruza, who beat Aliaksandra Sasnovich earlier in the day, 6-1, 6-4. Muguruza and Sakkari have never played.

“We all know she’s a great champion—she’s won a couple of majors—and she’s been a very good player all these years,” Sakkari said of the Spaniard. “We’ve never played each other, practiced just once. I don’t have very much to say because I haven’t experienced her in a match, but it’s going to be very tough, because I think the court suits her well. It’s a fast surface. I’m looking forward to it.”

It was a mixed bag for the other three seeds in action on Saturday, with No. 2 seed Elina Svitolina beating two-time Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonareva, 6-4, 6-1, and No. 6 seed Elena Rybakina outdoing China’s Wang Xiyu, 6-4, 6-4, but No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova falling to No. 292-ranked Russian qualifier Anastasia Gasanova, 6-2, 6-4, in the first huge stunner of the 2021 women's tennis season.

Getty Images

The 21-year-old Gasanova, who’s playing her first tour-level main draw this week, scored her first Top 10 win over the No. 6-ranked Czech—it was actually her first time even playing a Top 100 player.

“It was not me on the court. I was so sure of myself. I’m really happy right now,” Gasanova said.

“I’m really surprised, but when I woke up today, I thought, ‘Why not?’ Like, ‘Why can’t I win this match?’ I thought I would lose in qualies or something like that, but I just kept pushing myself.”

All eight round-of-16 matches will take place on Sunday, including the Muguruza-Sakkari clash, as well as No. 1 seed Sofia Kenin taking on Yulia Putintseva. In the first match on Centre Court, No. 4 seed Aryna Sabalenka puts her 11-match winning streak on the line against giant-killer Ons Jabeur.