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Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa cruise in WTA Finals openers

Oct 9, 2021; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Maria Sakkari (GRE) serves against Viktorija Golubic (SUI) at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2021; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Maria Sakkari (GRE) serves against Viktorija Golubic (SUI) at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sakkari is fond of Iga Swiatek, but the fourth-seeded Greek player showed no mercy to her fifth-seeded Polish opponent Thursday until after their first-round match at the WTA Finals at Guadalajara, Mexico.

Sakkari rolled to a 6-2, 6-4 victory in 87 minutes to open Group A.

The group’s second match was even more one-sided, with No. 7 Paula Badosa of Spain routing No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 6-4, 6-0 in 77 minutes.

Sakkari, the first Greek woman ever to make the WTA Finals, attempted to comfort a crying Swiatek at the matching end, hugging her at the net.

“More than anything we’re human,” said Sakkari, 26. “OK, it’s another tennis match. She’s only 20 years old. She’s going to have many more chances than I’ll have in the future because it’s only the beginning for her.

“I saw that she was struggling. It wasn’t a nice thing to see from the other side of the net. She’s a very, very nice girl. I mean, we always have great practices and great chats.”

Sakkari never dropped her serve, saving both break points she faced. She finished with a 15-8 edge in winners and had fewer unforced errors, 29-22.

“I actually have a good game to play against her,” said Sakkari, who improved to 3-0 in her career vs. Swiatek. “All three times I played her, I played one of the best matches of the season. Like even today, I think I was very solid in these conditions.”

Badosa was similarly effective against Sabalenka, particularly on the key points. She converted all five of her break opportunities and saved six of Sabalenka’s seven break chances.

While the winner totals were nearly identical (15-14 for Sabalenka), the Belarusian struggled with unforced errors, giving along 31 points to just 19 from Badosa.

Group B play continues Friday. No. 8 Anett Kontaveit of Estonia and No. 3 Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic face off in a matchup of players who won their openers, while No. 6 Garbine Muguruza of Spain and No. 2 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic will attempt to bounce back from opening defeats.

The top two players in each group will advance to the semifinals.

Upper Austria Ladies Linz

The semifinals in Linz, Austria, were cut short, with one match ending after one set and the other never getting started.

Lucky loser Jaqueline Cristian got through to the final when her Romanian compatriot, second-seeded Simona Halep, was forced to default due to a left knee injury. Cristian became the fifth WTA Tour player in the past 21 years to lose in qualifying for a tournament, then luck into a spot the main draw and advance all the way to the final.

In an all-United States semifinal, eighth-seeded Alison Riske won the first set 7-5, then advanced when Danielle Collins was forced to retire because of a right shoulder injury.

–Field Level Media