Apart from the obvious incentive of bagging a place in the last four, Greek tennis star Maria Sakkari will also be keen to set the record straight as she takes on World Number 4 Sofia Kenin in the quarter-final of the ongoing WTA Abu Dhabi 2021 on Monday.
The 22-ranked Greek star has been playing some of her best tennis in the event so far and upset two-time Grand Slam champion and current World Number 15 Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-4 on Sunday to storm into the last eight.
Such was her dominance over the higher-ranked and relatively more accomplished Spaniard on the day that she fired 11 aces to Muguruza’s one and converted three of her nine breakpoints to eventually win in straight sets.
Sakkari trails the American 0-2 in head-to-head battles going into the round-of-eight tie and will be desperate to put one past Kenin in a bid to exact a measure of revenge on her.
The American came back from a set down in the round-of-16 tie on Sunday to beat Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan and book a place in the quarters.
Kenin was lucky to progress to the quarter-final after Belgian Kirsten Flipkens conceded the fourth-round tie following a freak injury on court. The Belgian had won the opening set and was trailing 4-5 in the second before she tripped on an advertising block placed near the baseline while trying to track back for a return.
She fell to the floor and clutched at her ankle, grimacing in pain. The Belgian eventually pulled out of the tournament, realizing that she wouldn’t be able to continue.
Though the reigning Australian Open champion is the favorite, on paper, to move into the semi-final, the Greek, in marauding form and coming off an upset win, has every chance of dumping another title-contender out of the tournament.
The thing that stood out in Sakkari’s win over Muguruza on Sunday was that she wasn’t overawed by her opponent’s strengths and reputation, going into the game, and showed remarkable belief and confidence in her ability to sail into the last eight.
Kenin presents a contrasting picture as she clearly hasn’t hit top form so far in the tournament, and if the performance against Flipkens is any indication, there is a significant room for improvement.
And with Sakkari at her menacing best, Kenin has to play flawless tennis if she has to progress to the semi-final.