Maria Sakkari, the world No. 6, reached her first WTA 1000 final on Friday night, defeating defending champion Paula Badosa 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals. The victory sets up a battle for No. 2 on Sunday, with Sakkari aiming to break No. 4 Iga Swiatek’s 10-match winning streak and win her first major title. She is playing in her second final of the season, after reaching the WTA 500 in St. Petersburg. Sakkari had reached seven semifinals and two finals in her last ten tournaments coming into Indian Wells this year. She was 0-4 in the semifinals at the WTA 1000 level prior to Friday night.
“I’ll be deadly honest that I never, ever thought about it. I have a lot of people around me telling me about the semifinals and that I was not able to get over this hurdle,” Sakkari said. “But I never, ever thought about it because I was always very confident and had a lot of belief that I would just get over it soon and it clicked, I guess.”
Sakkari dominated the first set in just 37 minutes, while Badosa struggled to find her range and rhythm. Badosa was outplayed by the Greek star, who hit 11 winners to the Spaniard’s two and won 75% of second-serve return points. On the strength of her serve, Badosa turned the tables in the second set. Badosa landed 72.4% of her serves in the second set after serving at just over 53.8% in the first. Badosa broke Sakkari twice to build a 4-2 lead and took care of her service games to force a decider, despite being broken once.
Badosa won the only previous match between the two, defeating Sakkari in straight sets at the WTA Finals last fall. In Indian Wells, neither woman had yet to drop a set.
“I was very concerned before the match because Paula is playing differently than the other girls,” Sakkari said on court. “She has a very heavy game. She obviously loves this tournament because she won it six months ago. I had full faith and I believed in myself every single moment.”