Karolina Pliskova is known for her powerful serve, but Maria Sakkari stole her thunder.
The 17th-seeded Sakkari covered every inch of the court and absolutely dominated on serve Wednesday night, defeating Pliskova 6-4, 6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium to advance to the semifinals of the U.S. Open for the first time in her career. Sakkari, who became the first Greek woman to reach the U.S. Open singles semifinals, will face Britain’s teenage phenom Emma Raducanu on Thursday for a spot in her first major final.
Aside from not facing a single break point in the match, Sakkari lost just eight total points on serve for the match. There was a stretch through the first set and early games of the second where Sakkari won 22 consecutive service points.
“I’m impressed,” Sakkari said of the stat in her post-match on-court interview. “I trusted my serve, but now I’m gonna trust it even more.”
The fourth-seeded Pliskova struggled to find her forehand rhythm, stumbling into three double faults and 20 unforced errors.
It was Sakkari’s third straight win over a top-10 seed, having defeated No. 6 Bianca Andreescu and No. 10 Petra Kvitova. Heading into her matchup with Radacanu, Sakkari will be the favorite for the first time in her past three matches.
“She’s a new player on tour, so I don’t know much about her,” said Sakkari, who finished with 22 winners and 12 unforced errors. “Obviously, she’s having the tournament of her life, she deserves to be here. She has won all these matches. I wouldn’t call myself the favorite, I think we all have equal chances of winning.”
Sakkari was coming off a three-hour 30-minute match against Andreescu on Monday, where she ended the 2019 champion’s 11-match unbeaten streak at the U.S. Open with a riveting 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-3 win — albeit with a late injury to Andreescu. In her pre-match interview, Sakkari revealed that she had slept a total of 18 hours to prepare for Pliskova.
Prior to the Open, Sakkari ended Naomi Osaka’s 23-match winning streak at the Miami Open and Poland’s Iga Swiatek’s 11-match French Open undefeated streak, as well.
Coming into Wednesday’s match, Sakkari and Pliskova each had one win over the other. Sakkari took the first match 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 at the 2018 WTA Italian Open before Pliskova got her revenge a year later, winning 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals of the same tournament.
Pliskova had cruised through the 2021 U.S. Open up until facing Sakkari, losing just one set across four rounds. The 29-year-old, whose best finish was reaching the final in 2016, defeated American teenager Caty McNally, Ajla Tomljanovic and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to reach the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows for the first time in three years.
“I didn’t have any chances on her serve,” Pliskova said. “I don’t think I played the best tennis today. I don’t think I was serving the way I was serving the last couple matches, which you have to serve against opponents like this because she doesn’t give you much for free.”