24 Sep 2023, 10:17

Sakkari downs Dolehide for WTA Guadalajara title

GUADALAJARA, Mexico, Sept 24, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - Second-seeded Maria Sakkari ended her four-year wait for a second WTA title on Saturday, beating Caroline Dolehide 7-5, 6-3 to win the 1000 level Guadalajara Open.

Greece's Sakkari, ranked ninth in the world, had come up empty in six finals since her breakthrough victory in Rabat in 2019.

That included the Guadalajara final last year, when she lost to American Jessica Pegula, and a loss to Coco Gauff in the final at Washington this year.

An emotional Sakkari thanked her coach of five years, noting they'd waited "more than four years for a second title.

"We've heard so many bad things - that I will never win a title, that I'm a top-five player with only winning one title, that was very hard for me to overcome," she said. "I'm so happy that I did it here this week."

The victory came less than a month after Sakkari was unceremoniously dumped from the first round of the US Open, her third straight first-round exit at a Grand Slam.

Sakkari had said at Flushing Meadows she was "suffering on the court" and was "uncertain" about what to do about it.

This week, however, Sakkari has looked in total command, becoming the first player this year to reach the final of a WTA 1000 event without dropping a set.

Sakkari ended a fairytale week for Dolehide, ranked 111th in the world and playing in her first career final.

Dolehide, who will rise to inside the top 50, came from a set down to beat Peyton Stearns in three tiebreaks in the first round, she beat eighth-seeded Ekaterina Alexandrova in the third round and saved four match points in her quarter-final win over Martina Trevisan.

In her first career semi-final Dolehide defeated 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

Dolehide demonstrated the same grit she'd shown all week when she clawed back an early break in the opening set to take a 5-4 lead.

But Sakkari won the next two games, taking advantage of one of Dolehide's six double faults to break for 6-5.

Down 0-30 in the next game, Sakkari battled back to take the set, and finally gained the upper hand in the second with a break for a 3-2 lead.

That proved to be enough, although there was a tense moment in the seventh game, when Sakkari's 40-0 lead evaporated before she steadied herself to take the game with her third ace of the contest.

She closed it out with one more break, converting her second match point.

When Dolehide's volley sailed long, Sakkari fell to the court and covered her face with her hands as the tears came.

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