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Women's Semifinals: Sakkari Weathers Gauff’s Storm To Reach Second Indian Wells Final
3 Min Read · March 16, 2024

There was the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. And in the end, there was the thrill of victory for Maria Sakkari, who nearly had it snatched from the jaws of defeat by an inspired Coco Gauff fightback, but never relented on Friday night at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. 

Finally, more than five hours after this wild ride had started, there was Sakkari, smiling from ear-to-ear as she celebrated a rain-addled, convoluted 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2 victory that put her in the final at Indian Wells for the second time in three years. 

She will face top-seeded Pole Iga Swiatek for the title on Sunday. 

“I just kept believing, kept fighting,” Sakkari said, of the dramatic victory that saw Gauff rally from double break down and save three match points to force a decider. 

“I didn’t give up,” Sakkari said. “You can easily lose your head when you lose that second set from being match points up.” 

Indian Wells can be tough on the uninitiated, its tricky conditions, irreverent wind and chilly desert evenings not exactly conducive to consistency. But for Sakkari, playing in the semifinals here for a third consecutive year, the BNP Paribas Open is truly Tennis Paradise. 

For a while, it looked like it was going to be a tennis nightmare. 

Sakkari seemingly had the win wrapped up after the second rain delay, one which kept the players off court for nearly two hours as a steady rain fell around the grounds.  

Play resumed at 15-all in the first game of the second set, and soon No.9-seeded Greek took a 5-2 lead as a listless Gauff looked ripe for the taking. The third-seeded American, hoping to press on and become the first American women’s singles champion in the California desert since Serena Williams in 2001, had met with an on-court physician and asked for something to quell her nausea after the opening set. As she soldiered on, approaching a one-sided defeat, she seemed to be a shell of herself. 

Until her back was against the wall, that is. 

With nothing left to lose, down 5-2 in the second set, Gauff let loose and her exploitable forehand suddenly was doing the exploiting. She broke Sakkari as the Greek served for the win, then held for 4-5. With Sakkari serving for the match a second time, Gauff produced a flurry of inspired shotmaking and saved three match points to level the set. 

“It would have been amazing if this match was over an hour ago,” Sakkari said. “But I’m gonna take this win, even though it was in three sets. I was thinking of the finish line in that second set and then things got tricky, but that was an amazing win – Coco’s such an amazing opponent, she’s incredible, she fights for every point and I’m so happy that I’m in the final once again.”

The 20-year-old took the second set tiebreak to force a decider, but soon the script would flip again. Momentum decidedly in the American’s favor, a determined Sakkari refused to relent. 

As the pair traded blows early in the third it was the 28-year-old who pulled ahead and stepped on the accelerator to clinch the hard-fought win and book her place in the final. 

“It’s obviously exciting,” said Sakkari. “Just two years later I’m back in the final. This is the best place you can be. It’s gonna be very challenging for sure, she’s the best player in the world.” 

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