Maria Sakkari had full control over her quarter-final match against Kristina Mladenovic – even though she lost the first set. With a 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 victory, the 23-year-old joins the Premier 5 semi-finals, and she looks as though she's stuck there with her compatriot Stefanos Tsitsipas.
"It's pretty big. Something that I think is happening for the first time in tennis history," she said. "I'm pretty sure of that because we never had two good players at the same time. Very proud of both of us."
Both Sakkari and Mladenovic had to come through qualification on the Italian opening, which meant two extra matches for each of them. They also had to play two matches each on Thursday with Sakkari taking out Anett Kontaveit and Petra Kvitova, and Mladenovic expelled Belinda Bencic and Ashleigh Barty.
Mladenovic finds her game after six months of stretch so she loses 15 straight matches starting at the end of 2017 – just about the time she shoved Top 10. She kicked the 2019 season with four losses and dropped out of the Top 60, but Since joining Sascha Bajin in mid-April, the 26-year-old had a 10-2 post in Friday's match.
Both players claimed on-court coaching with Sakkari and called on Tom Hill and Mladenovic to bring in Bajin. After turning back from 1-4 and 3-5 down, the Frenchman spoke with Bajin at 4-5. Speaking in a mix of English and Serbian, he told her everything she did "was good" but to do better with more spin and intensity and to take the ball earlier. He walked away with the note: "You can do better than this." She won the next three games.
But Sakkari regained control and knocked out Mladenovic in the next two sets, so everyone knows she's a real threat to count on.
"I was so pissed off when I lost the first set," she said. "I think I did well at first, but bad at the end. I had a bad mentality at the end of the first set. Then I think I was 1-2 down, love-40. I don't know I said to myself, just games, just make balls, go for the things that Tom said. "
Although Mladenovic goes in the right direction, her Top 10 form is not completely back when she crumbled in the third set. While Sakkari found the "zone".
"Yes, I mean, I was sitting right after I won the second set. I was like: Now it's your time, now is the time to do what you have to do," said Sakkari. "Just went after my shots. Trust me. I think I did well."
Sakkari has not experienced such a dramatic performance by a roller coaster during her career, but she has been struggling for six games after hitting a high-ranking No 29 last September. She has also been growing back in recent weeks after winning her first title in Rabat to become the first Greek WTA champion for over 10 years.
Sakkari is now running a May 11-1 record that goes into his semifinal against Karolina Pliskova.