Last Updated: January 18, 2023, 09:06 IST
World number six Maria Sakkari survived a huge scare against college student Diana Shnaider on Wednesday before coming through 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the third round of the Australian Open.
Shnaider, an 18-year-old qualifier from Russia who studies at North Carolina State, pushed the Greek all the way in a 2hr 33min examination on Margaret Court Arena.
“It’s never easy to play someone that you’ve never played before, you’ve never seen on the tour,” said Sakkari, who is seeking a maiden Grand Slam title.
“I was a little bit hesitant, she was swinging very hard, playing very aggressive,” she added of the world number 106.
“I was very far back from the baseline running and defending every single ball, which is not my game.
“I tried to find ways, and that’s what I think I’m good at, just trying to find solutions to improve my game during the match.”
The hard-hitting Shnaider broke Sakkari’s opening serve on Margaret Court Arena, and showed huge guts to save three break-back points and secure the opening set in 48 minutes on her fifth set point.
Sakkari, one of the pre-tournament favourites, got back on track at the start of the second, breaking Shnaider’s opening service game and opening a 3-0 lead.
But again Shnaider fought back, saving four set points before Sakkari took it to a decider.
The Greek was becoming increasingly tetchy as the match dragged on, complaining to the umpire about the Russian’s loud grunting and screaming and beating her racquet against her shoe when one shot went awry.
Shnaider again went a break down early in the third set and although she broke back, the sixth seed managed to regroup and take the match.
It was the performance of the gritty Shnaider’s fledgling career.
A year ago the teenager was outside the top 1,000 and two weeks ago she lost in the first round of qualifying at the Auckland Classic.
She gave no clue that she might run the 27-year-old Sakkari close in her maiden match at this level, taking almost two hours to edge the 272nd ranked Slovakian, Kristina Kucova, 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 in the first round on Monday.
“I think that she played an amazing match,” said Sakkari.
“She’s very young. She’s very promising. Maybe she should consider not going to college and playing pro instead.”
Sakkari will play either Jil Teichmann, the number 32 seed from Switzerland, or China’s Zhu Lin in the third round.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)