Maria Sakkari has beat defending champion Paula Badosa to reach the biggest final of her career at Indian Wells.
The world No. 6 broke down in tears after beating the Spaniard 6-2 4-6 6-1 and will play Iga Swiatek, who beat Simona Halep in straight sets in the other semi-final, on Sunday.
“I was very concerned before the match because Paula is playing very different compared to all the other girls,” said Sakkari.
“She has a very heavy game, and she obviously loves this tournament because she won this tournament six months ago, but I just had full faith and I believed in myself every single moment.”
Sakkari overpowered Badosa in the opening set to take it in 37 minutes, hitting 11 winners and winning 75 per cent of her points on her second serve return points.
But Badosa’s serving improved in the second set, firing with greater power and accuracy, and was able to build a 4-2 lead before winning her service games to force a decider.
Sakkari got off to a fast start in the third, breaking to move into a 2-0 lead. Although Badosa got a break back, the defending champion was not able to cope with the Greek’s aggression from the baseline and she took the last four games to win the contest in one hour and 48 minutes.
The winner of Sunday’s final will rise to No.2 in the world. Sakkari has a 3-1 head-to-head record against Swiatek but is anticipating a tough test against the Pole who beat Sakkari 6-4 6-3 en route to the Doha title three weeks ago.
“She’s not the Iga that was a year ago,” Sakkari said.
“She has been playing very, very aggressive and I was actually very surprised with that change when I played her in Doha.
“I really respect her and I really like her because she’s a lovely girl and she’s very nice and whatever she has achieved she really deserves it. But on the other hand, I just have full faith and a lot of confidence in my game and in myself right now.”