Greek tennis star Maria Sakkari says she admires Cori Gauff because she thinks the American is a great athlete but also a wonderful girl.
Sakkari, ranked at No. 4 in the world, started her Rome campaign with a 6-3 6-2 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Next up for Sakkari is a fourth career meeting versus Gauff.
Sakkari meet Gauff at the 2020 Cincinnati Masters and also defeated the American when they met in Abu Dhabi at the start of 2021.
A year ago in Rome, Gauff clinched her first win over Sakkari.
The two last met this past February in Doha, where Sakkari clinched a straight-set win.
“I admire her because she’s a great athlete,” Sakkari said, per the WTA website. “She’s a wonderful girl, which for me is more important than anything else. The way she has handled her success, She was 15 when she broke through. It was very clever from herself and from the people around her the way they handled everything.
“We played each other in Doha, which was of course hard court, different conditions. I trust my clay-court game. I think it’s going to be a great match for everyone to watch.”
Sakkari saw off Alexandrova
Sakkari missed out on the first break point of the match in the fourth game but also saved a break point in the following game.
In the eighth game, Sakkari clinched the first break of the match and took a 5-3 lead.
Sakkari then routinely served out for the first set in the following game.
After winning the first set, Sakkari started the second set with back-to-back breaks and a 3-0 lead.
However, Alexandrova refused to quit and got one break back in the fourth game.
Losing one break didn’t impact Sakkari, who broke Alexandrova again in the fifth game.
Sakkari then held on to her serve the rest of the match to complete a comeback win.