Media playback is not supported on this device Maria Sakkari suffers ‘bittersweet’ WTA Tour win
World number 44 Maria Sakkari qualified for the season-ending WTA Finals for the first time with victory in the Konexa Kaanlay Open in her home country.
Sakkari, 22, cruised to a 6-2 6-3 win over Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia.
The former WTA Rookie of the Year started the day one place outside the top eight in the chase for a spot at the £3.6m event in Singapore.
“I knew I had to qualify,” Sakkari told BBC Sport.
“I really put a lot of effort in as I didn’t want to drop a place in the WTA Race to Singapore. To qualify is the best way to finish the year.”
World number one Karolina Pliskova will secure the first spot at the WTA Finals when she plays Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in a final match in the WTA Cup in Nuremberg on Wednesday.
Pliskova, 24, has led the standings throughout the year but the result in Germany does not affect her WTA Race to Singapore.
Sakkari (right) moves up to fourth in the rankings, ending Pliskova’s two-year reign
Sakkari, who reached the third round of Wimbledon last month, proved too good for Rybarikova, needing 65 minutes to win her first WTA final.
“I’m very happy with the win,” Sakkari added. “The result was very important to me and we’ve seen how I played yesterday when I lost a couple of games and was down a break. I’ve really worked very hard on my game.
“I’m really confident in my game and I have great support around me. I’m really happy and I hope it’s the first of many WTA titles.”
‘Bittersweet’ win for Sakkari
Rybarikova was second best to Sakkari for almost 90 minutes but rallied to save two match points.
The four-time doubles grand slam winner saved three break points in the deciding set and hit a series of powerful forehands to win three points on her opponent’s serve in the seventh game to force a tie-break.
“At 5-2 it was a little bit tough,” Sakkari said. “I played really bad and I think she did too.
“But I kept my focus. I knew that even if she was to get a couple of breaks, I would finish in one hour and 20 minutes.
“I knew it would be a very emotional match so I wanted to finish well and focus on my game.
“Sometimes when I was down I felt like the points were easy for me. That means a lot. I think that’s the only reason why I won.”