Maria Sakkari‘s Australian Open journey started on a challenging note, but she managed to overcome the hurdles and secure a convincing 6-4 6-1 victory over Nao Hibino in the first round, putting to rest the haunting memories of her early Grand Slam exits in the previous season.
The opening set was a tough ride for the eighth-seeded Sakkari, who seemed to be grappling with the weight of her past disappointments. Having suffered first-round exits at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open last season, the pressure was on for the Greek star. The set witnessed a battle of focus and determination, with Sakkari struggling with her first serve percentage and committing a noticeable number of unforced errors. On the other side of the net, Hibino remained composed and created her chances, contributing to a tense atmosphere on the court.
Despite the challenges, Sakkari managed to find her footing in the opening set and improved further as the match progressed. The second set showcased a completely different Sakkari – determined, confident, and playing with aggression. Her strategic use of top spin points kept Hibino on the defensive, and the Japanese player found it difficult to cope with the sudden shift in momentum. From the beginning of the second set, Sakkari took control and dominated, leaving no room for her opponent to stage a comeback.
The world No.8 Sakkari, undefeated with a 3-0 record in singles at the season-opening United Cup, has achieved a remarkable start to the year by winning her first four matches. One of the notable factors contributing to her turnaround may be her recent racquet changes, as she has switched to Wilson Shift. On January 1 she announced the news on Instagram: “Ready to dominate this season with the #Shiftv1 in hand. It’s incredible control and sleek look are exactly what I need on the court @Wilson.”