By Amy Tennery, NEW YORK, Sept. 9 (Reuters) - Maria Sakkari leveraged her powerful serve and excellent court coverage to reach the U.S. Open semi-finals with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday and dedicated her win to the people of Greece, who have endured a summer of brutal wildfires.
Sakkari was rock solid throughout the win on Arthur Ashe Stadium, hounding Pliskova into mistakes and getting an early break before going on to take the first set.
The Greek 17th seed maintained the aggression in the second set, converting on a breakpoint in the seventh game as 2016 runner-up Pliskova failed to match her intensity.
The Czech, runner-up at Wimbledon this year, committed three double faults and 20 unforced errors in the match before Sakkari wrapped things up in one hour and 22 minutes.
Roland Garros semi-finalist Sakkari used her serve to devastating effect, winning 22 straight service points after starting the second game of the match down 0-30.
"I served really, really well," she told reporters. "I'm very happy I managed my stress level and my expectations. Especially at the end of the match, it was quite tough to close it out, but I think I did quite well."
She dedicated her win to the people back home in Greece, where more than 500 fires forced the evacuation of dozens of villages and thousands of people.
"For me, winning for Greece, making Greek people proud and happy, especially in difficult times, it makes me even happier because you know how much I love my country," she said.