Parks angers Sakkari to continue breakthrough in Ostrava

Two days after her first top 20 win of her career, Alycia Parks surpassed it. The American qualifier earned her first top-10 win, upsetting No. 4 Maria Sakkari 5-7 7-5 7-5 at the Agel Open to reach a first-ever Hologic WTA Tour quarterfinals.

Parks at number 144 had knocked out former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in straight sentences in their opener. The same impressive power was on display against Sakkari: Parks counted 59 winners, including 15 aces, while reducing her unforced error count to 26. In contrast, Sakkari only managed nine winners throughout.

However, 21-year-old Parks – who is alone in Ostrava with her team at home in Florida – also showed superb resilience to come from behind and several nerve-wracking moments en route to a 2-hour 44-minute win.

In Park’s words: “I came here not expecting anything, I just played my game and it got me through the match,” said Parks, who also expressed an affinity with the Ostrava courts.

“I came from Parma last week and everyone said how do you want to change the rubber like that? But rubbers don’t really affect me. Indoor hard is my forte.”

Game management: As both players settled into the match, they traded breaks in the first two games. After that, the serve would be announced: There would only be three more service breaks, each coming at the end of a sentence.

At 5-5 in the first set, two Parks double faults opened the door for Sakkari, who produced some superb passing shots en route to the decisive break. But Parks was able to shake off the disappointment of losing such a close opening act and kept the match competitive with some emphatic holds.

As the game progressed, Parks’ skill at the net became crucial. A brilliant staff volley saved a break point at 4-4 in the second set, and she broke Sakkari after a three-two in the final game of the set.

In the decider it was Sakkari’s turn to escape at a similar point when the Greek player saved four break points to go 4-4. But Parks had some of her best shots of the day to keep her nose ahead, plunging again to 6-5. Errant Sakkari’s forehand gave her an opening and Parks converted her first match point with a searing forehand winner down the line.

What’s next for parks: A first meeting with former Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover after number 6 Belinda Bencic resigned with a left foot injury.

Krejcikova has struggled with injuries and illnesses throughout 2022, falling from the top 20 from a career high of No. 2. However, the Czech has returned to form this month and is now on a six-game winning streak after a high-profile title run in Tallinn last week.

Americans thrive in Ostrava: Parks was joined in the quarterfinals by doubles partner and American qualifier Caty McNally, who defeated wild card Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in 2 hours and 1 minute.

Highlights: McNally d. Muchova

Both McNally and Muchova delivered a virtuoso display of creative stroke technique, particularly at net. In the second match in a row, McNally also managed a successful tweener en route to winning the point. The 20-year-old, who is in her first career WTA 500 quarterfinal, will next get a chance to test her flair against world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

McNally and Swiatek previously teamed to win the 2018 Roland Garros girls’ doubles title. At the same event, McNally defeated Swiatek in the girls singles semifinals 3-6 7-6(6) 6-4 – their only meeting to date at any level.

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