Mon, 06 Feb 2023

Sixth-seed Maria Sakkari avoided an embarrassing defeat to Russian teenager Diana Shnaider

Greek tennis player Maria Sakkari made clear her objections to the nature of teenage Russian opponent Diana Shnaider's celebrations during a tense clash on Wednesday at the Australian Open.

Sakkari, ranked sixth in the world, surprisingly lost the first set against the 18-year-old qualifier Shnaider and was close to defeat in the second when she announced her objection to her opponent's boisterous style of celebration throughout the match.

After levelling the second at 5-5, meaning that she was just two games away from winning the match, Shnaider roared and pumped her fist into the air - all while glaring at her opponent across the court.

"If she screams one more time in my face," a fuming Sakkari could be heard on the broadcast saying.

"No, no, no, no, one more time... she's coming towards me. One more time and I'm going to speak to the referee."

Chair umpire Christian Rask, though, appeared to dismiss Sakkari's complaints and allowed the match to progress without any warning to Shnaider for her behavior.

Sakkari would regain her composure to claim the second set by a score of 7-5, and saw home the win with a more confident showing in the deciding third set, taking it 6-3.

Afterwards, and when cooler heads seemed to have prevailed, Sakkari paid tribute to her rival's skills on the court - but described Shnaider's celebrations as being "inappropriate."

"It's not easy to play someone that you've never played before or seen before on the tour," said Sakkari.

"I was a little bit hesitant. She was swinging very hard, she was playing very aggressive.

"I think that, you know, during a match you can be very pumped or, you know, the way that some players celebrate their points, it's not appropriate," she added.

"I wasn't happy with that. But, you know, she never did it again. That was very nice of her."

Shnaider, who was playing in her first-ever Grand Slam event and who is a member of the North Carolina State Women's tennis team, previously won the girls' doubles at the 2021 Wimbledon event alongside her Belarusian partner Kristina Dmitruk, while also winning the Australian Open and US Open in 2022.

She is also a two-time semifinalist in junior Grand Slam singles competitions.

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