Maria Sakkari has had a rollercoaster during her time in Mexico this season, but she signed off from her "second home" on a high note on Wednesday night.
The Greek star toppled former Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki in straight sets in the first-ever women's singles match at the TennisFest GNP exhibition in Mexico City. It was billed as a tennis celebration by the tournament and both players strived to delight the locals.
There are probably at least 10 different alternative places that tennis players would choose to be at this time of the year than on a tennis court. But the growing popularity of exhibition tournaments and their lucrative paychecks has lured players into an endless season.
Wozniacki sent shockwaves in the tennis world during the summer when she announced her decision to come back from retirement and play again. She played just three tournaments in North America including the US Open where she made a respectable fourth-round exit.
After testing the waters, Wozniacki felt she was adept at going to the deep end and is plotting to resume her comeback fully in 2024. But before that, a chance to burn a few calories and perform in front of thousands of exuberant tennis fans in an exhibition isn't for everybody.
The Dane faced reigning Guadalajara champion Maria Sakkari who was looking to atone for her abject performances in Cancun at the WTA Finals. While Wozniacki competed bravely, the athletically-built Sakkari was always going to have the upper hand in the high altitude conditions.
This was demonstrated by how she managed to get the first break of the match in the eighth game, chasing a Wozniacki drop shot from the far end of the baseline and reaching it with aplomb to hit a winner. The Greek held to 15 in her next service game, finishing the set with an ace down the T.
With a set in the bag, Sakkari extended her lead with an early break of serve in the third game of the second set. But Wozniacki managed to retrieve the break back despite Sakkari's best efforts to save two break points in that next game.
The former World No. 1 had chances to take a 4-2 lead in the set, but her returns were landing sweetly on Sakkari's hit zone in the middle of the court and she duly fended off a couple of break points. Having spurned those two gilt-edged chances, Wozniacki paid a hefty price.
Sakkari broke her in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and needed just one bite of the cherry to finish off the match. Wozniacki fired long on Sakkari's first match point giving the 28-year-old Athenian another win on Mexican soil.