Australian Open: Sakkari stunned by Lin as Netflix curse strikes again

By Sports Desk January 20, 2023

Maria Sakkari joined eight of her fellow co-stars from the Netflix series Break Point in suffering an early exit from the Australian Open.

Of the 10 players to have featured in the series, which first aired on the streaming platform last week, only Felix Auger-Aliassime remains following Sakkari's defeat to Lin Zhu on Friday.

Sakkari, the WTA sixth seed, went down 7-6 1-6 6-4 to world number 87 Lin, who claimed her first victory over a top-10 opponent.

Lin became the sixth Chinese female player to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open in the Open Era.

"I mean honestly, am I in a dream?" Lin said in her on-court interview.

"I have to believe in myself that I have the ability to be able to play at this high level. Who knows what's going to happen? You never know."

She added in her press conference: "It means a lot. It makes me believe that I can play at this level and I can beat a player like her.

"It took me a long time to get here, and so that's why I'm so emotional. This is not the end. Let's keep going."

Sakkari's defeat saw the Greek join Thanasi Kokkinakis, Taylor Fritz, Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud and Ons Jabeur in exiting the season's first grand slam within the opening three rounds.

Ruud and Jabeur were the respective second seeds in the men's and women's singles, while Berrettini and Kokkinakis both fell foul of a resurgent Andy Murray, whose victory comeback over Kokkinakis lasted almost six hours and went on beyond 4:00 am local time.

Nick Kyrgios, Ajla Tomljanovic and Paula Badosa also featured in the five-part Netflix series, which will air its second batch of episodes later in the year, but all three withdrew from the Australian Open due to injury.

A downcast Sakkari, who had rubbished the suggestion of any "Netflix curse" in a previous press conference, told reporters: "I think that my level was not good at all. I started the match by being very defensive and not hitting the ball, just being scared of playing my game.

"She had basically nothing to lose. She was playing free. She was enjoying herself. She was playing very, very well. I didn't handle the situation well.

"She was barely missing anything, [not] making any unforced errors. That's how I felt. She was very solid from both sides. I've seen her on the tour. I've never seen her playing that well, to be honest.

"Of course, beating Jil [Teichmann] in the round before, she was pretty pumped and motivated to have a good result here. She has achieved it already by beating two very good players."

Lin's next opponent will be two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who became the eighth female player in the Open Era to win 45+ main draw matches at the Australian Open by beating Madison Keys 1-6 6-2 6-1.

Azarenka joins Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Martina Hingis, Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova on that list.

"She's a great champion," Lin said of Azarenka. "She's a great player. I will just keep playing like I played today and trust myself, enjoy the match. Who knows?"

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