Tennis Prose




Jun/21

9

Sakkari Wants It The Most

I still remember the first time seeing Maria Sakkari play live. It was at US Open 2015 first round at the newly remodeled courts just outside the media center. From the beginning of her pro days, Sakkari stood out.

Sakkari was locked in a fierce, emotional, fiery battle with Qiang Wang of China. It was a super intense fight, Sakkari was ranked outside top 200 and had qualified for main draw. She expressed an exceptional burning desire and ambition, lots of roaring and fist pumps and high quality tennis. She lost to Wang that day 75 62 but she was now on my radar.

It didn’t take long for the tenacious, muscular 20 year old Greek woman to establish herself as a WTA force. Her first top ten win came in Wuhan vs Wozniacki in 2017. She worked with coach Thomas Johansson for two years from 2017 to 2018 including a ten day stint with Marat Safin and Dinara Safina in Monte Carlo.

She won her first and only WTA title in Morocco in 2019, beating Konta. The win elevated Sakkari into the top 50 at no. 39 in the world. Last year she reached the fourth round at AO and US Open.

And now this year, after an AO first round three set loss to Kiki Mladenovic, Sakkari is suddenly in the semifinals of French Open after today’s stunning 64 64 win vs. defending champ Iga Swiatek.

Miami Open may have been the turning point for Sakkari. She saved six match points vs. Jess Pegula and then crushed Naomi Osaka 60 64 in the QF before losing to Bibi Andreescu.

In Paris, Sakkari has been a tornado, besting Paolini, Mertens, Kenin and now Iga. Sakkari is the fiercest competitor in the WTA, the strongest looking most muscular female tennis player in the world with a glaring scowl that could even intimidate some men.

Sakkari is a ninja warrior, pit bull, Mike Tyson, Lleyton Hewitt all rolled into one. She wanted it more than Iga did today. She wants it more than anyone.

Today she traded shots with Swiatek with zero fear or deference and it was her serve that seemed to be the most damaging weapon on the court. When Iga’s final return sailed wide after saving two previous match points, it guaranteed that a new first time female Grand Slam major winner will be crowned.

Swiatek did not expect to lose today however her semifinal run in doubles with Bethanie Mattek Sands may have contributed to this defeat. Swiatek and Sands had to save seven match points vs top seed Hsieh Mertens. We all know what Steffi Graf did in her mixed doubles run with John McEnroe at Wimbledon.

But the big story is that Maria Sakkari is now two matches from becoming the first Greek born Grand Slam tennis champion. And by the looks of things, nobody will be able to stop her express ride to achieving tennis history.

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