By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday September 24, 2023
Three weeks after leaving a press conference in tears at the US Open, and expressing desire to take a break from the sport, Maria Sakkari has returned to the winner’s circle after a spectacular run to the title in Guadalajara.
The 28-year-old Greek may have been confused about what to do next after losing her third consecutive Grand Slam match at the US Open, but after that crushing loss in New York she took the time to look inward, and ended up emerging from her funk with a smile on her face.
Full credit to Sakkari, a persistent perennial top-tenner who never lacks for effort, even if she does sometimes display a penchant for sabotaging herself in the biggest moments. How else could we explain Sakkari’s six-match losing streak in finals, or her struggles in 2023? She’s simply too talented to struggle so consistently in those defining moments.
After some soul-searching in recent weeks, Sakkari realized that she has been being too hard on herself. She made it a point to smile and start enjoying the sport she loves once again.
Score an assist from American Coco Gauff – the newly crowned Grand Slam champion has been preaching the same approach this year, and it has paid off for her as well.
“I really liked what Coco [Gauff] said at the US Open, about how other people have bigger problems than we have when we lose a tennis match, and she’s spot on,” Sakkari told WTA Insider. “I kept thinking about that, and that gave me strength.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a tennis match. I’m healthy, and that’s the most important thing. Everyone around me, my family, are happy and healthy. Those are the things that I took some time to think about, to remember what’s important in life. Everyone focuses on their own problems, whether they are big, small, important or not important. You forget what’s going on in the rest of the world.”
“I play tennis for a living. That’s pretty cool. I didn’t give myself a chance to enjoy it in the past.
— wta (@WTA) September 24, 2023
Haters get an assist as well. Sakkari admitted that social media critics have weighed on – and motivated her – during her recent struggles.
“We live in 2023. Social media is a part of our everyday life,” Sakkari told WTA Insider. “You cannot avoid it. Coco said she knows the user names. I know them, too. I know the person with a YouTube channel who posts all my semifinal losses, all my final losses. I’m aware.”
“The satisfaction now, I cannot describe it. When you prove all these people wrong, it’s fuel. For me, it worked as fuel. I knew it was going to come, I didn’t know when. Thank you to them. They gave me strength.”