This week brings Maria Sakkari as she discusses her unique path to the Top 20 and how her tennis-rich family history has influenced her.
Admitting she wasn't the best junior, Sakkari gave herself until the age of 22 to make it. She cracked the Top 100 in 2016 just before her 21st birthday, and she hasn't looked back.
"So it's not like I was super good or I'm going to make it for sure," Sakkari says. "I told my mom when I was 18, I'm just going to try going to Spain and just train there. And see when I'm 22 have I made it, or feeling that I can make it."
This year, she entered the Top 20 for the first time, reached two WTA semifinals and picked up a huge win over Serena Williams at the Western & Southern Open. The 25-year-old would make the second week at two majors, the Australian Open and Roland Garros, and is poised for a bigger breakthrough in 2021.
The Greek opines on the new normal and shares what it's like to work with a coach (Tom Hill) and physical therapist (Daniel Pohl) that are the same age as her, as well as why they actually enjoy being in bubble environments.
"I have a great team," she says. "That makes it so much better. We're having a lot of fun with Tom and Daniel. So good food, good company on the phone, my friends back home. I cannot complain."
Sakkari with her mother Angeliki Kanellopoulou at the 2019 WTA Elite Trophy. (WTA)
While she was never her full-time coach, Sakkari's mom Angeliki was ranked as high as No. 43 in the 1980s before retiring at the age of 25, a retirement age Sakkari cannot imagine. Sakkari shares how her mom influenced her career and what it was like to have her grandfather Dimitris, also a former pro, as her first coach.
"She helped me out a few times when I didn't have a coach," Sakkari says. "But when I was little, I was practicing with my grandfather up until I was 12 or 13 because he was my mom's coach. And then just worked with some other people, but my mom was there with me. She called herself the emergency coach."
Sakkari and her team ended the 2020 season in Ostrava and she'll next begin preparations for the 2021 Australian swing.
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